Give a comparison and contrast of classical drama and modern drama with reference to Oedipus Rex and Wild Duck.

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I assume you know the Oedipus dramatic techniques, so here's more on Ibsen.  Regarding The Wild Duck, the Enotes Critical Essay section denotes:

This fallen family has constructed a miniature landscape and menagerie in the attic which compensates for the lost world of nature, so that the stage is divided, as in familiar Christian iconography, between the humble family in the foreground and a space with animals in the background.

The Wild Duck, as noted above, is the first play of the Cycle’s second group, and it inaugurates the profoundly dualistic aspect of this second phase of the Cycle. This dualism is visually present on stage in the division, in the Ekdal home, between a foreground space of reluctant work and a background space (the attic) of compensating fantasy—a stage division also present in the Werle household. This dualism continues in the strongly vertical imagery of the play with its extremes of heights and depths, in the social division between the haves and have-nots in the ideological division of Gregers’ and Relling’s agendas, and so on. How thoroughly Ibsen has visualized this dualism can be seen in two striking uses of an incongruity between character and setting: the shabbily dressed Ekdal emerging to interrupt the sumptuous feast of Grosserer Werle, and the appearance of the splendidly dress.

Other Comparisons:

  • both are parts of a trilogy
  • both deal with ill-defined yearnings and idealistic quest for father
  • both deal with toxic environments: the bed of incest, and the toxic swamp
  • both are heavy-handed in imagery: sight/blindness (Oedipus) vs. light/dark (Duck).
  • both deal with self-imposed exile
  • both deal with suicide as a result of a discovery, revelation
  • Both families are ignorant of the differences between reality and illusion

Other Contrasts:

  • The Wild Duck is farcical; Oedipus is serious
  • The Wild Duck's setting is mundane (as it is tragicomedy) and intimate; Oedipus' is more elevated, noble, and formal (as it is tragedy)
  • The Wild Duck's stage is cluttered; Oedipus is barren
  • The Wild Duck is a battle of psychology vs. religion; Oedipus is religious quest that turns psychological (later with Freud)
  • The self-imposed exile in The Wild Duck comes at the beginning; Oedipus' is at the end
  • The Wild Duck deals with not only text, but supertext
  • The Wild Duck has obvious Christian elements
Read the study guide:
Oedipus Rex

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