In Greek mythology, Oedipus, the king of the land of Thebes, portrays a king who brings disaster to himself and to the people he governs by killing his father and making his mother his wife. In search of the truth, Oedipus cares less about the danger his actions are about to bring. Contrasting Oedipus the king to Hamlet, the latter is a creation by Shakespeare of a thinker who loses his personality and intellect while in pursuit of reality. Although Oedipus is a Sophocles’ personality in Oedipus rex, Hamlet is the male protagonist in the play Hamlet by Shakespeare; both are tragic personalities in search of reality. However, the approaches used by the two tragic characters are different. Hamlet shows more resilience than Oedipus since is more patient, he is clever, and he accepts assistance from people.
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The first aspect through which Hamlet shows his resilience, compared to Oedipus, is his psychological ability to exercise patience. Although young, Hamlet’s wisdom to exercise patience limits him from acting upon speculation. In search of the truth, Hamlet has the desire to be sure that it is his uncle Claudius who murders his father (Shakespeare, Heather, & Philip 587). Through patience, Hamlet restrains himself from acting on his feelings by weighing out the situation surrounding him. Once he has the conversation with the ghost of his late father, he holds back from immediately seeking revenge (Shakespeare et al. 587). With this constructive trait of patience, Hamlet is able to put to use his intellect through cautious steps that direct him to keep away from his own demise and overcome those who want his ruin.
In contrast, Oedipus is an impatient man and in his search for Laius’ assassin, he threatens the people of Thebes, who he rules over, to come forward with any information they know about the murder of Laius. In his threats, Oedipus says, “I command you, each of the people of this state, where my power and throne reach: whoever this man may be, exile him, do not shelter him” (Sophocles 172). “Do not speak to him, Do not partner with him in your prayers, your losses burned to the deity…” (Sophocles 172).
Later on in the play, Oedipus kills Laius due to the fact that he was rude to him. From the context of the play, “the driver was the one that forced me outside and I struck him because I was filled with anger; he fell headfirst from the carriage and each of the other men I killed there” (Sophocles 798). This predominantly portrays Oedipus as a man whose decisions are driven by his sensation.
Another way that sets apart Hamlet’s resilience over Oedipus is that he is much clever. To uncover the truth behind who killed his father, Hamlet fulfills the task he is given and to do that, he puts on an act of insanity, making other characters in the play consider him as one who has lost his mind. In order to keep his revenge plan secret and smoothly executed, Hamlet deliberately pretends to be crazy and scolds his lover Ophelia, even wanting to send her to the monastery.
When Hamlet is first confronted with the ghost of his late father, he does not blindly act but first questions whether he can trust his senses. In questioning whether to trust his senses and the ghost of his father, Hamlet states the possibility that the devil, in disguise, might try to make a fool of him. Hamlet says, “Maybe the devil and the devil hath power T’ assume appeasing shape (Shakespeare et al. 611-612). To avoid acting foolishly, it takes a very long time for him to find out that his uncle is actually the killer.
Alternatively, Oedipus carries on living in rejection and discards reality. When Oedipus tries to force Tiresias to speak the truth, his thought that Tiresias is lying makes him not trust Tiresias. The fact that Tiresias was blind did not mean that he was lying; he could not make suppositions concerning things that would harm him or anyone who sees the light. Oedipus says, “Nothing! You, the dirt of the earth, you, you’d make a heart of stone be filled with rage! You won’t talk? Nothing moves you? Say it aloud, once and for all!” (Sophocles178).
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With his foolishness and impatience, Oedipus insults and degrades Tiresias. Once he was through with Tiresias, Oedipus has a contention with Creon, his wife’s brother and goes to claim that Creon was Laius’s assassin, he further creates a plot supposing that Creon was the assassin. Oedipus exclaims by saying, “Then get out and leave me alone!” (Sophocles 198). The high level of impatience and foolishness in Oedipus brought out his paranoia, allowing him to make offensive, harsh, and paranoid conclusions.
Lastly, Hamlet embraces the thought of accepting assistance from people, unlike his counterpart Oedipus. Once he questions whether his senses can be trusted or the devil was in disguise, Hamlet employs the assistance of the players, whom he cleverly asks to reenact a play similar to the events surrounding the death of his father. Hamlet does this with the hope the play will evoke some kind of guilt in his uncle. He acquired the knowledge to teach the dramatis personae to recreate the play from his father’s dead spirit. As such, Hamlet closely listens to the instruction from his father’s spirit, in an incredibly calculated manner, to come up with the truth concerning the manner his late father was murdered. Thus, by paying attention to the details of the ghost, Hamlet, in conclusion, finds out who the murderer of his father was.
In contrast, Oedipus does not trust Creon’s words and Creon tells Oedipus that he has some news concerning the truth and suggests that Oedipus should go inside and listen to the truth. However, Oedipus tells Creon to speak the truth in public. Unknowing that Creon’s purpose was to aid him in determining the truth, Oedipus confronts Creon by showing him he was the worst enemy he had and had no business getting assistance from him.
From the presented evidence, the thesis showcases how Hamlet’s resilience over Oedipus. Hamlet utilizes sleek approaches to uncover reality by putting his intelligence to the test using cautious steps that guide him to shun his own demise and overcome those who aimed to ruin him. He is more patient and it takes a very long time for him to find out that his uncle is actually the killer. Lastly, the essay shows that Hamlet is very clever in the approach he uses in uncovering the truth. Compared to Oedipus, Hamlet employs the instructions he receives from his father’s ghost to reenact a play that evokes the guilty feeling of his uncle. Through the play, Hamlet is able to bring down his uncle as the former king’s murderer.
Shakespeare, William, Heather Hirschfeld, and Philip Edwards. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.
Sophocles. Oedipus Plays of Sophocles: Oedipus the King;Oedipus at Colonus; Antigone. New York: Classic Books International, 2010.