The Great Big Comparative Chart

[Questions from Ms. Spachman appear in CAPS]


Shared Aspect


Oedipus Rex

King Lear

Death of a Salesman

“Master Harold” …and the Boys

Tragic Hero

·    Oedipus is blinded from the truth of his prophecy because of his excessive pride and even arrogance. He thought so highly of himself that it was impossible for him to believe that his life was not perfect and that a horrible prophecy would come true about him. This inability to see the truth until it is too late is an aspect of a tragic hero. This is also where his tragic flaw lies, too much pride.  (Kelli)

·       Lear is also blinded from seeing the whole truth, but because of his stubbornness and selfishness. He wanted his daughters to tell him how much they love him. This sounds very selfish because Lear was seeking praise from his daughters to kind of boost his own ego. His character flaws included his selfishness and stubbornness.  (Kelli)

·        Willy is most definitely blinded from the truth. He creates this entire dream-like life that is far from the reality of his true life. He basically lives in an entire lie, and this is because of his stubbornness and persistence with the ‘American dream’. His stubbornness and persistence could very well be where his tragic flaw lies.  (Kelli)


Tragic Hero, Part 2


·       Lear is the tragic hero because his flaw was stubbornness.

·       Lear is somewhat in denial because he doesn’t want to believe that his daughters were doing him wrong.

·       Lear’s bad judgment was giving his kingdom to his daughters.

·       Lear had the alternative of giving hid kingdom to Cordelia only.  This would have prevented tragedy. (Ana)

·        Willy is the tragic hero and his flaw was also his stubbornness because he could have fulfilled his dream by getting another job.

·        Willy, like Lear, didn’t want to face reality.

·        Willy’s bad judgment caused him to commit suicide.

·        Willy also had alternatives but chose the one that was worse for him.  Any other could have prevented tragedy. (Ana)



The main character is a tragic hero and brings ruin to himself and others around him








·       Lear brings about his own downfall by giving away his own kingdom to his daughters. Lear believed he was doing good for his kingdom because he didn’t want a power struggle after his death.

·       When looking for the good daughters he banishes Cordelia, the daughter who really loved him as a father.

·       Lear loses the respect he demands as a king. His daughters don’t want to allow him to bring his nights with him into their castles. As a result he runs out into a storm in Madness.

·       This passing of power to help his kingdom drives him crazy, creates a thirst of power by his daughters and ultimately leads to his death and the death of several close people to him.

·       After his Lear’s death, the killing, hatred and disgusting acts stop as the ones who commit them also die. Seems like a ironic link. (Nasser)

·        Willy is a bad salesman who clings to this dream of great life as a salesman and also that you must be liked in the world.

·        Willy as a result is very poor, must borrow money from his friend and neighbor Charley, and tries to commit suicide.

·        Willy’s obsession lead him to cheat with anther woman because she was associated with a client and also because she said nice things about him. He was caught in the act by his son Biff felt betrayed by his father and didn’t go to summer school, thus giving up a promising future.

·        Willy thinks Biff is lazy because he threw his life away; he refuses to see he shattered his view on the world.

·        This obsession has led him to insanity as he holds conversations with his dead brother.

·        Willy commits suicide and calm returns to the family, his wife Linda repeats that “We’re Free” at the funeral.

·        During his life he led his family into misery and hardship because he clung to his dream.  (Nasser)


Father-Child Relationships








§    Lear wrongly judges Cordelia because she speaks the truth. He wants from his children to completely love him so much that it affects his own relationship with his daughter. (Nasser)

§    QUESTION ABOUT THIS LINK WITH SALESMAN:  Does Willy, like Lear, wrongly judge his favorite child?  Does Biff love his father as much as Cordelia loves Lear?  Try to link up more!  Anyone have ideas?

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§    Lear doesn’t have a good relationship with his daughters.

§    Lear thought his daughters loved him, but they end up betraying him when he gives them his kingdom.

§    Lear banishes his favorite daughter, Cordelia.

§    Daughters are disrespectful towards him.  (Ana)

§    Willy sees Biff as lazy and turning into a loser. Yet he fails to see that when his son discovers the truth about him it leads to this situation where Biff has no respect for Willy’s ideals and work. (Nasser)





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§    Willy doesn’t have a good relationship with his sons.

§    Willy betrays his family when he cheats on his wife.

§    Willy always argues with his son Biff.

§    Willy pays no attention to Happy, who wants his attention.

§    Biff has no respect for Willy because he was unfaithful.  (Ana)


Playthings of the Gods idea

·  Oedipus’ entire being is centered around his ‘destiny’ of killing his father and marrying his mother. By the end of the play, we still cannot place full blame on Oedipus for his pitiful state (having gouged his own eyes out). This leads us to believe that the Gods had a lot of intervention with Oedipus’ failures and flaws. Also, the Chorus acts as a major supporter that the Gods are using Oedipus and all the people around him as playthings. On pg. 48, the Strophe says, “If a man walks with haughtiness of hand or word and gives no heed to Justice and the shrines of Gods despises—may an evil doom smite him for his ill-starred pride of heart!” (884-888). The Chorus is clearly stating that the Gods are punishing Oedipus, for being too proud and haughty.  (Kelli)

