Compare Oedipus with Othello as tragic heroes. Define one quality of a tragic hero, and compare the two protagonists on that point.

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
  • Obviously, Oedipus conforms more to the ideal tragic hero in that he is born into nobility: he is both prince and king of Corinth and Thebes.  Othello, on the other hand, is a former slave who achieves greatness through military and oratory means.
  • Both heroes are involved in domestic tragedies: their tragedy comes from within their marriages.  Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother, while Othello kills his wife.  As such, beds are very important symbols.  In Oedipus Jocasta hangs herself on the bed, while Desdemona is strangled there.  However, the bed never appears on the Greek stage (that is sacrilege).  In Othello, it is a major stage prop.
  • Both heroes suffer a reversal, but Oedipus' is caused by himself.  Othello has a villain that causes Othello's reversal.  Iago is the major difference here.  Oedipus has no villains, and Othello clearly does.  As such, Iago's role drives the action of the play in Othello more than the tragic hero.  He serves as the role of fate and the oracles.  He also plays the role of Chorus, as he talks incessantly to others and the audience.
  • Obviously, the endings are vastly different.  Oedipus achieves a kind of nobility in his tragedy: he chooses to blind himself instead of suicide.  Because of this, he achieves a victory over fate.  Othello's suicide is both an admission of guilt and a refusal to suffer or take responsibility for his crimes.