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Hamlet And Oedipus Rex Essay, Research Paper

In examining Hamlet and Oedipus Rex we are confronted with the notion of

heroism and tragedy. In these plays the protagonists are tragically heroic. The

question is, what is it that makes them tragic heroes. A big part of being a

tragic hero is suffering. In the context of these tragedies the hero meets their

suffering often through defiance of some authority. While in defiance it is that

suffering that unearths the core of the hero. Essentially, suffering allows the

character of the hero to develop and progress.

Neither Oedipus nor Hamlet let authority stand in their way. Oedipus did not

except the God?s prophesy. When he was told that his he was going to kill his

father and end up in his mothers bed, he left Corinth immediately in hopes of

escaping his fate. Hamlet doesn?t directly defy authority but he certainly

questions it. When Hamet?s mother marries his uncle very shortly after his

father?s death, Hamlet shows some skepticism:

HAMLET: ?A little more than kin and less than kind.?

(I.ii.25)

He felt that Gertrude and Claudius had a unnatural relationship and suspected

that something fishy was up. Hamlet was never afraid to say what he felt even it

wasn?t proper. In conversation with Polonius, Hamlet called him a fish monger.

Polonius was a respected member of the kingdom but that didn?t stop Hamlet

from saying what he felt.

Both Oedipus and Hamlet had the fatal tendency to identify their whole being

with one interest or passion. Oedipus? driving force was to avoid his fate. He

left his family in Corinth in hopes of escaping his fate. Even when he was told

that his father was dead, he didn?t stop worrying about the prophesies:

OEDIPUS: ?…must I not fear my mother?s bed?…If only my mother were

not still alive! But she is alive. I can not help my dread.?

(I.ii.51)

Dedicating his life to avoiding his fate was his fatal tendency because in

trying to escape his fate he made it come true. If he hadn?t tried to escape

his fate he wouldn?t have left Corinth and would have never had the

opportunity to kill his father or marry his mother. Hamlet?s driving force is

to be able to take action instead of just talking about it. When the acting

troop came to the palace Hamlet convinced one of the actors to give a speech and

while listening to it he realized that the actor showed more intensity in his

speech then he did in avenging his father?s death.

HAMLET: ?Am I a coward?…I am pigeon-livered and lack gull…why, what an

ass am I! This is most brave, That I, the son of a dear father murdered,

Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, Must, like a whore, unpack my heart

with words…?

(II.ii.598-614)

All Hamlet can do is set witty traps. Hamlet manages to talk himself out of

any action he considers taking. He talks himself out of committing suicide, he

talks himself out of killing Claudius, and he talks himself out of the fact that

his father?s ghost is real. Hamlet wants to be motivated and take action like

a man, but he is a man of words. Trying to be a man of action is his fatal

tendency because he is trying to be someone he isn?t. His is not a killer by

nature and when he forces himself to become one everything goes array; he starts

killing the wrong people and everyone winds up dead.

Part of Oedipus? and Hamlet?s suffering is their sense of guilt. Neither

of them let their guilt hinder them but they weren?t blocks of steel either.

Oedipus felt guilty for killing the man in the crossroads even before he know it

was his father. He did not however feel guilty for yelling at Teiresias when he

was only trying to protect him from the devastating truth.

Hamlet?s sense of guilt motivated him. He felt guilty that he wasn?t

taking action to revenge his father?s death. His guilt impelled him and he

decided to give the actors a speech that would test Claudius, and his reaction

would determine Hamlet?s next move.

Hamlet?s suffering changes him. Hamlet is unable to avenge is father?s

death. He suffers immensely because of this and becomes a very angry person. He

is angry at Claudius for killing is father, he is angry at his mother for

marrying Claudius, and most of all he is angry at himself for not being man

enough to do anything about it. He holds in this anger. Everything that goes

wrong builds up inside him until he explodes into such a rage that he he kills

Polonius and Laerties and Claudius. Hamlet is a changed man. He gives up in the

end:

HAMLET: ?the cat will meow and the dog will have his day?.

(______)

Oedipus? suffering changes him. Despite all the precautions he took,

Oedipus still acted out his fate. He becomes angry when the mere idea is

presented that his fate has come true. Oedipus is a sensible , trusting, kind

man. He runs a kingdom and tries to find the murderer of Laos to get rid of the

plague, but when Teiresias tell Oedipus that he is the murderer whom he seeks

Oedipus calls him a

OEDIPUS: ?sightless, witless, senseless, mad old man?

(I.ii.20)

and refuses to believe a word he says. When Oedipus realizes that he did in

fact kill his father and marry his mother, he flips out and stabs his eyes with

pins and makes his daughters cry. Oedipus spent his whole life trying to avoid

his fate and now that it has come true he has nothing to live for.

OEDIPUS: ?And now what is left? Images? Love? A greeting even, Sweet to the

senses? Is there anything? Ah, no, friends: lead me away. Lead me away from

Thebes. Lead the great wreck and hell of Oedipus, whom the gods hate.?

(72)

Oedipus goes from a man who didn?t let anything get in his way to a man who

has given up.

When Hamlet and Oedipus die, the reader is left with a sense of waste. Hamlet

was only a young man when his father was killed. He had his whole life ahead of

him and everything going for him. We feel pity for him because his life was

destroyed by events he had no control over. He did nothing wrong. If two things

were different this story would be a comedy instead of a tragedy. Oedipus?

life was also a waste. He was a very smart , responsible, determined and

dedicated person. He did solve the riddle and saved Thebes. He put it on himself

to find Laos? killer and get rid of the plague. He was a great person who had

a horrible fate.

333


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