Tragedies depict catastrophic storylines that tug and pull at one’s heart. They leave us with lessons for own lifetimes and give us glimpses of our pasts. That is to say, death is witnessed by many in this world making it one of the most widely relatable concepts. Evidently, that is why most think that what comprise tragedies are deaths. Death occurs in both Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and yet in each play the author portrays a different understanding of a tragic hero. Miller’s Willy Loman is a failing salesman who’s past and longtime aspirations haunt his mind. Eventually, these flawed expectations drive Loman to his downfall. Whereas, Oedipus’ hubris and pre-determined destiny cause him to surrender his kingship and live as a lowly exile. In all, Oedipus is the far more tragic figure than Willy because Oedipus’ fate is sealed by the gods long before the forsaken hero’s birth.
Comparing the two tragic heroes, one can see contrasting elements. Aristotle justifies a tragic hero as a nobleman who falls due to their hamartia, a character flaw. This person is of moral value but is prevented from seeing their own destruction because of their hamartia. This type of tragedy incites fear and pity in Greek audiences and in the end, people are lead to a catharsis. One can see Sophocles took Aristotle’s account of a tragic hero into full consideration since Oedipus, the main character of his play, does not realize the consequences of his actions until the very end. The Greek audience is then instilled with the idea that anyone can incur the wrath of the Gods even those of nobility. On the other hand, Miller’s view of a tragic hero is a common man blinded by his impossible dreams and h...
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... the king begins his ungraceful descent from the throne to a sightless exiled peasant left to wander the rest of his existence outside the kingdom of Thebes just as his prophecy predicted.
Although, Willy Loman is a tragic figure, Oedipus supercedes him as being the superior tragic hero because Oedipus’ tragic fall is one that can not be helped. A personal reaction to the play is that Willy Loman is not relatable in the slightest bit because life is different for everyone and happiness is a choice. Willy could have changed when he had the chance and then the ending of the play would not have been as depressing. Miller must have ended the play the way he did to depict Willy’s suicide as the character’s easiest way out of his encroaching hysteria. Conversely, even with Oedipus’ extreme pride, more emotion and feeling go out to those who cannot fight for their futures.
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