Homer’s Odyssey and Sophocles’ Oedipus the King are two of the greatest Greek novels of the ancient times. These two novels have made great contributions in deciphering the mysteries in history that today’s existence may have never allowed for. They also became huge influences in the world of literature and established a standard for their respective genres. They are literary canons with plots that are undeniably irresistible and characters that are unforgettable (Griffin).From the title itself, Homer’s story revolved around the king of Ithaca, Odysseus. He was a courageous fighter and a cunning strategist. He was married to a beautiful woman by the name Penelope and he had one son, Telemachus.
His name is revered by his people and even Greeks from different islands respected him and bowed to his skills and expertise in battles (Griffin 34).On the other hand, Sophocles’ Oedipus the king tells of the young man Oedipus whose fate was twisted by premonitions that people tried to avoid. He was a prince left to die, and was brought up by other people to become whom he was supposed to be. He was a brave prince who had good intentions; unfortunately he seemed not to have been made for good things (Friedlander).Both of these characters have undergone circumstances that are woven by fate and the desires of the gods. Their stories, although unique from each other, have themes that may be considered similar. Many parts of their narratives indicate that these two men, no matter how unknown they are from each other seemed to have walked on the same path.
Their stories, even from different authors may be paralleled with one another, with many events meeting at certain points.One of the similarities that these two characters have, is that they both have royal blood. Odysseus was the king of a Greek island called Ithaca. It was mentioned in book nineteen of the narrative where he spoke to his own wife, the queen Penelope of Ithaca, who was then problematic of the suitors that swarm their palace. This was also evident in the latter part where he had finally destroyed the suitors. He was helped by his own son and two other faithful servants (Skidmore). He was truly a king for only a king may make a prince bow and obey as he did with his own son, Telemachus.
Like Telemachus, Oedipus was also a prince. Whether by his biological parents or by his adopted family, he was of royal descent. He was the biological son of the king and queen of Thebes, Laius and Jocasta, therefore making him the prince of Thebes.
When they threw him away, the rulers of Corinth adopted him and thus he also became the prince of Corinth (Friedlander).The two characters are also known to be both arrogant as they were coming from families of high class. They take pride on their works and highly look upon themselves. Both of them had the air of a tyrant. Odysseus presented this in his adventures on book eight of the story where he was asked to join a match that he declined, but as he was told as lacking the skill to get it done, his arrogance manifested and he threw the discuss with all the strength he can muster (Skidmore).
On the other hand, Oedipus manifested his own boastfulness on the path out of Corinth when he met with a set of travelers who did not acknowledge his rank as prince of Corinth. In his anger, he killed the head of the travelers, King Laius, fulfilling the first prophecy of the oracle (Friedlander).From these minor points, the major similarity in theme of the two narratives may be derived.
The earlier given similarity in status and attitudes of the characters are pathways to the major similarities in both stories. Even as one of them ended happily, both stories may still be considered as tragedies. Both are tragic as what was supposed to be favors from the Gods that may be utilized to both the heroes’ advantage became their downfall.Odysseus was arrogant, and in the book of the Iliad, it is of common knowledge that he was the one who came with the idea of the Trojan horse. Because of his cunning ability, the Greeks were able to defeat Troy. But it has also displeased the Gods who were rooting for the Trojans.
As a consequence for the brilliant idea, the voyage of the ship that Odysseus rode was manipulated by the gods. He and his men met with so many perils. This diminished their number little by little until only the brave and the arrogant king was left (Skidmore).“My name is Odysseus of Ithaca,We sacked a city first off,but then reinforcements arrivedand we lost many comrades.” (Skidmore n.p.)In the case of Oedipus, he manifested his arrogance during the traffic on his way out of Corinth which lead to the death of King Laius.
As he arrived in the kingdom of Thebes, he found Jocasta, Laius’ widow and married her, fulfilling the prophecies of the oracle. He killed his own father and married his biological mother. This was his tragedy. Because of his arrogance, fate has led him to the life that his real parents tried to keep him away from (Friedlander).“To Laius, King of Thebes, an oracle foretold that the child bornto him by his queen Jocasta would slay his father and wed his mother.”(Friedlander n.
p)Another major theme that is common in both of the tragedies is that their lives were not solely in their hands. As most Greek stories go, the characters in these given narratives were pre-destined and only the gods have the ability to modify it according to their whims, as in the events that led to the sad ending of Oedipus and the happily ever after finish of Odysseus.When Odysseus finally got to Ithaca after twenty years of wandering, the Goddess Athena, who favored his wit, helped him to get to his palace safely by disguising him. He was turned into an old beggar as part of a great plan to overthrow the suitors swarming around Penelope, his wife. Athena helped him meet his son and told him to work with him.“Athena casts a protective mist about him that keeps him from recognizing his homeland.
Finally the goddess reveals herself and dispels the mist.”(Skidmore n.p)Oedipus’ life was also predestined. His life was more predestined as compared to Odysseus.
He seems to have been destined for the tragic life. Upon marrying his mother and becoming king of Thebes, pestilence struck the kingdom and an oracle sent to have an audience with the king said that the Gods were displeased for what he did to his father and what has been going on with him and his mother (Friedlander).What may be considered as a third and final theme in these stories is repentance.
Odysseus repented and changed as he was hit by the different dangers the Gods seem to have set up for his participation in Troy’s defeat. By the time he arrived at his kingdom, Odysseus was already a different man. He was more humble and appreciative of what he has. He was kinder to his subjects and he became more loyal to his wife (Skidmore).
Oedipus also showed deep regret for his faults. Upon learning that he fulfilled the prophecies, which led to the pestilence being experience by his kingdom, he pulled out his eyes and banished himself out of the city. This was his own form of repentance and paying for his arrogance. He believed that despite having eyes, he was blinded by his haughtiness (Friedlander).From these parts of the story it may be seen that there are indeed factors that despite the difference in endings, both of the stories may be considered as tragedies. Both of the heroes were arrogant and this arrogance has led to their dooms.
Also, both of the heroes’ lives have been manipulated by Gods and Goddesses of their time and culture. Although this is not only common to these two stories, it is still a proof that the authors may have had the same flow of thoughts and had put it into words with two different characters, plots, and twists. They may have had the same lessons in minds to teach through poetry that are splendid in their own respects.