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Hamlet And Oedipus: Free Will Versus Fate

999 words - 4 pages

For ages, man has sought to be in command of his life. The common debate is

whether we, as human beings, have free will or if a divine force, sometimes referred to as

fate, determines our destiny. Though the two plays, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and

Sophocles’s Oedipus were written in two different eras, these two ideas are common

between them. Although Hamlet and Oedipus both strive to be in control of their lives,

Oedipus refuses to accept his destiny and therefore unknowingly fulfills his fate.

In less than 2 months of the death of Hamlet’s father, the King of Denmark, his

mother marries the brother of the deceased King. This speedy marriage causes Hamlet a

lot of grief for he feels that he has not only lost his father and his mother but also the

throne to the brother, Claudius. Throughout the play he is shown to be an intellectual and

manipulating character. After meeting with the ghost, Hamlet decides to behave mad so

that he might have a chance to revenge his father, “As I perchance hereafter shall think

meet to put an antic disposition on…” (Shakespeare, 34). This is Hamlets way of

misleading the people around him including Claudius, Gertrude, Ophelia, and his friends,

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern while he forms a plan to revenge his father. Further along

in the play, Hamlet confronts his mother in her bedroom and tells her his opinion of

Claudius. Gertrude says that she now truly sees what she has done, but this is not enough

for him, before he leaves he says “Good night. But go not to my uncle’s bed.” (100) thus

trying to control his mother’s actions. When Hamlet’s friends, Rosencrantz and

Guildenstern, visit him without any reason as to why, he gets suspicious and pulls from

them the King’s instructions to spy on him. This angers Hamlet once he realizes he

cannot trust his good friends. When the time comes for them to escort him to England he

has no remorse as he sends them to their deaths, “…he should those bearers put to sudden

death, not shriving-time allow’d.” (142). In this way, Oedipus is a lot like Hamlet in that

he shows no compassion when killing the travelers after being pushed off the road by

them, “He more than paid for it…I killed him. I killed them all.” (Sophocles, 44). After

Oedipus finds out that his prophecy has become true he banishes himself from the city

and renounces the throne to Creon. But even then he tries to exert control over Creon and

his daughters’ destiny, first by asking him to adopt his daughters so they will have an

appropriate and normal ancestry, “…they have no father left but you. You must not see

your blood go down in beggary…” (79) and then (in contradiction) by asking that his

daughters not be taken away from him, “No, no, never! Don’t take them from me.” (80).

At the end of the play Creon sees the...

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