Comparison of Beowulf and Oedipus Rex


Length: 1176 words (3.4 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Excellent
Open Document
Need writing help? Check your paper »

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

More ↓


Comparison of Beowulf and Oedipus Rex

 

Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon folk epic written by an unknown author. It was written sometime during the eighth century. Oedipus Rex is an Ancient Greek tragedy written by the playwright Sophocles sometime around 430 BC. Although the two works were written during two different time periods, in two different places, and are different kinds of literature, they contain many similarities in the manner in which they depict a hero and the depiction of government.

Beowulf tells the story of one of the most heroic men of Anglo-Saxon times. The hero, Beowulf, is able to use his super-human physical strength and courage to put his people before himself. He encounters terrifying monsters and the most brutal beasts, but he never fears the threat of death. Beowulf is the ultimate epic hero who risks his life countless times for great honor and for the good of others. Oedipus Rex is a tragic play, which discusses the tragic discovery of Oedipus--that he has killed his father, and married his mother. He is self-confident, intelligent, and strong willed. Ironically these are the very traits which bring about his tragic discovery. Oedipus gains the rule of Thebes by answering the riddle of Sphinx.

The two heroes, Beowulf and Oedipus, are very similar in some aspects and also quite different in others. The first similarity in the depiction of hero is that both heroes are of aristocratic birth. Beowulf is the cousin of Higlac, who is King of the Geats. Oedipus is the adopted son of Polybus and Merope, the King and Queen of Corinth. Furthermore, his real parents are Laius and Jocasta, King and Queen of Thebes. Another similarity is that both heroes end a period of suffering by abolishing a monster. Beowulf ends the suffering in Herot by killing the monster Grendel. "A prince of the Geats, had killed Grendel, / Ended the grief, the sorrow, the suffering / Forced on Hrothgar's helpless people / By a bloodthirsty fiend." (lines 482 - 485) Oedipus is responsible for ending the Sphinx's reign of terror upon the city of Thebes. He does not physically kill the monster as Beowulf does; he merely answers the Sphinx's riddle. When he does so, the Sphinx kills herself. A third similarity is that both heroes are challenged by another character in the story.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Comparison of Beowulf and Oedipus Rex." 123HelpMe.com. 12 Dec 2017
    <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=5583>.
Title Length Color Rating  
The Role of Fate in Oedipus Rex Essay - In Oedipus Rex, fate is something that unavoidably befalls two characters. The gods decide Oedipus and Jocasta’s fate even before they know it. Trying to avoid destiny is pointless because no matter what, it will catch up to you where ever you are. It is often thought that you can change your destiny, but in reality our fate was put into action the day we were born. Throughout the play, Oedipus tries to change his fate. When he confirms through two messengers and an oracle that he is destined to marry his mother and kill his father, he completely panics....   [tags: Oedipus Rex] 809 words
(2.3 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
The Punishment of Oedipus the King (Oedipus Rex) Essay - The Punishment of Oedipus the King At the end of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, Oedipus, king of Thebes, ends up banished forever from his kingdom. Additionally, Oedipus physically puts out his own eyes, for several reasons which will be discussed later. The question is: Did Oedipus deserve his punishments. There are many factors that must be considered in answering this, including how Oedipus himself felt about his situation. His blinding was as much symbolic as it was physical pain....   [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex] 1180 words
(3.4 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Ensnared by the Gods in Oedipus Rex Essay - Ensnared by the Gods in Oedipus Rex    A citizen of Periclean Athens may not have been familiar with the term entrapment, but he or she would surely have recognized the case of Oedipus as such.  The tragedy of Oedipus is that he was ensnared by the gods.  As Teiresias points out, "I say that with those you love best you live in foulest shame unconsciouslyÖ" (italics mine)  God is continuously indicted for having caused Oedipusí troubles.  The chorus asks, "What evil spirit leaped upon your life to your ill-luckÖ?"  And Oedipus himself is well aware of the source of his troubles:  "It was Apollo, friends, Apollo, that brought this bitter bitterness, my sorrows to completion."  Blinded an...   [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex] 1143 words
