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Summary: Similarities and Differences in Character, Theme and Morality in Oedipus by Sophocles and Hamlet by Shakespeare

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Sophocles is illuminating the proud king Oedipus’s want for the truth to be revealed. He wanted this for the wellbeing of his state, and the safety of his people and himself as a ruler. Those intentions prove that Oedipus was a good king who cared about his people. As he was on his journey for the truth, he stayed persistent and used every chance he could to learn details about Laius’ murder and who might have done it. That persistence contributes a lot to the morals of his character and what he found important in order to find closure for his people. Through every hardship thrown his way, like letting a shepherd tell him the true story of his origins, facing the danger of losing the throne and his life, and even having a terrible curse from the gods being put on him, Oedipus stayed sure that he was doing the right thing by acting according to his conscience. The theme here was that listening to your gut would bring you the truth in the end.

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In contrast to Oedipus’s character, Shakespeare portrays Hamlet as much less energetic in his persistence and attitude on his journey. Hamlet did have a strong desire to find the truth, though, about his suspicion of his mother marrying so soon after his father’s death. I believe that the lack of energy he put into his journey, compared to Oedipus, was due to the fact that Hamlet was a philosopher rather than a warrior. He, therefore, put a lot of thoughts and reflections into his actions and used intuition to approach the answer to the question torturing him. As he voiced in the play, Hamlet’s thoughts were that the situation was not as smooth as it seemed, “nor it cannot come to good”. Looking into the bad possibilities and doubting his mother’s marriage ahead of time was confirmed to be accurate when Hamlet learned the truth from his father’s ghost. That proves that he was an intelligent and thoughtful person. The theme of this was that thinking ahead of time instead of acting immediately will lead to the truth. Another factor about Hamlet’s story was that his intentions were for his own curiosity about his parents. Finding the truth, in the long-run, only benefited him and was not for the sake of anyone else. That proves that Hamlet’s morals opposed Oedipus’s morals. Oedipus was somewhat selfish in the way that he wanted to protect himself and his throne, but he also cared about his people and looked out for them while on his journey. Oedipus was proven to be a good leader while Hamlet was not proven to be anything other than what he already was. Therefore, it could be argued that Oedipus was a better person based on his values and morals.

Furthermore, Hamlet inquired about the truth directly by observing his murderous uncle’s reaction to the play, which was similar to the choices King Oedipus made through direct and decisive actions. Unlike the straightforward Oedipus, who did not use philosophy to help find the truth, Hamlet appeared more inventive in his search for the real murderer. Hamlet’s character utilized a psychological strategy to reveal the perpetrator. Using that route in his journey presents Hamlet as a rational person who could step aside and make the correct decision despite the emotions and doubts he was experiencing. Both characters had the strong desire to reveal the truth and punish the perpetrators; King Oedipus and Hamlet used various approaches. The active and energetic traits of Oedipus, and the philosophic and doubting traits of Hamlet led both characters to their goals. However, both plays came to a tragic end when, after revealing the truth, Oedipus and Hamlet were faced with their downfall (death). Therefore, both pieces had a similar lesson in the end: involving yourself in bad situations because of curiosity will have consequences. 

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