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Othello and Oedipus Essay

Othello: the Moor of Venice and Oedipus are masterpiece tragedies that were written by great authors of yesteryear including William Shakespeare and Sophocles. These books are laden with varied themes which are still applicable today as they are still played in both community and professional theatres worldwide. Othello was a renowned general in the Venetian army whose military exploits were widely acclaimed whereas Oedipus was the new sovereign of the city of Thebes. While these two great men share a lot in common, the differences between them also abound. The most significant trait that both characters share is that they are heroes.

The deeds they carry out are great and daring and they both possess tremendous strength. Case in point is when Othello vanquishes the enemies of Venice and Oedipus defeats the Sphinx and frees Thebes from the tyranny of the gods and the heavy taxation that they had endured for eternity. This has earned them a lot of admiration and respect from their communities. For example, Oedipus was considered a savior to his people who turned to him for solace and answers to their suffering. This is described in the following quote from the priest, “You are a man, not a god–I know.

We all know this, the young kneeling here before you know it, too, but we know how great you are, Oedipus, greater than any man. When crisis struck, you saved us here in Thebes; you faced the mysterious, strange disasters hammered against us by the gods. This is our history-we paid our own flesh to the Sphinx until you set us free. You knew no more than anyone, but you knew. There was a god in it, a god in you. ”( “Qtd in”Berg & Clay,1988,25) Othello is regarded highly by the Venetian senate which calls for his leadership when the state is faced by the threat of imminent aggression.

This is illustrated when the Duke of Venice ordered Othello to prepare for immediate deployment against the Ottoman enemy. “The Turk with a most mighty preparation makes for Cyprus. Othello, the fortitude of the place is best known to you; and though we have there a substitute of most allowed sufficiency, yet opinion, a sovereign mistress of effects, throws a more safer voice on you: you must therefore be content to slubber the gloss of your new fortunes with this more stubborn and boisterous expedition. ”(Othello , 1. 3. 56) Both Oedipus and Othello have the enviable character of making duty their main concern.

They both derive honor from fully committing to the personal quests in their lives, regardless of the repercussions. Oedipus’ consuming quest for instance, is the tracking down and punishing of the murderers of his predecessor. In the process of chasing his quest, Oedipus wrongs his brother- in- law, Creon, branding him a traitor. He also succeeds in alienating his twin sons and all of Thebes. On the other hand, Othello’s’ overriding mission is the sacredness of his marriage vows and there is no end he will not go to protect their sanctity.

Othello is depicted as naive. Throughout the play, Iago takes every opportunity to exploit Othello’s naivety. Iago tells Roderigo, “O, Sir, content you. I follow him to serve my turn upon him”. (Othello,1. 1. 38) This means that Iago will readily use Othello to achieve his ends and dump him when he achieves his desires. Othello on his part readily believes Iago each time even when Othello could have exercised better judgment. For instance, he heeds the deception of the wicked Iago and ignores Desdemona’s oaths and the small still voice in his heart and conscience.

Othello’s’ naivety is in stark contrast with Oedipus who trusts his own wisdom in arriving at any decision. This fact is illustrated when he pays a visit to the Oracle who confirms the worst. He still believes so much in his own reason and determines that he was the one to blame for his fate and thus accepted the consequences of his actions. Oedipus is depicted as very adamant and rigid since he will not compromise once he has decided on a course of action regardless of the cost and what any other person may think. The two legends destroy their lives courtesy of their incurable natural flaws.

Their Achilles heel comes in the form of their overwhelming pride and obsession which is driven by their overinflated egos and personalities. Oedipus on one side is so proud of his intelligence, which is considerable, that he tries to run from a dreadful fate. Othello on the other hand prides himself as the paragon of courage and integrity and thus fails to recognize his violent temper which proves fatal in the end. Throughout the play, Othello is portrayed as a man who is calm under pressure and therefore in control of every situation.

This trait comes out clearly when Brabanito goes to his house with the intent to kill him. However, before anything grave happens Othello exclaims, “Hold your hands, both of you of my inclining and the rest. Were it my cue to fight I should have known it without a prompter”(Othello,1. 2. 80-3) Oedipus is very dramatic and emotional in crisis and cannot compare to Othello’s calm under pressure. When King Lauis dies he is quoted as saying, “I fight for Apollo, I fight for the dead man. You see me, you hear me, moving against the killer.

My words are his doom. Whether he did it alone, and escaped unseen, whether others helped him kill, it makes no difference-let my hatred burn out his life, hatred, always. Make him an ember of suffering” (“ qtd in”Arrowsmith&Golder,1988,34,) By any standards, Othello and Oedipus were truly great men. However, in spite of all the exceptional accomplishments and awesome qualities that they were gifted with, their very nature ended up consuming them in the end. Indeed, these two men give life to the old truism that pride comes before a fall.

Works Cited Arrowsmith William and Golder H. The Greek tragedy in new translations. New York,NY, 1988 Berg, Stephen and Clay, Dickins. Sophocles’ Oedipus the King New York,NY, 1988 McCauley Janie. Shakespeare’s Othello An educational outreach of Bob Jones University, 2002. Shakespeare, William. Othello; The Moor of Venice Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library, http://etext. virginia. edu/etcbin/toccer-new2? id=MobOthe. sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=all

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