Without a doubt, the plays that were analyzed and deliberated this semester were informative, interesting, and crucial to the present condition and culture of mainstream playwriting. Of the many works that were looked at, Oedipus Rex and Death of a Salesman were two that lent themselves to further evaluation. Within this text, I will be discussing specific examples from both productions that draws comparison between the two.
Disconnected by several thousand years of literature, Oedipus Rex and Death of a Salesman seem to share a number of likenesses and characteristics that tie them both together, despite having been written at completely different times in history. At first look, one may ask how these stories could have anything in common; one is about a salesman with suicidal predispositions and the other a king who murdered his father and established a sexual relationship with his mother (book). However, after further consideration, there are underlying themes and foundations that show how each protagonist struggles with internal conflict which eventually leads to their untimely demise; each play shares a protagonist with a tragic flaw.
In the Greek tragedy, Oedipus Rex is the main character (book). He is important and of noble birth, and reigns as the King of Thebes. However, due to his kingly status, there are events that have occurred in his life that have affected his well-being as well as that of the people of Thebes. King Oedipus fate, unbeknownst to him, has already been determined by the Gods before he was born (book). In Arthur Millerr’s classic, Willy Loman is an older gentleman that struggles to accept his fate in a dead-end job and old age. Willy was let go from his job as a salesman and has started to spiral out of control, disappointed with the way his life is turning out (book). Willyr’s tragic situation, unlike Oedipus, does not at all impact the country, people, or even city where he lives. The individuals that are immediately affected by Willyr’s death are his immediate family members (book). Within the character similarities, there is one major difference. In a Greek tragedy, such as that of Oedipus Rex, the main character is almost always of noble or royal birth. Therefore, the country over while they rule is directly affected and at risk of peril due to the tragic situation of the protagonist. In the modern tragedy, such as Death of a Salesman, the main character is the average individual, with only few impacted by the death or tragedy of the protagonist.
Another similarity that can be drawn from each play, is the mental and physical state in which each main character begins and ends their respective plays. In the very opening scene of Oedipus Rex, we see a confused Oedipus at what he sees is happening to the City of Thebes (book). He does not understand why Thebes is in turmoil and this worries Oedipus. Although we as an audience know that Thebes is ultimately in distress due to his fate, Oedipus does not. At the end, we see a now-blind Oedipus overcome with anguish and embarrassment as he realizes now what he has done (book).
Comparable to Oedipus introduction, Willy Loman enters confused as well. Willy starts telling his wife, Linda, how all of a sudden he couldnt drive any more (book), and this was worrying him. As mentioned above, Willyr’s complications and strife do not directly affect a nation, but his immediate family instead. Closely to Oedipus, Willyr’s story also ends in shame; Willy kills himself so that his wife and sons will receive his insurance policy (book).
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