To What Extent are ‘Othello’ and 'Oedipus Rex' Perfect Examples of Tragedy

To What Extent are ‘Othello’ and 'Oedipus Rex' Perfect Examples of Tragedy

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‘Othello’ was written between 1601 and 1603. It was first performed in the Elizabethan courts during the Christmas season. The idea of a ‘perfect’ tragedy is the idea that the tragedy is faultless; it does what is expected; so makes the audience feel empathy and sympathy for the characters who suffer. There are two different types of tragedy: classical tragedy and Shakespearean tragedy. The tragic hero in this play is the main character, Othello. Othello's misfortune comes about because of his jealousy, trust, and his pride. This essay aims to look at, and compare, how Shakespeare wrote his tragedy, and how other tragedies are written. I will mainly compare ‘Othello’, for Shakespearean tragedy, and ‘Oedipus Rex’, by Sophocles, for classical tragedy.

Classical tragedy is one of the most popular sorts of tragedy. The main ideas of classical tragedies include pity and fear for the victim; downfall from a high position for the main character. They usually end in the death of the protagonist, they start in harmony and end in chaos, and it is usually the innocent character that suffers. Sophocles’ ‘Oedipus Rex’ is probably the most famous classical tragedy ever written. Sophocles first produced the play in Athens around 430 B.C. at the Great Dionysian, a religious and cultural festival held in honour of the god Dionysus. The story of ‘Oedipus Rex’ is about a boy who is fated to kill his father, and marry his mother. One of the main features of classical tragedies is that whatever is ‘fated’ to happen, during the story, will always happen, and the characters cannot change it, it is an inevitable tragedy.

The type of tragedies that Shakespeare wrote differed to the generic classical tragedy in many ways. The ways that ...


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...is a rather complex character because he came from a foreign land where he experienced adventures that made the Venetians forget that he was a ‘moor’ and wish for his skills in the war. Oedipus, like Othello, was known for his military success, but his true pride came from his position as a clever and confident king of Thebes. Each man’s pride can be considered a catalyst and early stage to his own downfall, “I Oedipus whom all men call the great." (Sophocles, line 7). Othello, as an assuming man, thought it was necessary to kill his own wife because she had not been faithful. Oedipus, on the other hand, would not let the killer of Laius go undiscovered, so aimed to be a hero and avenge the death of him. These events were the terrible mistakes that lead to Othello and Oedipus’ downfalls. Another recurring theme in both of these tragedies is the idea of fate.

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