Shakespeare never left the slightest detail unnoticed even when he penned a twisted comedy such as “The Comedy of Errors”. Similarly Sophocles an Athenian playwright masterfully presented the tragedy of “Oedipus Rex” around 429 BC. The readers are astonished by such original plots and appreciate the plays for their diversity in subject. “The Comedy of Errors” brings the readers to believe that it might turn out to be a tragedy at any instance but it all ends in reunion of Aegeon of Syracuse’s family. Both the plays contradict each other in terms of genre and also the way fate intervenes the characters’ lives.
“Oedipus the King” is enveloped by a constant urge to rid oneself from the truth both consciously and unconsciously. The entire crowd wishes to hide itself from what it confronts when Oedipus’ on sight has become a curse for his parents. He is not to be blamed because what befalls him is entirely the working of the fate. He wishes to start afresh but it is already too late. “I’ll start again – I’ll bring it all to light myself” (Sophocles 1996). He cannot face his offspring for they are his mother’s children and also his. He cannot face the notion of marrying his own mother without knowing he has done such a sinful dead. A certain parallel can be drawn between this play and Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” when one of the twin’s wife confuses her brother-in-law for her husband and drags him home for dinner. Antipholus of Syracuse’s love for her sister otherwise maddens the situation and hence the case is ultimately taken up to the Duke. The error in recognizing the twins one from another creates a comedy and no tragedy like “Oedipus the King”. Dromio of Syracuse gets a beating from one of the twins who thinks he has been flouted at and hence responds in a humorous manner: Was there ever any man thus beaten out of season,/ When in the why and the wherefore is neither rhyme/ nor reason?/ Well, sir, I thank you. (Shakespeare II.ii). Oedipus is not portrayed with the intention of wit but misfortune.
Oedipus is not aware of his own deed that he has committed. He ran away from whom he thought to be his parents and walloped into his real ones who had ordered him to be dead at his birth. If he knew his own truth he would never have attempted to escape from his so-called parents’ house. He is blinded to his own life until the blind clairvoyant Tiresias shows him his own reality. Oedipus adversely gauges his own eyes so that he can see what he could not before. His name which means “swollen ankle” is the only sign on which he could have initially paid heed. He got his name from a childhood injury which gave him a limp. He never questioned his defect and ultimately becomes weaker than a blind seer who can tell the future based on his knowledge (Sophocles 1996). In “the Comedy of Errors” everything which threatens hilarity is dissolved towards the end of the play. The “errors” are eventually explained in detail and resolved without disorder but the initial confusion leaves the reader to wonder what will happen next. This anticipation through the dark issues in the play such as Duke Solinus’ despotic legalism in the beginning ends with his fatherly resolution. Dromios, the poor slaves end up forgetting the beatings and bashing they receive during the climax of the play from the twin Antipholus of Ephesus (Shakespeare 1926).
Both the plays “Oedipus the King” and “The Comedy of Errors” are driven by a natural force and narrate a story of a people in distress. There is a clear demarcation between their tone and motif.
While the theme of blindness captures the former play, the latter is about love and felicity. The way the characters deal with the situation they are faced with is also different. In Sophocles’ play the beginning has certain murkiness about it while the title of Shakespeare’s play leaves the audience in a much softer mood from the moment they play is enacted. There is a sense of relief as “the Comedy of Errors” concludes: Let’s go hand in hand, not one before another. (Shakespeare V.i). Oedipus is left with no choice but to face a decline in his fame as he is recalled by the chorus “Look ye, countrymen and Thebans, this is Oedipus the great,
He who knew the Sphinxs riddle and was mightiest in our state…Now, in what a sea of troubles sunk and overwhelmed he lies!…Wait till free from pain and sorrow he has gained his final rest” (Sophocles 1996). The audience is saddened by this ill-fated story as if it happened right under their nose.
Shakespeare, William, and Robert D. French. The Comedy of Errors. New Haven: Yale University Press ; [etc., 1926. Print.
Sophocles, and R D. Dawe. Oedipus Rex. Stutgardiae: B.G. Teubner, 1996. Print.