Being human may seem difficult since we’re always driven by fear to act irrational, expecting others to take the blame for our mistakes. Fear is a normal part of life in which it is the only thing that we are not truly capable of guarding ourselves against. This unpleasant feeling often cripples us to the point of no return, in which we are unable to make decisions or atleast overcome life’s troubles and challenges. Some may say that this emotion challenges or tests our sanity and humane values, that includes having the ability to think and feel complex yet still being able to respond to our natural instincts. Others may also argue that fear brings life to our selfish desires, bringing us closer to our own destruction. In William Shakespeare’s Othello, a tragedy play based on a gullible married heroic black general in the service of Venice and Oedipus, the king, another tragedy play by the Sophocles, discovers that he has unwittingly made the biggest mistake of his life, in which altogether both men were involved in domestic tragedies that were driven by fear causing the murder of a loved one and ultimately in the end, their own destruction along with the paved honor they had built for themselves.
Both Othello and Oedipus are presented as with prominent character trait. They’re renowned by their nobility and tragic flaws revealing their true character of being tragic heros in which they showed the consequences of fear becoming tragic heros as explained by Aristotle that a tragic hero “A person who must evoke a sense of pity and fear in the audience. He is considered a man of misfortune that comes to him through error of judgment.” It can be said that fear gave rise to their tragedy from within their marriages, Oedipus fearing the prophecy of him becoming the son that kills his father and marries his mother whereas Othello killing his wife was based on the fear of infidelity and his lack of trust.
In the play Oedipus, his father, King Laius of Thebes, learned from an oracle that he was doomed to perish by the hand of his own son including the loss of hand in marriage with his wife, Jocasta, whom he ordered to kill their baby. However unable to do so just as any other mother, taking the life of their child prove to be difficult hence she decided to leave Oedipus for the elements. One can say that the prophecy gave birth to fear, which was later on distributed between husband to wife and from parent to child (Oedipus). King Laius was fearful of losing everything to his son, this type of fear was then influenced onto his wife making her incapable of killing her son “Jocasta: An oracle came to Laius once. I don’t say from Apollo. No, from his followers. They say he would die – at the hands of his own child…. Laius did not die as he most feared, at the hands of his son” (Sophocles 32-33). Upon surviving his biological parents trying to kill him, years later Oedipus also met with an oracle which told him the same prophecy once told to his father in which he would marry his own mother and kill his own father.
Being fearful of his fate, he left for thebes where he met Laius, his real father, and, unaware of each other’s true identities they got into a fight where three roads meet leading to the murder of Laius, “Oedipus: 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) the start of fulfilling part of the oracle’s prophecy. Another moment where oedipus’ fear got the best of him was when he went to the prophet, Tiresias, for answers concerning the death of the old king. He believed that he was being told nonsense by the prophet since he tried keeping quiet until snapping that oedipus was the murderer. Dismissing everything that he was being told by the prophet he accuses tiresias of being corrupted by the ambitious Creon in an attempt to undermine him. “Oedipus: he has committed crimes against us, wife. He its wicked beware of his witchcraft… Then let him go – let me die, exiled, disgraced, dishonoured” (sophocles 28-30). Oedipus’ fear of the prophecy coming true made him delusional and insecure of creon’s loyalty to him in which he demands that he should be executed, convinced that he is conspiring against him.
Unlike Oedipus, Othello’s fear was driven by ignorance and misconception added that he was very gullible and unfortunately giving his trust to the wrong person. From being a former slave who achieved his honor through his military strength, Othello made cassio his chief lieutenant in which it made Iago jealous and very envious. This move by othello installed fear within Iago, the time of fear of not being good enough, or not being able to live up to the standards at which he holds himself “Iago: One Michael Cassio, a Florentine, a fellow almost damned in a fair wife, that never set a squadron in the field, nor the division of a battle knows more than a spinster… And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof at Rhodes, at Cyprus and on other grounds christian and heathen, must be beleed and calmed by debitor and creditor.
This counter-caster, he, in good time, must his lieutenant be” (Shakespeare 1.1.21-34). In addition he feels that no one can love him and partly upon a reasonable fear of Emilia’s retaliation. In which he decides to use Othello to ultimately do what he wishes he could do with his own wife. Iago becomes the main proponent of fear and manages to manipulate fear into the most rational characters like Othello “Iago: Cassio’s a proper man. Let me see now: to get his place and to plume up my will in double knavery how, how? Let’s see. after some time, to abuse Othello’s ear that he is too familiar with his wife” (Shakespeare 1.3.435-447). One may say that Iago is only capable of escaping his fear by inflicting it on Othello whom he tortured and controlled since he knew his vulnerability consisted of his jealous nature. It is if he is scared to live his life that way or does not want to face the consequences he brings forth onto others. Othello wants Desdemona, and by winning her he hopes to gain the acceptance of Venetian society at large.
After becoming married he becomes terrified of losing her to a younger man, he seeks the help from Iago who stated “Iago: O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on. (shakespeare 3.3.167-169). Being such a smart and cunning man Iago made use of a handkerchief belonging to Desdemona, Iago persuading Othello that Desdemona has given the handkerchief to Cassio as a love token in which he did not believe at first until his fear of appearances and reputation that his wife remained faithful and thus has fail and his fears were irrational I’d make a life of jealousy to follow still the changes of the moon With fresh suspicions? No: to be once in doubt Is once to be resolved. (Shakespeare 3.3.179-184). The handkerchief in Cassio’s mistress’s hands, convinced othello that he has lost Desdemona, which ultimately causes he himself to becomes lost and allowing himself to self destruct. His fear of infidelity added with his insecurities about being both black and an outsider was so instantaneous became the furious flame that made him believe that he can save her by killing her. “Desdemona: O, banish me, my lord, but kill me not!… Kill me to-morrow: let me live to-night!” (Shakespeare 5.5.1-5).
To conclude, fear is something that we all have to face since it derives from our insecurities and past experiences as stated by Aristotle “To turn next to Fear, what follows will show the things and persons of which, and the states of mind in which, we feel afraid… …fear is caused by whatever we feel has great power of destroying us, or of harming us in ways that tend to cause us great pain” (Aristotle pg 103). Both Oedipus and Othello Feared the greater suffering as they both saw it as an attack upon their honor, becoming true tragic heroes in their final state. They learned through their experiences that fear is not a force to be reckoned with it. It can be very manipulative that aims to change the behavior or perception of others through indirectly, in Oedipus case fearing the prophecy of him becoming the son that kills his father and marries his mother and Othello killing his wife was based on the fear of infidelity and his lack of trust.
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