Compare and Contrast Essay on Oedipus the King and Hamlet

Paper Type:  Literature review
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1810 Words
Date:  2021-04-09


Oedipus the King is a play by Sophocles where the main character, Oedipus is portrayed as a man led by blindness, thinking that he knows everything. He puts the blame on other characters, claiming that they are the ones who represent metaphorical blindness, yet in the end, he’s the one who suffered due to the lack of ideas on who he was. At the end of the play, Oedipus’s blindness causes his downfall, and the main question raised in the play is whether a person can realize who he or she is without a defining moment.

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Hamlet is a play by Shakespeare that talks about a character who lives a difficult life trying to cope with the death of his father. Hamlet eventually commits murder, killing the person who killed his father. Hamlet acts like a deranged individual in front of some characters throughout the play with the motive of plotting the death of Claudius. Because he was a prince, it’s expected that Hamlet lived a life full of happiness but instead, his life is full of misery. In this paper, the two plays are compared to the two main characters, Oedipus and Hamlet, using different annotated bibliographies.

Annotated Bibliography of Oedipus Rex

One of the annotated bibliography used in the paper is the article, The Identity of Oedipus the King: Five Essays on the Oedipus Tyrannous (Allister, Owen & William, p 278). From this article, King Oedipus’s personality leads to different scholars reacting differently on the kind of life that he lives within this play. These researchers argue differently where some of them have the same views concerning the main character while others think differently. One group in this article views Oedipus as a hero due to his commanding nature and determination. Oedipus is known to be very hardworking as a ruler (Allister, Owen & William, p 278). Academic scholars who support this fact argue that Oedipus embodies quality and unwaveringness all through his leadership and even went ahead to spare the city from the hands of the Spinx. He's always faithful to the city and his decision-making notwithstanding when he presumes that there is a plot to have him slaughtered and offers prizes to discover the enemy of Linus.

Another quality that makes some scholars support Oedipus as a great ruler was his determination in life (Allister, Owen & William, p 278). His personality was mixed with admirable traits though he had some flaws. Assurance is one of Oedipus' essential character attributes as well as his mother's as seen in the play (Allister, Owen & William, p 278). In spite of the crucial part of destiny in the lives of the characters, Oedipus and Jocasta are altogether determined, sometimes unshakably, to seek after their objectives. Though his determination is depicted as an outstanding quality by some scholars, it causes him to make the wrong decisions on some occasions. His great determination to reveal the puzzle of Laius' murder unexpectedly drives him to revile himself unintentionally.

Oedipus Character Analysis

From the discussed attributes of Oedipus, it’s easy to think that he was a great king who was loved by his subjects. However, his flaws eventually lead to his downfall, and a different group holds a different opinion by using this fact to criticize him. This group considers Oedipus as a small-minded ruler who was driven by outrage and had indiscreet choices in his decisions. His judgment on critical issues was poor and this, as concluded in the play, was one of his principal imperfections (Allister, Owen & William, p 278). His arrogance blinds Oedipus. This demeanor starts before goes to Thebes, and that is evident because of the conditions of his dad's demise. Oedipus seals his particular destiny with his self-absorbed disposition, and he can't change his predetermination even after everything is set into motion.

Both arguments concerning Oedipus are correct because, from the play, he possesses good as well as bad attributes. The group that criticizes Oedipus might claim that their argument is more appropriate since we experience the failure of his downfall at the end of the play. However, it’s difficult to ignore some of the positive attributes of Oedipus since he acts as a role model to current rulers when it comes to being determined and hardworking. Therefore, both arguments are strong, and it's, therefore, difficult to ignore any of them while reviewing this play.

Elements of Tragedy in Comparison of Oedipus and Hamlet

Hamlet is similar to Oedipus the King because we experience tragedy in both plays. Oedipus’s actions led to the downfall of his reign, and the play ends in a disaster (Novel Guide, 2017). Oedipus Rex is a naturally established catastrophe since it has the component of tragic setting, environment and inclination, and additionally tragic character. The plot is likewise a dramatic outline moving to deplorable deterioration and along these lines the terrible acknowledgment by the character and gathering of people. The discourse and the dialect of the melody likewise underscore the terrible message about the awful existence of the disastrous Oedipus. One of the biggest problems with Oedipus in the play is that rather than putting his focus on his subjects, his primary attention is on Laius as he attempts to get vengeance (Novel Guide, 2017). This makes Oedipus to be depicted as a selfish king.

