Term Paper: Macbeth and Oediups Rex

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[. . .] With the definition of tragic flaw revealed and the assurance that Macbeth did, in fact, possess a true tragic flaw, other similarities can also be brought to light that center more closely plot and characterization. For instance, When Oedipus the king begins, Oedipus exhibits wisdom, love for his children and his subjects, and a reputation for high moral standards. He has a passion for truth, and shows courage in the face of disaster or conflict. "As to the man surest in mortal ways and wisest in the way of gods" (Oedipus, Lines 37-38). These same noble qualities, however, also lead to his inevitable tragic downfall. His wisdom becomes self-righteousness, and he refuses to see that he's married his own mother. Macbeth, with a distinct character than Oedipus, possessed his impure wisdom from Lady Macbeth. He had no love for his friends and his reputation as thane was degrading. "Unlike Oedipus, he does not try to avoid the predictions. He leaps to them" (Coursen, 24). Much like Oedipus, however, his character lead to his inevitable tragic downfall.

The one trait of Oedipus that doesn't change in the course of the play is his strength and courage in the face of disaster. "Oedipus' tragedy derives largely from his own ignorance. But he is also blinded by his self-righteousness and pride as he strives for the truth, committed to being the savior of his people" (Nostbakken, 221). As the net of guilt tightens on him with each revelation about the truth, Oedipus grew stubborn in finding closure to the prophecy. When Macbeth found out about his prophecy, he deliberately seek his position as thane in an immoral way.

Every step Oedipus takes to solve the mystery of Laios' murder brings him closer to self-exposure, yet he never hesitates to pursue that truth. When the last piece of the puzzle falls into place, Oedipus the detective has become Oedipus the criminal. But his courage and strength help him endure the pain and suffering that come with knowledge of what he has done.

Oedipus' search for the truth leads him to the discovery that he isn't a "child of Luck," but a "man of misfortune." His fate was determined years before his birth, as proven by the prophecy of the oracles. All he can do is live out his destiny, but he does this with such dignity and heroism that he shows there is nobility even in suffering and despair. He finally meets with the messenger that tells Oedipus that Polybus, the man that raised Oedipus, was "no more your father than I am" (Oedipus, Line 850). Still wanting more answers, Oedipus questions the messenger who tells him he was a "gift" to Polybus and that he received baby Oedipus from a shepherd. The shepherd admits to giving the messenger a baby, and that Jocasta gave him the child for fear that the prophecies would come true. Hearing this, Oedipus cries, "O God-all come true, all burst to light!" (855).

Disgusted and humiliated, he gouges out his eyes. He comes face-to-face with his prophecy and cannot bear to see it. Oedipus can be assume as a notable man for blinding himself and Macbeth was known as a taint villain.

Oedipus has shown what it means to endure in the face of certain defeat. He has shown what it takes to survive in a world that is ruled by unpredictable fate. He has shown the true meaning of suffering and despair. He earns the respect and sympathy of the audience when he chooses to live rather than die, and make his life an example to others of how guilt and pride may lead to self knowledge. Macbeth messed with his own destiny by holding an untrue position as thane. The impression he left was a cynical man with no dignity as a human. His tragic death was cause by his eager schemes and redundant murder scenes. His death was inevitable and if the story weren't going to end his life with tragedy, the audience may certainly wish it would do so.

So what can be said of fate and free will? Oedipus and Macbeth will surly tell you there is no chance to outrun fate. Free will always leads to fate. What would have happened if Oedipus had not attempted to dodge his fate? What would have happened if Macbeth had chosen a different path? Would none of it have come to pass? Surely only the gods know.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare's Macbeth. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

Coursen, H.R. Macbeth: A Guide to the Play. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997.

Nostbakken, Faith and Claudia Durst Johnson. Understanding Macbeth: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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