Both the Tempest and Oedipus Rex begin their stories with a disastrous event that provokes the rest of the story. In Oedipus Rex, a curse has fallen on Thebes, and can only be lifted if the murderer of Laius is found. The men in the shipwreck experienced disaster in the opening moments of the Tempest. Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo, Stephano, and Trinculo also believe that their friend Ferdinand has died when they become isolated on the island after the shipwreck.
Characters in both stories learned to have been powerless to their fate from the higher power in their life. Oedipus cannot escape his prophecy, because even his free will to make decision led him back to his destiny due to his pride and arrogance. Antonio and Alonso’s overthrow of Prospero leads to Antonio and Sebastian’s plot to overthrow Alonso, just as Prospero’s overthrow and enslavement of Caliban leads Caliban to seek revenge.
Characters in both plots sought to flee their fate, regardless of what they have been told. As Oedipus flees Corinth and running from his parents, he murders his father on the way. In the Tempest, Prospero uses magic to influence and change the fates of other characters for personal gain or for the good of others.
In the Tempest, Prospero yearns to be powerful and seizes all of the power of the island from the witch, and enslaves Ariel and Caliban to enforce his power. Power both corrupts and blinds the characters of Oedipus Rex, as Oedipus is an arrogant and unperceptive ruler. He assumes others are trying to take his power and therefore does not listen to their wisdom.
Both stories incorporate the inclusion of mythical creatures/monsters. Throughout the Tempest, the identity of Caliban remains ambiguous as sometimes he is referred to as a monster and sometimes a man. At the beginning of Oedipus rex, the Sphinx monster was terrorizing the Thebans by devouring them when they failed to answer the riddle. Oedipus later solved the riddle and defeated the Sphinx which killed itself in rage.
There are overarching themes of freedom and confinement. Prospero and Miranda are forced to live in exile on a remote island, where Prospero enslaves Caliban. Ariel is also captive servant to Prospero. Before Prospero came to the island, a witch named Sycorax imprisoned Ariel in a tree. When Sycorax died, Ariel was trapped until Prospero arrived and freed him. Throughout the story of Oedipus, it is questioned whether Oedipus had the freedom to make decisions to prevent the tragedy of his family or if everything came down to fate.
There are overarching themes of betrayal. In the Tempest, Antonio betrays his mother and commits theft from the dukedom of Milan. In Oedipus Rex, after Teiresias leaves, Oedipus accuses Creon of being a betrayer, because he believed that Creon made Teiresias convict him of murder.
Compassion and forgiveness play a significant role throughout both stories. This is Prospero’s revelation after living in exile and returning to Italy, and at the end of the play, Prospero asks the audience to forgive him for his wrongdoing. Prospero also forgives Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian for their treachery, after sending Ariel to bring the Boatswain and the Mariners from the wrecked ship. In Oedipus Rex, there was much question about whether Oedipus should forgive himself for murdering his father.
There are questions of reality and differing perspectives on it. In the Tempest, the island is dominated by magic, and it clouds the ability for new arrivals to see clearly the difference between reality and illusion. Gonzalo sees the island as beautiful due to his relentless positive outlook. When Antonio and Sebastian draw their swords on their men in their sleep but they awaken, they make up a story that lions were approaching and they were trying to protect them.
In Oedipus Rex, Teiresias is the link between sight and blindness and can predict the future. At the end of the play Oedipus blinds himself because what he has seen makes him unable to face his family.
Pride leading to downfall is a major overarching theme in both stories. This led to the murder of Oedipus father and marrying his mother, and made Oedipus search for the murder of Laius. Prospero’s entire life was devoted to the achievement of magical abilities, which leads to his poor decisions.
Characters in both stories sought to always been in complete control. When Oedipus asks Teiresias to help him solve the murder of Laius, he tells him that it would be better for all if he does not know what he knows. Oedipus is enraged of this and forces Teiresias to reveal that he is the one responsible for his death. Prospero is obsessed with controlling everyone, including his slaves Caliban and Ariel. He also decides to control the fate of his daughter’s relationship with Ferdinand in order to prevent it from developing too quickly.
Manipulation of others occurs frequently in the Tempest and Oedipus Rex. Prospero attempts to manipulate everyone around him throughout the play. He accuses Ferdinand of pretending to be the Prince of Naples and threatens him with imprisonment. When Ferdinand draws his sword, Prospero charms him and leads him off to prison, ignoring Miranda’s cries. Creon is a master of manipulation throughout Oedipus Rex, and tells Oedipus that he has brought news from the oracle and suggests that Oedipus hear it inside. Creon has the secretive and deceptive personality of a politician.
Both stories contain rulers with instability and in fear of losing control. Both Prospero and Oedipus are leaders without stability and constantly are in fear of losing their power, and take actions that lead to their downfall because of this.
Wisdom and Knowledge are overarching themes. Oedipus is constantly searching for wisdom and knowledge throughout story, and struggles to uncover Laius murder and identity, despite numerous warnings to leave the truth alone. Prospero begins the play as a man with no wisdom, causing him to neglect his duty and gave his brother the opportunity to undermine the throne.
Characters commonly experience guilt and shame after making revelations. After Oedipus finds out he murdered his father, he experiences shame and guilt. Gonzalo understands how knowledge of their own wrongdoing has affected Alonso, Antonio and Sebastian, in different ways.
Oedipus Rex and the Tempest have themes of the truth and finding out about them in bizarre ways. Oedipus finds out he murdered his father after multiple warnings to not seek the truth. Throughout the Tempest, there is an ambiguity of truth, and the audience is often kept in the dark about what is true and what isn’t. For example, when Prospero is telling the story of when his brother overthrew him, we are accepting this story on his word and his word alone.
Action V. Reflection- The Tempest demonstrates that people will behave as their society has instructed them to, even when they are completely removed from it. Oedipus reveals that actions can blind us and we do not always act in the most moral way, but we realize are wrongdoings eventually.
Characters come to make discoveries about themselves that lead them to grow as a person and develop the story. Oedipus discovers himself as a murderer. In the Tempest, Miranda makes discoveries of human society, as well as her and her family’s past.
Themes of Light and darkness- In Oedipus Rex, Tiresias is in the dark about his own origins and the murder of Laius. He is also in the dark with his own blindness but has sight over other things. In the Tempest, Prospero’s approach to his craft, and Sycorax, a dark witch who worshipped the devil, used that same dark magic that everyone feared. As a result, she had a cursed child and could not control spirits like Ariel. Her magic is described to us as ugly, dark, and terrible while Prospero is good and light and beautiful.
Youth and age were significant themes to both stories. Oedipus goes from the innocence of a child to a blinded man who needs to be led by his children. He ages with the discover of his own shortcomings. To celebrate Miranda and Ferdinand’s union, Prospero brings spirits in the shape of gods before them, hoping to impress them.
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