Comparing Shakespeare 's ' Oedipus The King ' And ' Death Of A Salesman '

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By Daniel Konshak What is a tragedy? Merriam-Webster dictionary defines tragedy as a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force, such as destiny, and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that elicits pity or terror. Two such examples of literary tragedies are “Oedipus the King” by Sophocles and “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller. Although written over 2000 years apart, there are many similarities between the two literary works, but with varying degrees of differences as well. Some of the key areas to be examined when making this comparison are: the social status of the main characters, the psychological mindsets the characters are in, their respective lack of self-awareness, whether their fate was deserved or not, and the main fatal flaw of each main character. Let’s begin by first examining the social status of the two main characters from each literary selection. In “Oedipus the King” by Sophocles, the main character is, of course, Oedipus. As the story unfolds, we find that Oedipus has been plagued by the prophecy that said he “should lie with his own mother” and “be his father’s murderer” (Sophocles, 385). Oedipus, in trying to break this prophecy, flees from the city to escape this fate. However, unbeknownst to Oedipus, he was actually born in Thebes and not in the city of Corinth as he originally believed. So, instead of escaping the city and the fate of the
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