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Oedipus Vs. Hamlet: A Character Comparison

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Oedipus vs. Hamlet: A Character Comparison

After reading Sophocles' Oedipus the King and Shakespeare's Hamlet, it is quiet clear that Oedipus is by far the more admirable character of the two. Aside from Oedipus' history and life experience, his superior character traits are also displayed in the way he handles several incidents throughout the play.

One of the primary reasons Oedipus' is more admirable than Hamlet is just their history. Oedipus is a king. He got there by saving the city of Thebes from a horrible Sphinx by solving a riddle. In this way, Oedipus earned the trust of his people and earned the position of king. On the other hand, you have Hamlet who is the prince of Denmark. He didn't earn the position as Oedipus did. He was simply born into it. In addition, he doesn't appear to have any life experiences. He is simply a student in college.

Oedipus also possesses several admirable character traits in which Hamlet lacks. For example, Oedipus is a go getter. He doesn't stand by and receive information and just sit on it. In several incidents throughout the play he reacts quickly on information he has received. When Tiresias informs him that it is he that is the curse of the land, Oedipus reacts quickly and strongly. He immediately questions Tiresias' motives and has him removed from his presences. In addition, he immediately confronts Creon with his suspicions. "You- here? You have the gall to show your face before the palace gates? You, plotting to kill me, kill the king- I see it all, the marauding thief himself scheming to steal my crown and power! Tell me, in god's name, what did you take me for, coward or fool, when you spun out your plot?" (594-601). Here, Oedipus suspects that Creon is trying to kill him, and he immediately confronts him and challenges him.

On the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, we have Hamlet. Ah, Hamlet. His dead father appears to him as a ghost and tells him that his uncle, Claudius murdered him. "The serpent that did sting thy father's life now wears his crown." (38-39) If Hamlet had half the courage of Oedipus he would have left from the meeting with his father's ghost and put a sword through Claudius' heart. Instead, however, he hatches this elaborate and confusing plot, which involves acting mad, directing a play to "see" how Claudius reacts and turning his back on his love, Ophelia. When Claudius is praying in the church, later in the play, Hamlet comes up with a reason not to revenge his father. He reasons he can't kill Claudius while he is praying because it will only send him to heaven. This is an obvious excuse not to act. Hamlet is extremely inactive and passive.

Another reason Oedipus' is a more commendable character than Hamlet is because of the differences in the way they treat the women they love. Oedipus is clearly in love with Jocasta, showing it by treating her well and respecting her opinion on things. Hamlet decides to act like someone who is crazy, and disrespects Ophelia even going as far as to talk bad to her. He even tells her he never loved her. "I loved you not." (116)

In addition, the mere fact that Oedipus confides in Jocasta shows the love and trust they have between each other. Oedipus suspects himself of murdering the king, and he confides in Jocasta what he thinks he's guilty of. This is a secret that could possibly destroy him, yet he tells his wife. Hamlet isn't even guilty of murder. He simply suspects his uncle killed his father. Instead of confiding in Ophelia he turns his back

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