Vengeance is also witnessed in Hamlet where the main character tries to avenge his father's death. Eventually, tragedy is seen in the play during this vengeance since at the beginning of the play, Hamlet is focused on identifying the individual who murdered his father (Novel Guide, 2017). This play is a disaster of reflection and good affectability. The hero is brilliant and excessively touchy, in this manner unfit for making revenge through the move. He needs to fix the past. However, the guilt of blame and equity perplexes him. Hamlet is however distinguished from Oedipus the King in that Oedipus is the leading cause of pollution unlike Hamlet (Novel Guide, 2017). Oedipus's vengeance had no purpose and could've been avoided compared to Hamlets.

Hamlet Annotated Bibliography

Another annotated bibliography used in the paper is the article, Directing the Hamlet Story in Hamlet (Younglim, pp. 361-364). The primary focus of this article is the main character, Hamlet, and what constitutes his character. There is a tremendous distinction between Hamlet and other princes regarding lifestyles. Unlike most Princes who are happy and enjoy their lives, Hamlet lives a sad life, full of pretending in front of some individuals. His father’s death is the leading cause of his depression (Younglim, pp. 361-365). Hamlet's depression is seen both through how he discusses his sentiments and how different characters respond to him. How Hamlet's pain, misery, and conceivable madness are connected is a riddle of the play.

When his mother marries his dead father’s brother, life becomes even more difficult for Hamlet (Younglim, pp. 361-368). Once this happens, Hamlet gives up on the purpose of life, and his entire focus is turned on the killer of his father. The situation is further worsened when his father’s ghost appears to him asking for vengeance (Younglim, pp. 377-381). Hamlet is horrified at the disclosure that his dad has been killed, and the apparition reveals to him that as he rested in his garden, a miscreant emptied harm into his ear and the very reprobate who's responsible now wears his crown. He then realizes that it was his uncle who was responsible for his father’s death so that he could take the throne and this makes him more furious and thirsty for revenge.

After the apparition's disclosure, Hamlet makes plans to fake it of franticness with a specific end goal to trick everybody and discover who the executioner is. However, his father's ghost appeared to him when he is assumed to control by his frenzy and questions Gertrude about her engagement towards Claudius and his dad intercedes. He advises Hamlet to abandon her since God will rebuff her for her deeds and urges Hamlet not to lose the center of the primary objective, which was to seek vengeance. It’s clear from this article that Hamlet endures a tough life, dealing with pressing issues at the same time.

Comparison of Hamlet and Oedipus the King

When compared to Oedipus, Hamlet is a character who possesses attributes that can be admired by most people. His decision-making is what most people would expect due to the occurring that surrounded him (Hyon-u, pp. 500-515). Sometimes within the play, it’s difficult to predict the thoughts of Hamlet due to his perfect thinking. In other words, Hamlet is hard to make sense of contrasted with Oedipus. His moves are figured and his activity is planned. He varies from Oedipus in that he is insightful and philosophical (Hyon-u, pp. 483-515). One of the primary qualities that are admired within characters in the play is their ability to express honesty. Hamlet does this when he is truthful about his feelings towards his mother’s marriage to Claudius. He is unlike Oedipus who doesn’t like to listen to people in the play and always thinks that he’s the one on the right end.


It can be concluded that both of these plays contain the fundamental components of disaster, in spite of the fact that the Shakespearean catastrophe extended its setting a long way past that of the antiquated Greek disaster. Both of these plays share the accentuation on a sad incongruity in the chain of occasions that pave the way to the custom of cleansing. However, the plot of Hamlet makes a more muddled character than that of the exemplary Greek catastrophe of Oedipus the King. The essential topic of the two plays is regicide, and the self-annihilation of the deplorable hero is one method for riding the contamination of that wrongdoing and the incest which has resulted from it. Hamlet is a character that can be recommended due to his brave and wise nature when it comes to decision-making. Oedipus, on the other hand, is a hard-working character through his poor judgment is his main flaw compared to Hamlet.

Work Cited

Owen, William H. and Allister Cameron. "The Identity of Oedipus the King: Five Essays on the Oedipus Tyrannous." The Classical World, vol 62, no. 7, 1969, p. 278. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/4346846. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017

"A Comparison of Hamlet and Oedipus the King | Novel Guide". Novel Guide, 2017, Accessed 20 Feb. 2017

Younglim Han. "Directing the Hamlet Story in Hamlet the Actor". Shakespeare Review, vol 50, no. 2, 2014, pp. 361-381. The Shakespeare Association of Korea, doi:10.17009/shakes.2014.50.2.007. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017

Hyon-u Lee. "Is the Bad Hamlet Just Bad? Reconsideration of Q1 Hamlet as the Performance Text". Shakespeare Review, vol 44, no. 3, 2008, pp. 483-515. The Shakespeare Association of Korea, doi:10.17009/shakes.2008.44.3.006. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017

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