The great works of Sophocles' "Antigone" and Shakespeare's "The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice" share much in sustenance and thought but also vary greatly in fundamental plot and character development. They both share the consistency of loss of life, especially with the ironic death of a wife killed by the terms of her husband. Both tales feed off of the physical incapacities of women, but also illuminate their noble valor in the face of moral and religious circumstances. There are differences between the two narratives; including the fundamental issues involved and the methods of their demise.
Both tales encompass a massive loss of life at the hands of the protagonists' hubris. In Antigone, both King Creon and Antigone share an arrogance that costs them greatly. To the King, it costs him his son and wife - and to Antigone, it costs her the despair of being locked up in a tomb. While it may be argued that Antigone remained faultless, literary evidence supports otherwise. Upon Antigone's rebuke by Creon, her sister offers to share in the punishment, to which Antigone responds, "Who did the work? / Let the dead and the god of death bear witness! / I have no love for a friend who loves in words alone." In the same way, the Moor, Othello smothers his wife in a supreme act of hubris. Desdemona begs him for one more night, then half an hour, to which Othello responds, "It is too late." Had it not been an act of self-pride, Othello would have permitted her to defend herself, to live. But with the fear of his reputation being ruined further, he smothered her in a horrifically mutated sense of self-honor. To himself, he was an elevated sense of judge and jury.
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In both stories, a wife is killed by the actions of her husband. In Antigone, King Creon's imprisonment of Antigone in a tomb causes her fiancé, the King's son Haemon, to kill himself. Upon hearing the news, Eurydice, the Queen kills herself. While Haemon and Antigone were not yet married, it can be argued that Haemon's lack of argument for her cause also permitted her death. This would further contribute to the list of ironic deaths of wives by the deeds of their husbands. In Othello, the Moor, who is intoxicated with rage at the notion of Desdemona having an affair, smothers her.
There is also a strong uniformity in the perceived notion of the frailty of women. Creon, a man, says do not bury your brother. And to every other woman, this was law. But, Antigone acted in a higher respect and buried her brother. In Othello, Michael Cassio approaches Desdemona and begs her for her assistance in helping him make unity with Othello. She decides to persuade her husband and act in high moral regard and responds, "For thy solicitor shall rather die / Than give thy cause away." Yet, when she comes to face Othello in her final moments, she begs for her life and does not try to struggle. In both situations, the women understand that they are not a physical match for men, but hold their morality in higher terms than their physical presence; ultimately it costs them their lives.
There are differences in the two tales, including the methods of death. Desdemona dies by hanging herself in her tomb. Her fiancé, Haemon, dies by running himself through with his own sword. His mother, Queen Eurydice, stabs herself at the altar, throwing curses on her husband. In Othello, Desdemona dies by being smothered by Othello. Othello stabs himself and then dies shortly after at her side. Meanwhile, Iago loses control of his wife who spoils his plot, to which he stabs and kills her. The reasons and ways that death comes varies in both tales dramatically.
Also, the fundamental plots of the two stories are not symmetrical. Antigone is about a woman who chooses to fulfill the laws of the gods over the laws of the king. The King punishes her, and in turn, receives a torrent of punishment by fate and the Gods. Othello revolves around a black general who couples with a beautiful white woman. A man, who secretly despises him, sets him up for disaster and persuades him that his wife is having an affair. Drunk with anger, Othello kills his wife, and then uncovers the truth. He fights Iago, and then takes his own life in the end. Antigone takes place in the far off time of Thebes, and Othello occurs in Venice and Cyprus much farther down the line.
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The two tales share much in common, but are also estranged by underlying differences. The common themes of death and the superiority of men physically but women morally are abundant. Hubris leading to great turmoil can be found in both tales, conveying a strong sense of irony. In both, there is a hero who loses it all for the sake of one fatal flaw. But the barriers of plot and setting also create a huge crevice of difference and individuality. In the end, it is words spoken like this that remain in our hearts and minds to come in Othello, written by William Shakespeare; "I kissed thee ere I killed thee. No way but this, Killing myself, to die upon a kiss."