Oedipus and Othello were heroic men that became victims of the tragic downfalls that can be easily compared and contrasted with each other with ease. Oedipus the King was written by Sophocles while William Shakespeare wrote Othello. The two writers in their respect were both influential and had significant impact and authority in the field of writing during their generations. Their legacies of the two writers continue to date and are of significant influence as playwrights of their generation. The two playwright legends made the Oedipus and Othello masterpieces over different eras and also generations (Godfrey, 202). Sophocles’ time of reign as a writer was during the Golden Age of the Greek tragedy whereas the time that Shakespeare worked on the Othello was during the Elizabethan period. The two playwrights were born over 2000 years apart, but their actions were significantly similar as they made vivid explanations and descriptions of tragedy in the main characters (Godfrey, 205). Tragedy may be defined as a narrative, poem or a tale that best gives a description of a downfall of an individual. Both Oedipus and Othello fall into the category of tragedy in literature. It is the tragedies and downfalls of Oedipus and Othello that can be compared and contrasted.
The two characters were individual that held a lot of power and influence as the main characters within their respective tragedies. The Othello and the Oedipus Rex were featured as the main characters and had magnanimous authority and prominence. Othello was an individual that was greatly respected and held an impeccable record as a general during the Venetian Army. Oedipus, on the other hand, was a newly appointed King of Thebes (Will, 511). They were both very well respected and also held a lot of influence and also honor from the community. They asserted a high-level importance and a sense of authority within their communities at their times. Their indication of power and might in society was also demonstrated in the way they got into the positions of influence. They both had to overcome a series of obstacles and opposition to gain the respect and authority. Othello was a man of color at a period when the Caucasians were viewed as the superior race and as a result he was looked down upon at his time. As a human being, the society held even lesser importance and the perception was of inferiority for the case due to the color of his skin. For example, Brabanzio who was Desdemona’s father had refused to let the couple get married just because Othello was a black man (Hallett and Elaine). On the other hand, Oedipus was a white man in his society but also faced some form of opposition and difficulty in his rise to power. He was necessitated to solve the riddle of Sphinx so as to be able to accomplish his goal of saving the city of Thebes and he was later made the King.
The Othello play is one that is purely illusionist whereas the Oedipus Rex is one that even when watched, the viewer can confidently ascertain that it is a performance that they are watching. The Othello is plainly illusionist in the sense. The Othello only contained a form of an ideal setting as was the case with the other plays by Shakespeare apart from the backdrops that had some form of elements of scenery but the stage remained bare with just a few scenic props and also in some cases elements (Will, 519). The Oedipus Rex, on the other hand, was presentational as was the style in the classical Greece. It is just the mere use of a mask that could not appeal to the public to get to have a feeling or relieve the times that character lived. However, the audience would constantly have a feeling that they were watching a play and not just taken for a journey or an observation of life happenings as was the case with Othello (Hallett and Elaine). The Othello created a form of illusion to the viewers an aspect not achieved by the performance of the Oedipus Rex.
Both Oedipus and Othello have some nobility although Oedipus’ nobility is by birth whereas that of Othello is by his deeds and career. Oedipus was born to a royal family as he is the son of King Laius and his mother was Jocasta, who was the king and the queen of Thebes at the time. Despite the fact that Oedipus was left to die in the mountains after a prophecy that his son would kill the king who was his father, he is rescued by a shepherd (Stinton, 221). The shepherd took him to the king of Corinth and Merope which further indicated his noble upbringing, yet he was also born of nobility. His nobility is further emphasized by his actions as a grown up when he returns to Thebes and can save the people by solving the riddle of Sphinx and hence able to save the people from the wrath of Sphinx that was terrorizing the entire city. He is later crowned as the King of Thebes but unknowingly marries his blood mother who is the queen which furthered his nobility (Will, 516-517). On the contrary, Othello is born of a small family and is also a man of color and hence is looked down upon even as he grew up. His nobility only comes to be professed through his deeds in life. His status among his people is that he is a Moor and a barbarian but his career serving as a general in the Venetian army makes him change everything and shift to being a man of honor and nobility. The people of Venetian accept him and loves him for his actions. As if to defend his lack of nobility he says, “"I fetch my life and being / From men of royal siege" (1.2.20-21). It is his rank that makes him noble. His contemporaries also praise him as "brave Othello" (2.1.37), and they declare that he "commands / Like a full soldier" (2.1.35-36).
Pride is also another similarity that the two characters in the tragedies possess in a great deal and also contributes to their downfall (Hallett). Othello and Oedipus are men full of arrogance and pride before their fall. It is because of their marginal accomplishments in life that led to them suffering from great shame and loss. Oedipus shame is demonstrated in the way that his incestuous and also the murder of his father are brought to light and hence the pride is turned to shame (Hallett and Elaine). He further loses his mother and wife Jocasta as she commits suicide upon discovering what she had done and out of sheer anger and further pride that could not allow him to take the losses in his life, Oedipus losses his sight after he hurts them with the gold cased brooches that fastened his mother’s robe (Hallett and Elaine). He loses his sight just as he lost his kingdom. Othello, out of his pride listens to villainous Lago and murders his wife. As a result of that, he loses his honor in society and also all the things that were most precious to him. He is branded as a murderer making him move from being an honored and respected man to being ridiculed and no longer respected. As a result of the losses, Othello could not take the loss and his pride further comes into play as he commits suicide.
In conclusion, Oedipus the King written by Sophocles and Othello was drafted by William Shakespeare are both kinds of literature that involve tragedies of the main characters. They can both be compared and contrasted despite the fact that they were written over different time periods and eras. The two characters were heroes at their time and had some sense of nobility though one was born in nobility while the other earned the nobility through their actions. Moreover, the two literary pieces were inspired by situations at their period though they demonstrated and also depicted the realities of differing time periods.