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Hamlet and Oedipus: Resilience Compared

According to Aristotle’s definition of tragedy, every tragic character has to face an unexpected reveal. When encountering it, Hamlet demonstrates greater resilience than Oedipus. Hamlet does not break down under the new knowledge, he does not relent even as the situation worsens, and he does not allow his attachments to divert him from his purpose.

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To begin with, Hamlet demonstrates greater resilience upon his reveal. Upon learning of Claudius’s crime, he simply swears to “wipe away all trivial fond records” from his memory and avenge the deed (Shakespeare I.V). Oedipus, on the other hand, crumbles upon the revelation and screams: “On these eyes / Shed light no more, ye everlasting skies” in despair (Sophocles 71). Thus, while Hamlet has the strength to hear terrible news and not crumble, Oedipus does not.

Apart from that, Hamlet is relentless in his duty even as the situation worsens. When he learns that the weapons for his duel with Laertes are poisoned, he simply exclaims: “Then, venom, to thy work” and stabs Claudius (Shakespeare V.II). Oedipus, however, cannot withstand his tragic change of fortune and blinds himself instead (Sophocles 71). Hence, Hamlet’s resilience also manifests in his ability to continue struggling despite the circumstances.

Finally, Hamlet is more resilient because he does not let his loved ones to distract him. Upon learning of Ophelia’s death, he mourns and says his “sorrow / conjures the wandering stars,” but still proceeds to avenge his father (Shakespeare V.I). Yet Oedipus wavers in his decision to exile himself when seeing his children and asks Creon: “Ah no! Take not away my daughters!” (Sophocles 86). Thus, the loved ones cannot shatter Hamlet’s determination but make Oedipus hesitate.

To summarize, Hamlet is more resilient than Oedipus for three reasons. First of all, he accepts his reveal stoically rather than in despair. Secondly, he soldiers on regardless of the negative turns of events. Thirdly, even his loved ones cannot make him hesitate and diver from his course.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. “Hamlet.” Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Web.

Sophocles. “Oedipus, King of Thebes.” Translated by Gilbert Murray. Project Gutenberg. Web.

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