Comparison of Hero and Government in Beowulf and Oedipus Rex

Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon folk epic written by an unknown author. It was written sometime during the eighth century. Oedipus Rex is an Ancient Greek tragedy written by the playwright Sophocles sometime around 430 BC. Although the two works were written during two different time periods, in two different places, and are different kinds of literature, they can still be compared and contrasted. These two works contain many similarities and differences in the depiction of hero and the depiction of government.
Beowulf tells the story of one of the most heroic men of Anglo-Saxon times. The hero, Beowulf, is able to use his super-human physical strength and courage to put his people before himself. He encounters terrifying monsters and the most brutal beasts, but he never fears the threat of death. Beowulf is the ultimate epic hero who risks his life countless times for great honor and for the good of others. Oedipus Rex is a tragic play, which discusses the tragic discovery of Oedipus--that he has killed his father, and married his mother. He is self-confident, intelligent, and strong willed. Ironically these are the very traits which bring about his tragic discovery. Oedipus gains the rule of Thebes by answering the riddle of Sphinx.
The two heroes, Beowulf and Oedipus, are very similar in some aspects and also quite different in others. The first similarity in the depiction of hero is that both heroes are of aristocratic birth. Beowulf is the cousin of Higlac, who is King of the Geats. Oedipus is the adopted son of Polybus and Merope, the King and Queen of Corinth. Furthermore, his real parents are Laius and Jocasta, King and Queen of Thebes. Another similarity is that both heroes end a period of suffering by abolishing a monster. Beowulf ends the suffering in Herot by killing the monster Grendel. "A prince of the Geats, had killed Grendel, / Ended the grief, the sorrow, the suffering / Forced on Hrothgar's helpless people / By a bloodthirsty fiend." (lines 482 - 485) Oedipus is responsible for ending the Sphinx's reign of terror upon the city of Thebes. He does not physically kill the monster as Beowulf does; he merely answers the Sphinx's riddle. When he does so, the Sphinx kills herself. A third similarity is that both heroes are challenged by another character in the story. Beowulf is challenged by Unferth, and Oedipus is challenged by Tiresias. When challenged, both heroes arrogantly boast about their accomplishments. "No man swims in the sea / As I can, no strength is a match for mine." (lines 253 - 254) Beowulf goes on boasting to Unferth, "Nine was the number / Of sea-huge monsters I killed. What man, / Anywhere under heaven's high arch, has fought / In such darkness, endured more misery or been harder / Pressed?" (lines 294 - 298) When challenged by Tiresias Oedipus says, "Tell me when you ever played the prophet straight? Or why when the she-dog Sphinx of riddles sang, you never spoke a thing to break that spell? …But I, the Oedipus who stumbled here without a hint, could snuff her out by human wit." (page 38) A difference between Beowulf and Oedipus is that each has different qualities that qualify him as a hero. Beowulf is classified as a hero because of his physical strength and bravery. "Beowulf, Higlac's / Follower and the strongest of the Geats-greater / And stronger than anyone anywhere in this world." (lines 131 - 133) Beowulf comes to help the Danes in a time of need. This shows him as a dignified example for all human beings, classifying him as an epic hero. Oedipus is not classified as a hero because of his physical strength but rather because of his mental strengths. He uses intellect to solve the riddle of the Sphinx. Many of the most intelligent men of Thebes have been killed trying to answer the riddle, but Oedipus proves his intelligence superior to theirs. Moreover, Oedipus differs from Beowulf as a hero in that his traits that give him riches and power ultimately lead him to his tragic ending. Thus, Oedipus is classified as a tragic hero. The way in which the two heroes differ most is in their