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Hamlet and King Oedipus Literature Comparison Essay


Hamlet and King Oedipus are the main characters in two distinct plays by the same names. “King Oedipus” is a Greek tragedy by Sophocles and it was written around 425 BC. On the other hand, “Hamlet” is an Elizabethan-age play by William Shakespeare. The events in both Shakespeare and Sophocles’ classic plays unfold along the lines of ‘good versus evil.’

Hamlet and Oedipus are two characters who believe in their good intentions when they are planning to avenge for the previous kings’ deaths. Although the two characters have similar missions in mind, the circumstances surrounding their activities are unique. This essay compares the characters and roles of both Hamlet and King Oedipus as the sons who have to deliver justice to their fathers’ killers.

The circumstances that lead to the two characters’ elevation to positions of power are quite different. Oedipus is an admirable character who ascends to kingship due to his popularity. Oedipus saves the people of Thebes from their tax burdens when he answers the Sphinx’s riddle. Consequently, Oedipus manages to win the affection and support of Thebe’s residents, and that is how he becomes their King. On the other hand, Hamlet is a member of the aristocratic family, and he does not command a lot of respect as Oedipus does.

Both King Oedipus and Hamlet operate under different moral codes. Hamlet’s actions are guided by his Christian values, but Oedipus just takes precaution not to invoke the wrath of Greek gods. The moral codes that guide these two characters can help to explain their actions. Hamlet’s actions are well orchestrated, and he takes time before he acts.

However, Oedipus is rash and does not hesitate when taking action against his detractors. Furthermore, Hamlet yields comparatively little power than Oedipus in accordance with the religious systems of their time. While Oedipus is anxious to gain information from the prophets, Hamlet is slow to act on the information he already has.

There is a big difference between the natures of the two characters. Hamlet is portrayed as a quiet and pensive character, while Oedipus is presented as an outrageous and vain person. The disparity between the two characters raises the issue of the selflessness or selfishness of both Oedipus and Hamlet’s actions. Hamlet murdered Claudius when he was sober-minded.

On the other hand, Oedipus murdered the King’s party as a result of a heat-of-the-moment incident that transpired when his caravan met with King Laius’. Therefore, it can be argued that although Hamlet appears to be the levelheaded character, his actions are purely selfish. Nevertheless, because King Oedipus killed a group of men due to a minor disagreement, he can be considered as the more cold-blooded killer.

Both Hamlet and King Oedipus are involved in incestuous relationships with their mothers, but only one of them does it knowingly. King Oedipus is not aware that the woman he considers his wife is his birth mother. When this secret is revealed, Oedipus’ agony is evident. The circumstances leading to King Oedipus being involved in incest are accidental. On the other hand, Hamlet is fully aware that he is in an incestuous relationship with his mother. Nevertheless, involvement in incest leads both characters to states of insanity.

Shakespeare and Sophocles present characters with similar goals and predispositions. Both characters follow different paths in order to achieve their goals. However, in the end, both characters suffer similar fates. The similarities and differences between Hamlet and King Oedipus’ characters are both diverse and subtle, but they all contribute to the plays’ development.

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IvyPanda. (2020, July 2). Hamlet and King Oedipus Literature Comparison. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/hamlet-and-king-oedipus-literature-comparison/

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"Hamlet and King Oedipus Literature Comparison." IvyPanda, 2 July 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/hamlet-and-king-oedipus-literature-comparison/.

1. IvyPanda. "Hamlet and King Oedipus Literature Comparison." July 2, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/hamlet-and-king-oedipus-literature-comparison/.


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IvyPanda. "Hamlet and King Oedipus Literature Comparison." July 2, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/hamlet-and-king-oedipus-literature-comparison/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Hamlet and King Oedipus Literature Comparison." July 2, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/hamlet-and-king-oedipus-literature-comparison/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Hamlet and King Oedipus Literature Comparison'. 2 July.

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