·    I just have a comment.  Oedipus’ punishment has been pre-written even before he was born so there was no way the gods would’ve known that he will be a man of pride.   So does this mean the Chorus is wrong when they said that the Gods are punishing Oedipus for “being too proud and haughty”? - (Liezle)  

·    A few characters in King Lear also bring up the idea of the Gods using and manipulating people. In Act 4 Scene 1, Gloucester says, “As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods; They kill us for their sport.” (4.1.36-37) This statement alone conveys that Gloucester believes the Gods are using him as their plaything, and punishing him for their pleasure. This is slightly different from the idea in Oedipus. In Oedipus, the Chorus conveyed that the gods punish those who do wrong or have some flaw. Gloucester conveys that it doesn’t matter if a person is good or bad, because the gods simply punish and play around with everyone’s lives for their own pleasure.  (Kelli)



“ungrateful” children







§       Lear anguishes: “I gave you all” to Regan and Goneril (3:6?); yet as an audience we see that Regan and Goneril offer their father very little in return.

§       Regan and Goneril have no reason to be ungrateful. They are just power hungry and selfish. (Kelli)

§        Linda suggests (I’m guessing this happens about p. 41 for you all) that Biff and Happy are “ungrateful” children, and also says on p. 44:  “…he put his whole life into you and you’ve turned your backs on him.”

§        Biff has a reason to be ungrateful, or so Linda calls him, because Willy was treating Linda with no respect. The fact that Biff caught Willy cheating on his mother in the hotel room alone shows that Biff has every reason to be bitter and angry. (Kelli)


The protaginists’ contribution to the tragic ending a.k.a. Ending

·    In this play, Oedipus becomes so guilty and disgusted w/ himself that he pokes is eyes out.

·    O chose to blind himself.  He literally gouged his eyes.  He had a choice.  He could’ve not blinded himself.  Therefore he had a contribution to the tragic ending of the play.


·    Here, Lear becomes insane and is haunted w/ the guilt that it is because of him that his daughter Cordelia is killed and his kingdom is in shambles. 

·    Here, what happened to Lear is sort of not on his power.  It is true that his insanity and the death of his daughters were chain reactions to his actions but it was still not on his power.  He didn’t literally kill his daughters and made himself insane so he didn’t have a choice. 


·    Here, Willy kills himself w/ the thought that it will bring his son some wealth and that he would be more recognized, he was wrong.

·    Willy killed himself so it was his choice to have that tragic ending. 










Portrayal of the wives

·Jocasta, O’s wife and mom is primarily portrayed as strong but is still subservient

·She is a bit strong because she stand up to O’s irrationality and short-temperedness

·At the end, Jocasta kills herself which is a huge sign of weakness



·     Although we applaud Linda because she is a sympathetically good wife and mother we don’t like the fact that she feeds Willy’s illusion.

·     In the end, Linda in a way is awakened.  She tells the dead Willy that its just like he is on a business trip.  She also apologized for not crying.

·     Also the fact that her husband killed his self makes Linda the stronger one.  Linda also know that her husband id a failure but she didn’t kill herself.  The fact that she remains in the end of the play shows that she’s stronger than Willy

·     (Liezle)  


Saying Truth despite “Punishment”






·       Cordelia says the truth knowing she will upset her farther, she feels the truth is more important than pleasing her father the king.

·       The king seems to act like whatever pleases him is what he takes as the truth. He banishes Cordelia and keeps Albany and Regan because he liked what they said; it isn’t really the truth we later see. (Nasser)

·        Willy lies to everybody around him, including himself. He lies to Linda at the beginning of the play about how much money he made, he lies to Biff about the woman only using the Shower and he lies to himself about his own job, he believes he is important and has many business associates when he doesn’t even have respect.

·        Biff actually gives up his future because he learned the truth. When he saw his father with the woman, it occurred to him that his father was a fraud which practically destroyed his life.

·        Its ironic that the truth utterly destroyed ones future and that a lie keeps another alive. (Nasser)




·          Oedipus originally saves Thebes from the Sphinx to become King. Only to become the reason for the next plague in Thebes.

·          Oedipus is away from home to escape his prophecy of killing his dad and marrying his mom. Even though there is an attempt to do the right thing and stop the prophecy, it comes true and brings destruction and sorrow to all. 

·          Loved King who needs to give up his power and title for the good of his people.  (Nasser)

·          King Lear banishes the one daughter who loves him as a father and clings to those who say they love him because they want power.

·          The most wise man in the play who constantly speaks the truth is the “Fool”.

·          The illegitimate son Edmund becomes his father’s favorite son and heir through dishonesty where the honest son Edgar loses all in front of his father.

·          Thoughtful King whose decision to give up power leads to chaos.  (Nasser)



Deceit and Lying


·          When Kent disguises himself he deceives the King.

·          Lear’s daughters lie to him about how much they love him.

·          Lear lies to himself when he thinks his daughters really love him.  (Ana)

·          Willy lies to himself and others while fantasizing and fooling himself into a false vision of his popularity.

·          Willy deceives Linda by cheating on her.

·          Biff deceives his mother by not telling her what he knows about Willy’s unfaithfulness.  (Ana)