The Tragedies of Hamlet and Oedipus the King
Tragedy is a broad genre that may take many forms. Sophocles' Oedipus the King and Shakespeare's Hamlet both contain the basic elements of tragedy, but Hamlet is a tragic hero, while Oedipus is a tragic villain. From the opening moments of Hamlet, the audience knows that Hamlet must avenge his father's death. Oedipus, on the other hand, kills his own father and unwittingly marries his mother, thus sealing his own fate and fulfilling the prophecy that stated he would do just that.
Sophocles has Oedipus foretelling his own tragedy when speaking to the people of Thebes. The city suffers because of the pollution of Oedipus, and irony is shown when Oedipus suggest that by avenging Laius he will protect himself, or that by getting children upon Jocasta, the dead king's wife, he will be taking the place of the son of Laius, which, unknowingly, is himself. The irony reaches its peak when Oedipus calls on the prophet Tiresias to help uncover the murder of Laius and seek an cure to the plague; the metaphor of vision is ironic in that the blind Tiresias can see what the seemingly brilliant Oedipus has overlooked, namely the king's crimes of incest and murder.
The other major ingredient of the tragic equation, the purging emotion, is worked out by Sophocles. The hubris of Oedipus is demolished when he confides in Jocasta concerning the predictions of the seer Tiresias; she tells him the story of the murder of Laius, and as she speaks Oedipus comes to recognize the scene and circumstances of the regicide as being the same as those encountered on the road to Thebes. The full hypothesis of his doings come to him and he cries out to Jocasta. However, when he faces the shepherd who had found the child Oedipus, and who now reveals that the child was the same infant who was cast out to the wolves by Laius; Laius had feared the fulfillment of a prophecy that he would die by his own son's hands, and Oedipus now sees that the prophecy has indeed come true, for he has killed his own father and committed incest with his mother. He then blinds himself, as if to acknowledge the charge of the blind seer Tiresias that he was blind in his pride.
Hamlet treats the crime of regicide from a...