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Shakespeare's 'Hamlet’ Versus Oedipus: Comparative Analysis

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'To be, or not to be?' To die, or to suffer eternally?

That is the question the two protagonists are faced with, all in order to build resilience.

Both protagonists possess the ability to rebel against and challenge their fate to prove their credo, but only one turns into a resilient hero.

By comparing the lives of both Oedipus and Hamlet, it becomes apparent Oedipus is more resilient in the end.

A resilient person will go to great lengths to transform their credo into reality. Oedipus strengthens his resolve and puts a target on finding out the truth of Laius' murder, while Hamlet struggles to find his resolve in killing his father's murderer.

'Oedipus is notable for his compassion, his sense of justice, his swiftness of thought and action, and his candor.' [2] Oedipus' determination and hubris in defying his fate is also his hamartia. It shows when he doesn't stop looking for the facts and in ignorance, is blind to the warnings that lead to the killer, whom he ends up being.

'The conflict that drives the plot of Hamlet is almost entirely internal: Hamlet wrestles with his own doubt and uncertainty in search of something he believes strongly enough to act on.' Hamlet struggles to cope with the loss of his father, and his inward conflict worsens after the meeting with his father's ghost. Throughout the play, Hamlet has trouble finding the determination to kill his uncle Claudius; in the end, he did attain his revenge after seeing Fortinbras' steadfastness in preserving his family's honor.

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Both characters show resiliency in standing up against anything and everything, fate included, during their adversity to find the truth in their goals.

Oedipus challenges the Gods and the Oracle's prophecy to prove that he is the one in control of his own future. He is so fierce in his tenacity that he'd rather suffer than let fate win. Oedipus shows his resiliency by being open-minded and adamant in finding the truth to prove the Gods and Oracle wrong.

'The play's exposition shows us that Hamlet is in the midst of three crises: his nation is under attack, his family is falling apart, and he feels deeply unhappy.' These crises are a result of his father's untimely death and his mother's quick marriage. '[Hamlet's] inability to choose the proper course to avenge his father's death' after learning his uncle has killed his father leads him to a state of seemingly never-ending contemplation. '... Hamlet feels duty-bound to take decisive action, but he has so many doubts about his situation and even about his own feelings that he cannot decide what action to take.' 'Fortinbras is ready to commit his men and himself to the grave for glory while Hamlet feels he has done nothing to avenge his own father.' The resolution to act disregarding the consequences is fortified when Hamlet is told by the Captain of Fortinbras' army that he is marching to Poland to recover Norway's lost territories.

Resolution toward a goal and persistence in achieving this goal is another resilient trait that both protagonists possess and utilize to achieve their goals.

In response to his own unfortunate prophecy, Oedipus is given two choices: to kill himself or suffer until death. Oedipus and his rebellious persistence against the evident circumstances choose to live in suffering, intentionally stabbing his eyes taking his sight, and exiling himself until death. Oedipus failed to see the truth so that he could satisfy his credo. When he is exposed to the truth, he is overcome with shame, grief, and remorse. 'He claims that though Apollo ordained his destiny, it was he alone who pierced his own eyes.' Oedipus becomes resilient at this very moment; he confronts his error, and 'reflects [on] his emotional pain ... [revealing] ... he has taken responsibility for his actions.' He then continues to live out his life despite his wrong-doings.

Opposite to Oedipus, Hamlet's mental state is severely shattered after seeing his father's ghost. In the end, he dies seeking vengeance for his uncle's sins. His resiliency in confronting his fate was incomplete; his hesitation, thoughts, and plan all played a factor in his death and many others. Instead of thinking things through and taking his loyal companion Horatio's advice to not take part in the bout against Laertes, he made the decision to fight Laertes. Hamlet says it himself, 'It is but foolery.' He places his bets on his practicing of fencing, and also on the fate of God. 'If it is now, ’tis not to come. If it is not to come, it will be now. If it is not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all.' If he dies, he dies. Even though he attained his one goal of seeking vengeance, Hamlet's ignorance and rashness lead him to his demise without attaining his rightful place on the throne of Denmark. 'Hamlet’s life is over, but the struggle to decide the truth about Hamlet and his life is not.'

Neither God(s), King, nor fate stands a chance in the face of resilient individuals who are determined to prove their credo true. Oedipus goes to great lengths to build resiliency through suffering while Hamlet couldn't stand the instances of events; intentionally knowing that he'll be killed by Claudius in the end, but it mattered not as long as he obtained his vengeance. In the end, Hamlet failed to become resilient due to his own misfortune; he failed to adjust and adapt, unlike Oedipus who chose to live out his life regardless of his regrets.

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Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ Versus Oedipus: Comparative Analysis. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 30, 2023, from
“Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ Versus Oedipus: Comparative Analysis.” Edubirdie, 21 Apr. 2023,
Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ Versus Oedipus: Comparative Analysis. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 Nov. 2023].
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