The Role Of Pride In The Plays Othello And Oedipus

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Pride a feeling that has both a good connotation and a negative connotation, it is also a feeling that we can possibly have too much of, so when do we know we have had too much of it? Reading the plays Othello by William Shakespeare and Oedipus by Sophocles we are able to see how Othello and Oedipus are alike through pride. Both characters favor in being hubris, causing these characters to make life long decision that which causes their downfall in their plays.

In the play Othello written by William Shakespeare, Othello excessive pride is what causes his downfall. His pride prevents him from seeing the truth; he believes the closet people to him would never betray him and that is where everything goes downhill for Othello. At the beginning of the play, Othello is deeply in love with Desdemona the daughter of Venetian senator Brabanzio. Othello and she get secretly married regardless of her father’s disapproval. In the beginning, you can see that Othello and Desdemona have a strong relationship. Othello is accused of using magic to make Desdemona fall in love with him but through he goes on to explain how he wooed her. Othello says “...I did consent, And often did beguile her of her tears When I did speak of some distressful stroke That my youth suffered. My story being done, she gave me for my pains a world of sighs. She swore, in faith, ‘twas strange, ‘twas passing strange, ‘twas pitiful, ‘twas wondrous pitiful… This only witchcraft I have used. Here comes the lady. Let her witness it” (Shakespeare 1.3.179-195). Othello continues to express how strong his love is with Desdemona when it comes to a celebration he says to Desdemona “Come, my dear love, the purchase made, the fruits are to ensue; that profit’s yet to come ‘tween me and you” (Shakespeare 2.3.9-12). In this passage, Othello is showing he only wishes good for his marriage and that nothing bad will happen between them because of their love. Nonetheless, their strong love starts to subside due to Othello's pride and him trusting Iago. Iago is the standard bearer and is upset that Othello gave the lieutenant position to Cassio who is inexperienced. To get revenge Iago first starts to put ideas in Othello's head that Desdemona is cheating on him with Cassio. He sets in motion the handkerchief plan; where Emilia takes the handkerchief and Iago places it in the hands of Cassio. He also places the ideas that Cassio has been dreaming about Desdemona in Othello’s head. With Iago plan in play, this causes Othello to instantly believe Iago rather than his wife Desdemona. Othello does not bother finding out truth showing the bond between him and Desdemona is no longer there. After feeling so much heartbreak, Othello ends up killing his wife and towards the end of the play, he eventually kills himself. Through this play, Othello’s hubris causes his greatest downfall.

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In the same fashion, the play Oedipus written by Sophocles also shows Oedipus being excessively prideful. Oedipus excessive pride causes him to elude the oracle prophecies but by doing so he ends up fulling the prophecy and making himself blind. The only difference between Oedipus and Othello is that Sophocles allows Oedipus to piece together the stories. At the beginning of the play, it starts off as Oedipus telling Creon that he will find justice for King Laius, that whoever killed him should be punished and killed. Little does he know he is foreshadowing that it may be someone close to him and is connecting himself to King Laius as he speaks about finding justice. Oedipus says, “If this filth warms himself at my fire and I welcome him, I call upon myself the curse I hurl upon his head” and “But I will fight to the death for him as if he were my flesh, he were my blood” (Sophocles 10). As we go through the play Oedipus tries to figure out who the killer of King Laius is, as he listens to the various stories he remembers a situation that happened between him and a couple of people when he was leaving Corith “I was walking where three roads meet I came across a man in a chariot and his servant… I killed him stone - I killed them all” (Sophocles 37). Although he remembers this memory, he chooses to not believe that he is the one who killed King Laius yet. As the play continues there are several times where it is hinted that his story is connected to the death of Laius. Oedipus is told it was him who killed Laius by Teiresias, the stranger confesses that Oedipus is adopted and lastly the shepherd tells Oedipus how his family in Corith is truly not related to him. After finding the truth out his past and him realizing that he fulfilled the prophecy. At the end of the play, because his pride made him try to avoid the prophecy, he ends up making the decision to make himself blind instead of killing himself.

For the most part, Oedipus and Othello both favor in being hubris which caused their downfall. Towards the end of each play, both Oedipus and Othello have recognition of their tragic flaw. Right before Othello dies he says “Of one that loved not wisely, but too well” (Shakespeare 5.2.404). This pertains to Othello character, he is a man that makes absurd decisions and has a fear of making mistakes. Through this, we can see hubris because he makes the decision to believe Iago and his lies instead of finding out the truth. Oedipus has recognition when he pieces together the story from the stranger and the shepherd and realizes he unwillingly completed the prophecy, “All has now come out very clear. Light, I look on you for the last time. I am cursed to the backbone. I lay with a woman I should not - I struck down an old man I should not - all has come out clear” (Sophocles 55). Expressing his hubris of avoiding the prophecy led him to his becoming of being blind.

Given these points Othello and Oedipus tragic fates are determined through their hubris. Their excessive pride is recognized when they came to an understanding of their faults. Othello did with being too trusting of Iago and having no trust in his love Desdemona. Eventually realizing the truth it was too late to fix the inevitable. Oedipus did with trying to avoid a prophecy and not giving up on finding out the killer of Laius. By doing all this he did not think the effects it may cause trouble upon him and his family resulting in him to gouge out his eyes. Pride is a dangerous feeling that led to Othello’s and Oedipus downfall.

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