Oedipus the King by Sophocles and Hamlet by William Shakespeare belong to the most famous tragedies in the world. Even though the creations belong to different historical periods, they have a few common concepts. The ground for this is that both works explore human feelings, actions, and desires and the nature of people remains unchanged over time. That is why it is interesting to overview the main characters of the plays. The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast Oedipus and Hamlet.
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In my opinion, the King of Thebes and the Prince of Denmark have several common features, the first one being their descent. As follows from their titles, both characters belong to noble families and are sons of rulers of Thebes and Denmark respectively. This affects their personalities: Oedipus and Hamlet are both strong men of ambitions which are closely connected with one more feature they share, purposefulness.
Although the characters’ motives are different, both men have goals, pursue them, and eventually implement their intentions. According to Sophocles, “who seeks shall find; Who sits with folded hands or sleeps is blind” (Sophocles, p. 63). In my viewpoint, the phrase is a guiding rule not only for the King of Thebes but also for the Prince of Denmark. Hamlet is driven by revenge; he goes to great lengths to prove that Claudius is to blame for Hamlet’s father’s death (Shakespeare, p. 10). Besides, the young man wants to kill Claudius which the Prince manages to do at the end of the tragedy (Shakespeare, p. 145). As for Oedipus, his motive is not a personal one; the King wishes to find out the truth to stop the outburst of the plague in Thebes (Sophocles, p. 40). Oedipus accomplishes the task although it turns out that he is the criminal that is to blame for the anger of gods (Sophocles, p. 65). The final likeness I can identify is that Oedipus and Hamlet are both tragic characters whose fate is to suffer.
Speaking about the differences between the characters under analysis, despite the common trait of purposefulness, Hamlet’s and Oedipus’s personalities significantly differ.
The Prince of Denmark is one of the most controversial fiction characters in world literature. Being full of contradictions, he might reflect the whole humanity. As follows from his thoughts and actions, Hamlet is indecisive, hasty, and ferocious, but at the same time, reckless, thoughtful, tender, and sensitive. As for Oedipus, the man is a less complicated character although he also shows contradictory behavior. For example, the King rules wisely yet is rude and violent to his people (Sophocles, p. 35). Oedipus’s main and tragic trait is hubris that refers to a person’s excessive pride and the lack of desire to accept his or her fate. By trying to change the events to come, the King makes gods angry; nevertheless, he finds the courage to admit the fault and punish himself for the sake of Thebes which is a noble deed.
To sum up, it is significant to press the point that the main characters of the great tragedies Oedipus the King by Sophocles and Hamlet by William Shakespeare share several features. In fact, they come from noble families, have tragic fates, and are diligent in pursuing their goals. At the same time, there are significant differences in their personalities with Hamlet being more complicated and controversial than Oedipus.
- Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.
- Sophocles. Oedipus Rex (Oedipus the King). Translated by Edward Plumptre, Digireads.com Publishing, 2016.