(3.3 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Significance of the Women in Oedipus Rex Essay - Significance of the Women in Oedipus Rex            Michael J. O’Brien in the Introduction to Twentieth Century Interpretations of Oedipus Rex, maintains that there is “a good deal of evidence to support this view” that the fifth century playwright was the “educator of his people” and a “teacher”. Sophocles in his tragedy, Oedipus Rex, teaches about “morally desirable attitudes and behavior,” (4) and uses three women to help convey these principles of living. This essay will explore the role of women in the drama, the attitude toward women therein, the involvement of women in plot development, and other aspects of women in Oedipus Rex....   [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex]
:: 11 Works Cited
2627 words
(7.5 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Oedipus Rex – The Women Essay - Oedipus Rex – The Women                 Charles Segal in Oedipus Tyrannus: Tragic Heroism and the Limits of Knowledge explains the protagonist’s concern for Jocasta’s burial in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex:    Oedipus turns from his utter desolation and abasement to something of his old air of command, albeit in a chastened and softened tone. He asks Creon to expel him from Thebes as quickly as he can and gives orders for Jocasta’s burial (1446ff), a gesture of concern and responsibility characteristic of the Oedipus we saw in the opening scenes(73)....   [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex]
:: 12 Works Cited
2720 words
(7.8 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay about Mythology in Oedipus Rex - Mythology in Oedipus Rex           E. T. Owen in “Drama in Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus” comments on the mythological beginnings of Oedipus Rex:   Professor Goodell says: “Given an old myth to be dramatized, Sophocles’ primary question was, ‘Just what sort of people were they, must they have been, who naturally did and suffered what the tales say they did and suffered?” That was his method of analysis (38).   The Greek Sophoclean tragedy Oedipus Rex is based on a myth from the Homeric epic Odysseus....   [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex]
:: 13 Works Cited
3973 words
(11.4 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Mythology in Oedipus Rex Essay - Mythology in Oedipus Rex                 In “The Oedipus Legend” Bernard M. W. Knox talks of the advantages accruing to Sophocles as a user of myths in his dramas:   The myths he used gave to his plays, without any effort on his part, some of those larger dimensions of authority which the modern dramatist must create out of nothing if his play is to be more than a passing entertainment. The myths had the authority of history, for myth is in one of its aspects the only history of an age that kept no records....   [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex]
:: 13 Works Cited
4088 words
(11.7 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Women in Oedipus Rex Essay - Women in Oedipus Rex               Charles Segal in Oedipus Tyrannus: Tragic Heroism and the Limits of Knowledge explains one of the pivotal functions of Jocasta in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex:   The second series begins with Jocasta. . . .Now Oedipus is pursuing the killer as possibly the same as himself. . . . In this set his goal shifts gradually from uncovering the murderer to discovering his own parents. The confidence and power that he demonstrated in the first series of encounters gradually erode into anger, loss of control and fear (72)....   [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex]
:: 12 Works Cited
2721 words
(7.8 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Structure in Oedipus Rex Essay - Structure in Oedipus Rex                M. H. Abrams says that “almost all literary theorists since Aristotle have emphasized the importance of structure, conceived in diverse ways, in analyzing a work of literature” (300). The matter of the structure of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex is a subject of varying interpretation among literary critics, as this essay will reveal.   In “A Great Translator’s Reflections on Oedipus the King,” Gilbert Murray, professor at Oxford University in England, cites structure as one of the reasons why he chose Oedipus Rex as a work of translation:   On the whole, I can only say that the work of translation has made me feel even more strongly than before the e...   [tags: Oedipus the King Oedipus Rex]
:: 5 Works Cited
2332 words
(6.7 pages)
Research Papers [preview]
Oedipus Rex Essay - Oedipus Rex Sophocles Awake ye men of earth; remove thy shackles from thy body and acquaint yourself with the mother as you pass through creation in the manner of a tragedian romance, embodying nature and spirit. And in your night crusade, you will perceive a revelation of the most superlative feelings that come not from words or form, but from light. Hope Saphos DeVenuto A vaporous energy passes before us as a wave which carries us through the categories of the mind of an ancient past in Aristotelian truth....   [tags: Oedipus Rex Poem Essays] 824 words
(2.4 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]

