Comparison Of Oedipus And Hamlet Essay

1368 words - 5 pages

Comparison of Oedipus and Hamlet

Compare and contrast Oedipus and Hamlet. Is Oedipus more a man of action? Or is he more a man driven by whim and sudden, rash decisions? Which character is more selfless? Does Hamlet show any signs of selfish motives in his actions or inactions? Which protagonist seems more learned? wiser? more religious? more loving? more incestuous? Which seems to be a better murder investigator? Does Oedipus have any of Claudius' motives when he kills the king, Laius? Then which murderer is more blameworthy--Oedipus or Claudius?

Different men in different eras: los41183 said in 2000: "It is hard to compare two men with such obvious religious and moralistic differences. Oedipus grew up in the time of the Greek gods, gods who set their examples through destruction of the titans, incestuous marriages with siblings, and rash actions that changed the way their followers lived. Hamlet, on the other hand, grew up with strict Catholicism shaping his conscience. He followed that conscience to the letter, allowing for the lengthy period in between the revelation of the ghost to the actual bloodbath in the closing scenes.
This lapse is what sets the differences between Oedipus and Hamlet, for as soon as Oedipus had the truth fully revealed to him, he acted, rash as his actions may have been. By far, Oedipus is the more thorough of investigators, but this is due mainly to his hubris that will not allow otherwise.* Hamlet took his time to trap Claudius into admission of guilt, whereas all of Thebes knew that Oedipus was on the lookout for a murderer.

The quiet, pensive nature of Hamlet versus the vainglorious outrage of Oedipus is the key to the debate over whether the actions both men take are selfish or selfless. This is a debate that is not answered easily and fully deserves further thought. When discussing which of the murders was the worst, that of Claudius comes to mind first. After putting thought into the mass murder of Laius' caravan, though, that thought is taken back. Which truly is worse, premeditated regicide or heat-of-the-moment "road rage" (the original road rage at that)? As a usurper of throne and wife, Claudius is the ultimate familiar turncoat, but as a guiltless killer of men who would not let him pass on a road, one must wonder if Oedipus has a conscience at all. One can suppose that this, again, is the result of religious values and differences in the time period."**
* [Editor's Note: Oedipus was also trying to find out his own identity and parentage at the same time, a complication Hamlet did not have to face.]

** [Ed.: It's true that when he tells his story about killing where 3 roads meet, Oedipus expresses no remorse over the slaughter; even one who kills in self-defense should feel a sense of loss and regret the taking of life.]

A list from 2000 (anonymous)

? Both protagonists were passionately determined to find the truth.
? Both were impulsive.
? Both had immense...

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