Tragedy is common theme in Oedipus the king and Hamlet. Oedipus foretells his own tragedy when he addresses the people of Thebes. The city suffers due to Oedipus’s tragedy. However, Sophocles clearly brings out the tragedy theme. Oedipus’s hubris is destroyed when he confides in Jocasta about the predictions of the seer Tiresais. From this, Oedipus realizes that his fate is already happening and he cries out to Jocasta. The prophecy had come true since he killed his own father on the road during his search for a new residence and married his own mother. When he rules a kingdom after marrying a queen, who turns out to be his mother, a tragedy befalls the kingdom. The kingdom is attacked by plague. The oracle says the plagues will cease to exist only when the city banishes the person who killed the king. This person turns out to be Oedipus. In the end, an even greater tragedy occurs as Oedipus finds his wife who happens to be her mother dead and he is forced to banish himself from the kingdom (Madden, 12)
Hamlet on the other hand decides to search for the truth even after knowing that his uncle is the one responsible for his father s death. The young hero turns out to be a tragic figure due to his pride. The tragedy that emerges is due to his indecision on whether to avenge his father’s death. He sees his father’s ghost who tells him that he was murdered by the king. Instead of avenging, he tries to convince others on what he knows to be true. A tragic flaw of his decision emerges from his character. He then sets a trap for the king and in the event of this; he ends up being sent to England. However, as long as the king continues to reign, he will have failed to fulfill his purpose. He therefore ends up killing Claudius the king. In the end, a final tragedy befalls him since in the event of killing the king he also ends up dying (Davies, 20).
In contrast, Hamlets punishment by the Gods is not due to forgetting he is human unlike Oedipus who tries to run a way from his fate. Hamlet dies due to the tragic flaw that exists in his personality. In Hamlet, the tragedy is centered on his personality and not with the situation. Due to his indecision and laxity to avenge his father’s death, he wastes time and eventually is killed. He searches for the truth that he already knows instead of just satisfying his revenge. Instead, he tries to convince other people. His reluctant character brings him no good. In the end, a great tragedy of death befalls him. Had he acted fast and killed the king, maybe he would still be alive. However, Hamlet is not a killer but this urge is inflicted in him when he sees a ghost of his father. This makes him want to avenge his father’s death turning him to a different person (Davies, 22)
However, in Oedipus the king, the tragic flaw is not linked to the character as in Hamlet but to the ironical judgment. This is a moment of character blindness. Someone should have the know ledge of the person he is yet to kill. Oedipus however, did not know his father and therefore turned out to murder him. The tragedy is attached to the situations. Oedipus did not recognize his parents and therefore thought he had succeeded in running away from the prophecy when that was not the case. In the end, the truth finally reveals itself to him and he realizes that the prophecy had come true anyway. His situation causes his tragedies and had he known his parents, maybe he would have succeeded in evading the prophecy (Madden, 14).
Davies, Michael. Hamlet: Character Studies. London: Continuum, 2008. Print.
Madden, Frank. Exploring Literature: Writing and Arguing About Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and the Essay. New York: Pearson Longman, 2009. Print.
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