The Similarities between the Structure in Oedipus the King and Beowulf

The Similarities between the Structure in Oedipus the King and Beowulf

Beowulf is a classic poem that was written by an unknown author in the period between 700A.D and 1000A.D in England. Beowulf tells the story of Grendel, a terrifying demon and his ultimate defeat by a young heroic warrior named, Beowulf. Beowulf is the hero of the story, and he can utilize his human courage and strength to surpass every obstacle that he encounters with terrifying monsters and beasts. It is the ultimate story of an epic hero who put his life at risk for the greater good of others. Oedipus, the king, narrates the tragic story of Oedipus who resolves to kill his father and later marries his mother. Oedipus is confident and courageous, and as a result, he can accomplish great things in life among them the discovery that the gods were playing a trick on him. Although these two stories depict differences in the time they were written, places, and authors, they contain similarities in their structure following the Aristotle poetics.

According to the poetics of Aristotle, there are six components of analyzing the constituent’s parts of an epic poem or tragedy. These components include; character, plot, diction, spectacle, thought, and melody (Aristotle, 39). According to him, an epic poem or tragedy must have a well-formed plot that has a beginning, middle, and an ending. There must also be a character that is the hero of the story and relatively goes from happiness to misery and must possess good qualities. He also discusses diction and thought in a way that an epic tale should present the narrative in a verse form while a tragedy should show it in a dramatic form. Both the tragedy and Beowulf depict similarities in their structure following these Aristotle poetics. They both have plots, characters, and diction.

In both stories, the plot develops with a beginning, middle and ending in a well-formed manner. In Oedipus the King, the story begins with a plague that has struck the village of Thebes. There is an oracle that claims that the people can only solve the plague when they murder the king who caused it; and as a caring king, he promises to kill King Louis.  In the middle of the play, Oedipus summons a blind prophet; Tiresias and ask if he has any clue of the murder of the king, but she does not disclose any information. The play ends with the king dead, and Oedipus believes that the prophecy that he will kill his father to marry his mother is true, but later proved it wrong. He says, “She killed herself and even though you did not witness, the poor woman suffered ((Sophocles, 1477-8).” This statement indicates the ending of the story, with Oedipus mother not believing that she married his son.

In the same way, the Beowulf story develops with a start, middle, and an end. The story kicks off with a monster; Grendel, who wreaks destruction in the mead hall of the Danish king, Hrothgar. The king offers a great reward to anyone who will kill the monster, and Beowulf, a young warrior, offers to take part. The story develops as Beowulf sets aside his armor and awaits Grendel where later a fierce fight ensues that leads to him to face terrifying beasts and monsters. In the end, Bewolf emerges successfully and returns as the king of Herot.  The author says, “He has done the most despicable, but he will die from the wound. For his atrocious activities, the judgment of God the majesty awaits him ( Beowulf poet, 974-975). In this quote, Beowulf assures the king that Grendel will surely die and also face God’s judgment for his wickedness.

Both stories involve a heroic character of men in Anglo-Saxon times. In Beowulf, the hero of the story is Beowulf who possesses supernatural human powers and strengths and uses them to save his village people.  For instance, Anderson in the play says, “He shows the loyalty of a warrior to his chieftain, of an earl, and freeman to their king- read to devote his life” to show how the heroic code of Beowulf (Beowulf poet, 99). According to Aristotle poetics, a hero must realistically possess good qualities appropriate to his station (147). He goes on a dangerous mission against all the odds of monsters and beasts to save his people. Beowulf shows superman strengths and powers when he goes ahead to fight with the most horrifying demon, Grendel.  Similarly, Oedipus resolves to go and kill King Louis to solve the plague that had alarmed his village folks with the promise of a reward form the king.  Oedipus says, “I will confidently go to fight as the matter concerned my father, and I will do everything to find the man who killed him ((Sophocles, 309-12).”Oedipus is confident and courageous, and he sets upon himself to go and hunt down the person responsible for the plague, and along the way, he faces obstacles in finding King Louis.

Also, both stories show similar thought and diction. According to Aristotle, tragedy and epic poetry have many qualities in common, and the most significant is that they indicate similar subject matter and unity of plot (145). Both stories reveal the main character who resolves to go on a mission for the better good of the society, and in exchange, they are promised a reward. Beowulf says, “I would instead return with my body robbed in a burning blaze than go back bearing arms (Beowulf poet, 2650-2660).” Beowulf believes that dying with an act of loyalty and courage for the sake of other people is wise. Beowulf decides to go and kill the demon that is wreaking havoc in his community; and upon his victory, he returns as the King. In the same way, Oedipus resolves to find King Louis who has cast a plague in his community, and upon his return, he marries his mother. The high priest of the land went and begged Oedipus, “So now, Oedipus, the most powerful king, we come to beg you for help ((Sophocles, 46-50).”The stories are built on the same thought and diction and develop following a series of unified events.



Works Cited

Aristotle. Poetics. J.M. Dent, 1934.

Poet, Beowulf. Beowulf. Project Gutenberg.

Sophocles. Oedipus The King. Ebookslib, 2004.