A Comparison of Macbeth and Oedipus the King

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A Comparison of Macbeth and Oedipus Rex The objective of this essay is to compare the Shakespearian tragedy "Macbeth" to the Greek tragedy, "Oedipus Rex". Although the plays share similarities, it will be seen that the fall of Macbeth is very different from that of Oedipus. Macbeth's downfall is due to his own personal decisions while the downfall of Oedipus is due to fate and the will of the gods. In Greek tragedy plot was always emphasized over character; everyone wore masks. These masks would seem to mask a person's character. This would make the character seem more universal. The mask-wearing protagonist lacks individual personality and character. This makes catharsis more relevant because the protagonist is not as individual but more universal; they could be anyone. Macbeth is an individual person; he has no mask. This makes catharsis seem more irrelevant because Macbeth is more of on individual than Greek protagonists and therefore the audience doesn't feel that Macbeth is a representation of humanity and themselves. Instead they would set him apart as an individual person and therefore catharsis wouldn't apply as much. Greek tragedies all feature some kind of religious aspect. The gods bring about the protagonist's downfall in "Oedipus Rex". Yet Shakespeare's production of "Macbeth" is not religious. Macbeth isn't portrayed as being religious in any way. However, Oedipus strongly believed in the Greek gods and they carved out his fate as proclaimed by the oracle. The Greeks had no understanding of the way that the world works compared to what we, or even Shakespeare, now know. Volcanos were blamed on the gods because the Greek's didn't know the cause. We now have scientific explanations for volcanoes... ... middle of paper ... ...of the effect of catharsis. When I read Oedipus Rex I didn't feel purged of my fears of existence because I don't believe that our lives are controlled by the will of fate. Catharsis is more relevant to the Ancient Greeks than to us because of the different belief system; we have one good, caring, all-powerful God and they have many gods who don't really care about the humans that much. I think that Shakespeare hasn't tried to apply catharsis to his tragedy as much as the Ancient Greeks did to their tragedies because he doesn't make the characters as universal as the Greeks but he gives them individualism by removing the masks and giving each character a personality. Works Cited: Shakespeare, William. “Macbeth.” The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Ed. David Bevington. New York: Longman, 1997. Sophocles. Oedipus Rex. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1991.
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