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Essay/Term paper: Compare and contrast: oedipus and othello

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Oedipus

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Compare and Contrast: Oedipus and Othello

When comparing and contrasting the character's Oedipus and Othello by
means of the different theatrical practices, one must take in account that there
have been many interpretations, and productions of each of their respected plays.
The differing presentations of each may lead someone to think differently about
the play than another would. In comparing and contrasting the dramatic
representation of the protagonists Oedipus and Othello, theatrical presentation,
costume design, and character will lead the reader, and viewer, to have a
greater insight into the theatrical practices of their times and their
approaches to the issue of verisimilitude.
The theatrical presentation of both plays are very similar. The two
plays would both be presented on a thrust stage, which is a platform surrounded
on three sides by the audience. Except for the backdrop which would have some
element of scenery, the stage itself would be bare apart from a few scenic
elements and props. Othello, like most of Shakespeare's plays, had what is
called an abstract setting. That is a setting in which the locale may change
rapidly, it may not be indicated by the script that it has changed, and was most
likely suggested by a few props. Abstract settings place more emphasis on the
language and the performer, which causes the spectator to use their imagination.
It also places more emphasis on costuming. This type of setting helped set up
the style of representational theater, which places high emphasis on the
realistic. The style used in classical Greece was presentational which, because
of the use of the mask, gave no illusion that this story is happening before
their eyes. The audience is reminded that they are watching a play, and not
merely observing life. Thus, the use of the thrust stage is the only similarity
of the two types of presentation. Othello is a purely illusionistic play,
whereas Oedipus Rex is one that when watched, the viewer knows that they are
watching a performance.
Costumes convey information about the character and aid in setting the
tone or mood of the production. Because most acting involves impersonation,
most costumes are essential to re-create historical or to the period in which
the production takes place. Costumes like that of William Shakespeare's Othello
maybe abstract, ever-changing, like it's setting. When using the costume design
of the latest film version of Othello, he is usually seen in a toga-like uniform
which may have stemmed from his moor background. Since costume elements were
formalized in classical Greek theater, the costumes would be that of everyday
dress with slight additions of colour, designs, all of which created a larger
meaning in the context of the play. The additions on the toga also contributed
to accentuating the setting , which in Oedipus' case was Thebes. His toga could
have been coloured like the sand and have an ornament like a Sphinx tooth,
signifying his bravery for killing the beast. In the case of Othello his toga-
like uniform, may have had a general's insignia on the shoulders, and much like
in the film, the scars and tattoos showing the suffering he has gone through.
On the issue of verisimilitude, actors in Oedipus Rex would be required to wear
a mask bearing an expression that would stay throughout the place, making the
character's seem flat and general. Oedipus is a round character, but because of
the mask, he has a one dimensional projection to the audience. The costumes
worn in Othello would be that of clothing of that time. This is common in both
plays, but the absence of the mask in Othello, meant that the actor provided
their own expressions. Thus, the costumes worn in both plays would be life-like
to the audience, but the use of the mask in classical Greece robbed the viewer
of a three dimensional projection and withheld the expressions, by the actor.
When an actor acts, they impersonate to believably re-create a
historical or fictional character. The character's of Oedipus and Othello are
developed into round characters. Round characters are those that are well
developed three dimensionally with multiple meaning to their characters.
Oedipus is a character who's fate cannot be avoided, and which ever path he
seems to take leads him to more trouble than what he had to deal with before.
Even though his character is well-rounded, he is not believable. It would be
highly unlikely that Oedipus would marry a woman who looked as if she could be
his mother without asking a few questions about her past marriages and about her
children. It could have caused some insight in their characters, and questions
could have arisen about the first child which was sent away and thought of as
dead. Othello on the other hand is a well-rounded character, and he is
believable. Othello is a man who is filled with jealousy and mistrust he learns
that his wife may be sleeping with another man. Anyone who has been in love has
had this feeling once and a while, and that feeling is being fed by the person
of whom they most trust it can be devastating for that person. As Iago
continually feeds Othello's suspicion, his hurt and mistrust grows for his wife,
until he finally kills her. This is seen in the news everyday...a jealous lover
kills the other half because they were seen with another man, or with their ex.
Thus, the character of Oedipus is a round characters, but cannot be believed due
to the absurd circumstances of his marriage with Jocasta. Othello's round
character can be believed, because jealousy invades all of us at one time or
another and for Othello, he chose to act upon it much like those who act in our
society today.
In conclusion, when comparing and contrasting the dramatic
representation of the protagonists Oedipus and Othello, the differences in their
theatrical presentations ,with regard to the styles of presentational and
representational theater, the similarities in approach to costume design, and
their approaches to the validity of realistic characters, gives great insight on
these two different dramatic periods.


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