Fate and personality caused the fall of King Lear and King Oedipus. These two great kings suddenly lost their thrones and became dependent on their daughters (Bond 3; Shakespeare). However, the circumstances that led to their misfortunes were different. Nonetheless, the leaders embraced their journeys and discovered who they were. The characters King Lear and King Oedipus are similar, as they lose their power when they learn the truth and eventually discover their identities, but differ on the events that led to their fall.
The change in the fate of the two kings can be described as peripeteia. Their lives changed drastically from noble individuals to paupers. On his part, Oedipus, who becomes blind, is exiled from his kingdom in Thebes and forced to seek refuge in Colonus (Bond 4). Comparatively, Lear is pushed to escape from his daughters in the middle of a storm (Shakespeare). Interestingly, the two leaders depend on their daughters during the trying moments. Lear relies on his daughter Cordelia who finds and looks after him when his mental state worsens (Shakespeare). Similarly, Oedipus turns to his daughter Antigone, who leaves him for Colonus (Bond 3). The two kings lose their thrones to their relatives.Correspondingly, the peripeteia of the two kings stems from their different moments of anagnorisis. In Oedipus’ case, he discovers his true identity, which forces him to leave. Oedipus learns that he is the child of King Laius and Queen Jocasta (Sophocles 242). He also discovers that the man he killed at a crossroad was, indeed, his father and that he married his mother. This truth fills him with guilt and shame (Sophocles 243). As punishment, Oedipus becomes blind by piercing his eyes using his mother’s pin and leaves Thebes (Sophocles 245). In contrast, Lear learns the true motives of his daughters, Regan and Goneril; they wanted to seize control of his kingdom and never really loved him (Shakespeare). The greedy children, whom he curses, threaten Lear’s wellbeing, and he runs away with his aide, Fool. The anagnorisis of the two leaders are different, although their lives significantly change for the worst.
Notably, determinism plays a role in the outcomes of both kings. The gods designed Oedipus’ destiny. As soon as he was born, the Oracle told King Laius that his son, Oedipus would kill him and marry his wife (Sophocles 201). Despite abandoning Oedipus and ordering his death, the child is saved and raised by the King and Queen of Corinth. Oedipus ends up killing King Laius without knowing he was the father and married his mother, Jocasta (Sophocles 242). Conversely, Lear is born a fool, which affects his decisions. His foolishness is recognized by Fool, who even tells him that he had given away all his other titles, but retained foolishness because he was born with this trait (Shakespeare). Lear confesses many times that he is an old fool. Because of his stupidity, Lear bequeaths his power and throne to his daughters, who lead him to his fall. Indeed, the two kings were destined to ruin their lives.
Apart from determinism, the kings’ characters lead them to their doom. Oedipus tries to avoid his fate by leaving Corinth without even informing his adoptive parents (Sophocles 205). By going away, he sets in motion the realization of the Oracle’s prophecy because he meets his biological parents. Moreover, Oedipus is driven by knowing the truth and even curses Laius’ killer for tormenting his city (Sophocles 172). Oedipus’ quest for the truth leads him to the moment of anagorisis. Eventually, he learns that Oedipus is the killer he sought, just as Prophet Tiresias told him (Sophocles 180). In contrast, King Lear’s pride and love for praise destroys him. Lear craves flattery and fails to see his daughters’ pretense. Banishing Cordelia, who genuinely loved him and giving his daughters power, leads to his doom. Furthermore, he loves control, and opts to run away instead of being ruled by his daughters (Shakespeare). Instead of dealing with his problems, Lear turns to curses and fights. To illustrate, he curses his daughter Goneril’s womb and calls her a degenerate bastard before he leaves for Regan’s palace (Shakespeare). Although different, the behavior of the two kings contributed to their misfortune.
Nonetheless, the journey of the two kings has the same destiny, self-acknowledgment. Through their tragedies, the two kings learn and embrace their nature. For example, King Lear reflects on his life and expresses remorse for his actions against his daughter and the poor population (Shakespeare). Lear realizes that he is an old fool and takes responsibility for his actions, which made many people, including himself, suffer. Equally, King Oedipus makes peace with his fate. Instead of blaming fate for his sad outcome, Oedipus embraces his new role as the guide of his children (Bond 40). He also views his death as a blessing to the people and an honor to the gods. The two kings complete their journeys by learning their identities.
King Lear and King Oedipus have different reasons for their fall from grace, but the two accomplish the same goal of self-realization. The kings leave their homes after learning the truth. However, their reasons for leaving their kingdoms are different; Oedipus learns he is a killer, while Lear’s daughters threaten him. However, determinism influences their paths, in that, Oedipus is fated to kill his father and marry his mother, while Lear’s innate foolishness becomes his undoing. Despite their grim paths, the two kings learn who they are before they die.
Bond, Robin. Seven Tragedies of Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus. University of Canterbury, 2014.
Shakespeare, William.” King Lear.” MIT, n.d., shakespeare.mit.edu/lear/full.html. Accessed 4 July 2020.
Sophocles. The Three Theban Plays. Penguin Publishers, 1984.