Oedipus' and Othello's Uncertain Vision

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Oedipus the King and Othello, the Moor of Venice share a similar theme: man's failure to distinguish between what seems to be and what is actual. Othello is the protagonist of the play Oedipus the King, while Othello is the protagonist of the play Othello, the Moor of Venice. The two characters are portrayed in the plays as metaphorically oblivious to what is real. They fail as a result of their ignorance because they are unable to discern fact from illusion or deceit from the facts. These two characters cannot be entirely blamed for their insufficiencies as there are other external factors other than their flaws in personality that contribute to their uncertain vision. However, this shared theme of “uncertain vision” is treated differently in each of the two plays. While Oedipus’ blindness is somehow self-imposed to prevent him from differentiating truth from deception concerning his life, Othello’s blindness is associated to the manner in which he yields to Iago’s cunning and manipulative deception due to his inexperience with females.


Oedipus the King has the inability to recognize the truth presented right in front of him, thereby leading to his downfall. This inability is well illustrated in the play, especially concerning the murder of Laius. Upon Jocasta and Oedipus starting getting close to the truth about the murder, Oedipus affix onto a detail hoping to free himself. His uncrtain vision or blindness is associated with the fate determined by gods for him before his birth. The play shows that before the birth of Oedipus, the oracle prophesied that he would kill his father and sleep with his mother “but he foretold others and desperate horrors to befall me, that I was fated to lie with my mother and show to daylight an accursed breed which men would not endure, and I was doomed to be murder of the father that begot me (861-866). In Lines 815-817 of the play, Oedipus shows discomfort by asking Jocasta many questions regarding Laius “How was his company? Had e few with him when he went this journey, or many servants, as would suit a prince?” (Sophocles 815-817). While Jocasta tells Oedipus that she heard that Laius was murdered by strangers, Oedipus has the knowledge that he acted unaccompanied when he murdered a person in comparable situation. Although Oedipus believes that he is undertaking a truth seeking process, the play portrays this as a surprising moment that is questionable. After asking Jocasta so many questions, h finally demands to know the name of the person that told her all that “who was it told you this?” (820), and Jocasta revealed that it was the servant “the only servant that escaped safe home” (821). To them, Jocasta and Oedipus, their actions seem as if once the story of the servant is spoken, it will be an undisputable history. Oedipus could not comprehend facing the possibility of what it would mean if the servant was not right. As a result, Jocasta is compelled to tell him the prophecy about how her son would kill his father and in turn, Oedipus tells her a comparable prophecy that the oracle gave him (867-875), though none commented on the similarity of the two stories. The information in the speeches between Jocasta and Oedipus put emphasis on the manner in which Oedipus evades speaking the recognizable truth, but looks at the circumstances and details of daily life and fantasizes not to recognize them. In this sense, his metaphorical blindness is disastrous because it keeps him helpless until he learns the truth the hard way.

On the other hand, the theme of uncertain vision in Othello, the Moor of Venice is depicted though Iago. Although Iago is seen as honest by almost every other character in the play, he is manipulative, deceitful and treacherous. The inability to distinguish reality from appearance contributes significantly to the tragedies that befall Othello. For example, his decision to kill his wife was accelerated by a falsified conversation that involved Bianca and Cassio, making Othello assume that the man was talking concerning an affair with his wife Desdemona. He could not recognize that Iago had an overbearing control over his emotions to cause chaos until Lodovico appears at the end of the play. At the start of the play, there are no warnings of mental corruption in the mind of Othello concerning his capacity to retain loyalty from his wife Desdemona (Shakespeare I.iii.236). Speaking about their love, Othello says that “she loved me for the dangers I had passed, And I loved her that she did pity them” (Shakespeare Act1, Scene 3). In the second Act, scene 1, Roderigo is convinced by Iago that Othello’s wife loved Cassio. Iago convinces Roderigo to pick a fight with Cassio. After Cassio’s conversation with Desdemona, Both Othello and Iago sees him leaving, and this becomes the best chance to arouse Othello’s inquisitiveness concerning his wife. Therefore, without knowing that all along Iago was not a Honest man as he seemed, Othello fell into his prey when Iago planted a seed of suspicion by displaying proof by making Bianca possess the Handkerchief. It is due to misrepresentation that Iago gains trust and manipulates Othello, who is not able to tell when he is being lied to or tricked. Othello does not realize that Iago is Jealous of his control and would do everything to be in his position. Like many other characters in the play, Othello is blinded by Iago and even terms his as being honest. In Act 3 scene 3, Othello say “Iago is most honest” (Shakespeare III.iii.8).


The two plays, Oedipus the King and Othello, the Moor of Venice have demonstrated the theme of uncertain vision as portrayed by the two respective protagonists, Oedipus and Othello. Even though these two plays share uncertain vision as a common theme, the manner in which this theme is handled in each play is different. In Oedipus the king, Oedipus is depicted with an inability to differentiate the reality from appearance through the manner in which he fails to recognize the real every day in which he lives as well as his own activities. Even though he knows some truths concerning him, he wants to live in fantasy without appreciating who he is and living with himself the way he knows he is. He tried to deceive himself from the reality of who he really is against what he wants people to believe. On the other hand, Othello is not able to tell when he is being deceived, and thus allows Iago to manipulate him to do evil things such as killing his wife over false allegations.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. "Othello, the Moor of Venice." Kennedy, X. J. and Dana Gioia. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Thirteenth Edition. Pearson, 2016. 1250-1348.

Sophocles. "Oedipus the King." Kennedy, X. J. and Dana Gioia. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Thirteenth Edition. Pearson, 2016. 1162-1202.

September 01, 2021



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