Related Searches




Beowulf is challenged by Unferth, and Oedipus is challenged by Tiresias. When challenged, both heroes arrogantly boast about their accomplishments. "No man swims in the sea / As I can, no strength is a match for mine." (lines 253 - 254) Beowulf goes on boasting to Unferth, "Nine was the number / Of sea-huge monsters I killed. What man, / Anywhere under heaven's high arch, has fought / In such darkness, endured more misery or been harder / Pressed?" (lines 294 - 298) When challenged by Tiresias Oedipus says, "Tell me when you ever played the prophet straight? Or why when the she-dog Sphinx of riddles sang, you never spoke a thing to break that spell? …But I, the Oedipus who stumbled here without a hint, could snuff her out by human wit." (page 38) A difference between Beowulf and Oedipus is that each has different qualities that qualify him as a hero. Beowulf is classified as a hero because of his physical strength and bravery. "Beowulf, Higlac's / Follower and the strongest of the Geats-greater / And stronger than anyone anywhere in this world." (lines 131 - 133)

Beowulf comes to help the Danes in a time of need. This shows him as a dignified example for all human beings, classifying him as an epic hero. Oedipus is not classified as a hero because of his physical strength but rather because of his mental strengths. He uses intellect to solve the riddle of the Sphinx. Many of the most intelligent men of Thebes have been killed trying to answer the riddle, but Oedipus proves his intelligence superior to theirs. Moreover, Oedipus differs from Beowulf as a hero in that his traits that give him riches and power ultimately lead him to his tragic ending. Thus, Oedipus is classified as a tragic hero. The way in which the two heroes differ most is in their downfalls. Beowulf dies heroically while fighting a dragon. After his death, the Geats mourn his loss, "The Geats stayed, / Moaning their sorrow, lamenting their lord." (lines 539 - 540) When the truth about Oedipus is disclosed, even though he was once their hero, the people of Thebes loose all respect for him. The Chorus says, "A man both lost in make and mind, we wish that we had never known you." (page 76)

In both works the form of government is a monarchy. Hrothgar is the King of the Danes and Oedipus is the King of Thebes. The first similarity in the depiction of government is that both rulers feel the anguish of their people. After Grendel raids Herot and kills all of the people there, Hrothgar is overcome with grief. "Hrothgar, their lord, sat joyless / I Herot, a mighty prince mourning / The fate of his lost friends and companions." (lines 66 - 68) "…Twelve winters of grief for Hrothgar, king / Of the Danes, sorrow heaped at his door / By hell-forged hands." (lines 84 - 86) Likewise, when the people of Thebes tell Oedipus of their pain he says, "You are all sick - yet sick, not one so sick as I. Your pain is single; each to each it does not breed. Mine is treble anguish crying out for the city, for myself, for you." (page 25) Another similarity between the two kings is that both are well respected by others. Beowulf shows respect to Hrothgar by agreeing to leave his weapons outside Herot. The people of Thebes show Oedipus respect by referring to him as "holy sovereign." One difference between the two rulers is that Hrothgar is always rewarding his men. He builds his warriors a great mead-hall and divides the spoils of their victories in war among all. Oedipus is not always shown as being so kind unto his people. Another difference is that in Oedipus Rex the queen, Jocasta is ever present throughout the story. She plays a main role in the play. On the contrary, in Beowulf, little is seen of Hrothgar's queen, Welthow. A final difference between the two rulers is how each becomes king of his land. Hrothgar becomes king because his ancestors were royalty. On the other hand, Oedipus becomes king by ridding Thebes of the Sphinx and getting the people's support.

Hero and government are two examples of the many common threads shared by Beowulf and Oedipus Rex. These common ideas are both similar and different throughout the two works. Even so, the two works were written for two entirely different purposes. Beowulf was written to be recited by professional poets or “scops”. The scops would entertain the warriors and more importantly, inspire them the night before of battle. Oedipus Rex was written to educate the Greek people. Through Oedipus Rex and other tragedies, the Greeks learned several moral lessons and were reminded of the power of the gods.

 


Return to 123HelpMe.com