Conflict in Shakespeare's Macbeth and Sophocles' Oedipus Rex

Essay by QuilleHigh School, 10th gradeA+, December 2003

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Shakespeare, thought of by many to be the best English author of all time, constructed entangled plotlines of human conscience, emotion, and the folly of disregarding warnings that can be exemplified in one of his most well-known works, Macbeth. The roots of such moving narration can be traced back infallibly to Sophocles' Oedipus trilogy, in particular Oedipus Rex, otherwise known as Oedipus the King. Both Macbeth and Oedipus, the protagonists of the aforementioned classic literature respectively, undergo many conflicting decisions that shape their personalities and allow a reader to connect their own lives to the plotline. Conflict, such as man versus nature, man versus man, and man versus self, are used in these plays to depict the ignorance and to further the eventual downfall of the main characters.

The most apparent conflict in both of the works is that between man and nature. The conflict, in this case, includes the broad range of the supernatural: gods, witches, fate, and prophecies.

As Macbeth discovers that he has been misled by the prophecies all throughout his reign, he still claims that he will fight to the end: "Though Birnam Wood be come to Dunsinane, and thou opposed, being of no woman born, yet I will try the last." (Shakespeare 214). His firm exclamation shows his determined ignorance even as he sees the truth, which quickens his downfall considerably. Oedipus, on the other hand, sees his fate coming and tries to escape it as when he said "I went to the shrine at Delphi...I heard all this, and fled." (Sophocles 42). The Oracle had told Oedipus his fate and Oedipus fled, feeling that he could outwit the gods, which unwittingly led him to his

downfall prematurely. In the end, both Macbeth and Oedipus realized that they could not escape their fates,