Hamlet And Oedipus: Tragic Figures Of Literature

1587 words - 6 pages

Hamlet and Oedipus: Tragic Figures of Literature A tragic hero as one who is presented with an essentially inescapable situation against unbelievable and constant opposition, who despite his heroic strengths, is essentially manipulated or toyed with by the forces put against him. Hamlet and Oedipus are two historic characters of literature who truly exemplify the tragic hero. Put up against all odds and enemies, they are both constant in their pursuit of the one thing they both desire and need which is essentially the truth. The similarities of these two great characters thus, must begin with the obstacles they are put up against on their journeys to that one great truth. Living in ultimately irrational and unrighteous worlds, Hamlet and Oedipus are constantly combating both the mores and the people of the societies that surround them.In many ways these men are mere playthings of the gods. One might say, "they kill us for sport." The power of the gods or some arbitrary ruling power is felt by both Hamlet and Oedipus. Their tragic status is clearly derived by that same influence constantly working against them.Shakespeare writes, "There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will"(Hamlet: V.2.10-11). That same divinity though, shapes not only Hamlet's ends though, but also the beginning's of his endeavor to cleanse his kingdom. For Hamlet this job is not a choice but a responsibility bestowed upon him by his father's ghost. "Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder"(Hamlet: I.5.31), the King commands. His surprise at hearing this command clearly illustrates that as a trusting man, Hamlet could have never suspected the true events of his father's demise. To his ears, this truth hurts more even than the memory of his lost father. That pain compels him throughout Hamlet as he seeks his great vengeance, not by choice, but ultimately by the hand of fate which seems to rule his actions thereafter. In reference to his destiny Hamlet cries out, "O cursed spite that ever I was born to set it right!"(Hamlet: I.5.210-211). Thus, the hand of a powerful and arbitrary power takes on a key role from the beginning.Similarly, Oedipus is literally born into the situation he is put up against in Oedipus Rex. For Oedipus though, it is the power of the gods that is felt throughout his pursuit of truth. Sophocles writes the following.God. God.Is there a sorrow greater? Where shall I find harbor in this world? My voice is hurled far on a dark wind.What has God done to me? In this statement by Oedipus, it is clear that he is not the sole force behind the life he is living or even the choices he has made in the past. "A plaything of the gods," seems to be all that Oedipus truly is at times. Set up from his birth for a terrible downfall, a reader cannot help but see that Oedipus, just like Hamlet, is up against unbelievable odds as he embarks on his journey to reach his final goal of truth. Even despite the support and essentially the power he receives...

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