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Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Shakespeare’s Othello

To begin with, from ancient times a theme of inner feelings and conflicts maintained in a man’s soul and mind excite many people by the psychological nature of individuals who urge to find out a specific devotion and predestination in life. Here the extent of dramatic conversations appeared. This gave additional flow toward the evaluation of peoples’ actions in different situations with further truths about a right way of doing things. Tragedy in its nature is a genre that points out the fall of bygone marvelous and great man due to several reasons. In accordance with the most outstanding playwrights the source of such reasons is classically covered under the emotional and rational approaches of human psyche. The paper represents the evaluation of two plays which are very much alike of the main idea, but was written by two various authors working in quite different time frameworks. It is Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Shakespeare’s Othello.

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Both playwrights were written by the authors in terms of better manifestation of pride’s doom in a man who is inclined to open doors of his/her heart for this trait of character. However, a sort of fate is represented as well, but the attempts of both heroes to overcome themselves in prescribed destination along with the right of succession, in case with Oedipus, and in career prospects, in Othello’s case. This tragedy presupposes a desire of a man to achieve more within what life can propose and give sooner or later. Nevertheless, the authors were intended to depict the coloring of human feelings and shapes of behavioral disturbances. This approach was precious in literature in antique times, when human beings only began encompassing the variability of the philosophical thought implemented further not only in literature but also in many present widely-used sciences, as well as in epoch of Renaissance, when the most eminent luminaries tended to look back on the antique traditions and techniques while describing peoples’ characters and their states of soul. Here is the relative similarity of both plays.

The idea of mistakes and delusions is highly raised in both plays. Oedipus just does not look for the ways of his banishment resolving according to the prophecy which was told by an oracle, He hesitates in attempts to make something useful and turn back his real and deserved place under the sun, but the fate affairs are rather unpredictable and make people do something in form of logical reaction on circumstantial background. Othello, on the other hand, ignored the harmful motives coming from his foes. Robert Di Yanni in his anthology describes such attitudes of the heroes by their mistaking in points of further steps on the way to destination. He writes: “Shakespeare’s Othello, for example, mistakes lago for an honest, loving friend; and he mistakes his faithful wife, Desdemona, for an adulteress. Sophocles’ Oedipus mistakes his own identity and misconstrues his destiny…” (Di Yanni, p. 917).

With regards to the religious theme, it is necessary to point out differences in addressing pagan gods by Oedipus and devotion to Christian God by Desdemona. The wife of Othello is a suchlike behind-the-screens defender of Othello who always prays to God in order to provide invisible guard over Othello, especially in conditions of being on the active list. Within a religious approach G.K. Chesterton gave a special evaluation for Oedipus with a special point on his pagan dedication. He, in particular, called the tragedy of Sophocles’ play “the monstrous innocence of Oedipus.” (Cited in Schwartz, p. 230) Othello then can be called as one within a multiple number “victims of chance.” (Cited in Schwartz, p. 231).

It can be possible to mention that Othello in his soul conflict concerned with his wife and the stories of lago against her devotion and faithfulness is apt to put trust in Iago’s words than to believe his wife. Lago convince Othello by words “My lord, you know I love you.” (Shakespeare, p. 178). This creates the contradictory character of the hero’s hesitation and searching for new ways of making these rumors. Othello being intricate in deceitful thoughts provided by lago rejects to listen to rational observation as of the situation and his friendship with Cassius. The plan of lago is underlined with ominous coloring and the positive reaction of Othello which causes his fall and destruction while being too close to a total success and good life in the future.

Oedipus knowing about the fact that he is that person determined by destiny to kill his father makes out his inability to change any harmful circumstance of this cruel prophecy. He strives to stand against, by the legend it is quite clear in what it will result then, but the irony is inserted in this episode when one realizes the fact that after such murder his mother simultaneously becomes also his wife. The hero says: “Not then had I become My father’s murderer, Nor wedded her I have my being from: Whom now no God will bless…” (Sophocles, Young, p. 48). This is crucial and amoral somehow effect does not leave Oedipus alone. He is able to make changes and ruin the destination of prophecy, but he simply ignores this fact.

Both characters by means of suffering and suchlike mental disturbance come through the process of perfection and show to the rest of the society the lessons of heart ventures which can cause a disaster in life. Such dramatic evaluation is distinctively described by Alfred Kreymborg with his personal depiction of the Sophocles’ play: “Purified through suffering, Oedipus walks with Death and the gods in an immortal sphere where the dignity of man is triumphant.” (Kreymborg, p. 68). Moreover, Othello as well as Oedipus made the main mistakes of their life due to a lack of feelings’ control and presence of common sense in their reasoning. These examples tend to illustrate the harms of emotional and mental disharmony and controversy on the whole. Both heroes are outlined as those who by virtues of murdering their relatives (father and wife respectively) were placed in the kingdom of everlasting sorrow and sadness of heart which is represented by the authors with a glimpse of the after-effect of the most significant reason as pride. Of course, fate and pride are the factors for the fall of both heroes. Still, as it can be worked out, the presence of pride is more apparent in both cases and its negative implementation is to a large extent predetermined by the straight and fixed stubbornness of Oedipus and Othello. In the case of Oedipus, it is expressed even with a mere indifference about the affairs to be done as prevention for predicted circumstances. All in all, these two plays became one of the most grateful examples of the tragedy genre ever known in the history of world literature. The entire implementation of values needful to a man in every epoch and under any circumstances is displayed on the examples of Othello and Oedipus Rex for further generations of people.

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Works cited

  1. DiYanni, Robert. Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. New York. 6th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2007.
  2. Kreymborg, Alfred, ed. Poetic Drama: An Anthology of Plays in Verse from the Ancient Greek to the Modern American. New York: Modern Age Books, 1941.
  3. Schwartz, Joseph. “Chesterton on the Idea of Christian Tragedy.” Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 53.3 (2001): 227.
  4. Shakespeare, William. Othello. Vancouver. Simon & Schuster, 2004.
  5. Sophocles, and Young, George. Oedipus Rex. 2 ed. London. Courier Dover Publications, 1991.

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"Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Shakespeare’s Othello." StudyCorgi, 1 Nov. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Shakespeare’s Othello." November 1, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Shakespeare’s Othello." November 1, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Shakespeare’s Othello." November 1, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Shakespeare’s Othello'. 1 November.

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