According to thesaurus dictionary, family conflict can be defined as any struggles or disagreements occurring between members of a family. It entails conflicts between parents and their children or even conflicts between siblings as well as those between spouses. Since works of art emanate from burning issues in the society many plays have been written focusing on this theme. This paper examines family conflict in Shakespeare’s Othello, Sophocles’ King Oedipus and Fences by August Wilson
In Fences family conflict seems to be the main theme in the play. It is first displayed by Maxson Troy’s conflict with his son Cory. The fight for power and might with troy trying to control his son. When Cory gets a college scholarship to play football his father refuses to sign the permission papers arguing that he prefers his son to work and make money rather than play football. This clearly strains the father son relationship. The conflict further grows when he fights his father with a baseball bat and later disowns his father after the fight. Another conflict is between Troy and his wife Rose when she discovers that Troy has had a child with another woman, Alberta. She agrees to raise young Raynell but does no longer identify herself as Troy’s wife.
In Sophocles book King Oedipus, family conflict is seen at the introduction where King Oedipus two sons kill each other in a battle over the rule of Thebes. The young son Eteocles is in disagreement with the elder one Polynices as they both want to succeed their father as king. This opens us to the events that transpired historically before revealing the sad fate of King Oedipus who unknowingly kills his biological father King Laius and marries his mother Jocasta with whom he has had two sons and two daughters. Another conflict is between King Oedipus and his brother in law Creon who he accuses of conspiring with the blind prophet Terasius when he sends them to consult the oracle. King Oedipus even threatens Creon with death and exile. According to Barrons (1984) Oedipus also got into conflict with his wife Jocasta because he did not follow her advice against searching for the true killer of Laius and the prophecy of the oracle about him.
In Othello, the main type of family conflict is that between Brabantio and his daughter Desdemona who he feels has let him down by marrying the ‘wrong’ man. Brabantio high profiled man as a senator wants to select a husband for his daughter who will be of her class; she on the other hand believes that marriage should be build on the grounds of true love thus wants to marry the only man she truly loves. This makes her to run off and marry Othello a moor without her fathers consent. Another conflict is that between Brabantio and Othello his son in law whom he accuses of tricking his daughter to marry him. The case he presents before the duke is dismissed on the grounds that the daughter agrees to having gotten married out of free will. At the end of the play Othello has a conflict with his wife who he suspects has been having an extra marital affair. In an argument where Othello his asking his wife Desdemona where her handkerchief is, Desdemona denies having any affair with Cassio who has the handkerchief with him. Eventually Othello stabs his wife to death out of anger.
As seen in the three plays’ family conflict is evident in many families. Some lead to family break up since they are beyond reconciliation, others especially those emanating from jealousy can lead to suicide as well as killings while the many simple ones can be solved through forgiveness and reconciliation.
Barrons (1984) Book Notes, Sophocle’s Oedipus Tripology, Barrons Education Institute
Fence by August Wilsons
King Oedipus by Sophocles
Othello by Shakespeare