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Contrast Between Macbeth and Oedipus

This study will examine the most stark contrast between the characters of Oedipus in Sophocles' Oedipus the King and Macbeth in Shakespeare's play of the same name. That contrast is based on the conscious involvement of Macbeth in his own evildoing and doom, and the lack of awareness accompanying Oedipus own evildoing. That is, Macbeth set out deliberately and determinedly to murder for personal ambition and gain, while Oedipus slew his father without knowing who he was, and wed his mother without knowing who she was, thus bringing destruction upon not only his own head but the entire city over which he ruled.

It might be argued that Oedipus consciously slew the old man he met on the road, did not have to kill him over a minor traffic dispute, and therefore can be said to have directly participated in the destruction which ultimately resulted from that act. However, again, the difference is that Oedipus acted impulsively in a state of rage, whereas Macbeth committed acts of violence and murder as a result of careful scheming which he determined would result in his own personal gain.

Certainly both characters are tragic figures. The murder of his father and marriage of his mother on the part of Oedipus qualify him as a tragic character, for the prophecies which were expressed before Oedipus even was born showed that his actions were inevitable. The efforts of his parents to avoid tragedy were of no avail against the will of the gods. In the case of Macbeth, the witches' prophecies show that the same godly forces were at work in determining the awful fate of the main character. Again, the difference is that---despite the involvement of the gods in both plays---Macbeth consciously planned his violent acts for his own benefit, while Oedipus can be said to have not known what he was doing.

We cannot know beyond any doubt precisely what the authors meant to say with their plays with respect to good and evil, consciousness, the ro...

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Contrast Between Macbeth and Oedipus. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:32, January 20, 2019, from