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The Theme of Hamlet Revenge Through the Play

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  As the popular proverb states: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Resilience is defined as the ability to adapt to the events in a person’s life. Resilient person can bounce back more quickly, with less stress, and not give up on life when things get hard. I believe that Hamlet shows greater resilience than Oedipus because even though neither of these tragic heroes chose new or more effective courses of action in dealing with their problems, Hamlet exhibits more control over his life and has a higher level of emotional intelligence.

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Defined by Amy Morin, “mental strength implies that you regulate your emotions, manage your thoughts, and behave in a positive manner, despite your circumstances.” Although neither Oedipus nor Hamlet chose new and more effective courses of action in dealing with their problems, I believe Hamlet is slightly more mentally strong. Oedipus seems to be in absolute control of his life until the truth is revealed. He is not mentally tough and his spirit is broken. He gives up by poking his eyes out. Oedipus shrieks these lines after he blinds himself:

‘Dark, dark! The horror of darkness, like a shroud,

Wraps me and bears me on through mist and cloud.

Ah me, ah me! What spasms athwart me shoot,

What pangs of agonizing memory?’

At this moment, Oedipus realizes that he truly killed his father and slept with his mother. He is unable to cope with the truth and blinds himself physically. He never considers any alternative courses of action, like seeking support and solace from his brother, prophets or gods.

On the other hand, Hamlet sees no way to honor his father except by killing Claudius. Driven by his father’s orders and by tradition, Hamlet becomes a prisoner of his obligation for revenge. He states:

“How all occasions do inform against me,

And spur my dull revenge! What is a man

If his chief good and market of his time

Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.” 

Hamlet never considers alternative ways of dealing with the king. He could have talked to his mother. He also could have sought guidance from other high ranking members of the family and the Court. Instead, he is overwhelmed by his indecision whether to avenge his father or not. This paralyzes him and brings devastating consequences.

Emotional resilience means bouncing back from a stressful situation and can be defined as “your ability to use your emotions intelligently and appropriately in different situations.” I believe Hamlet exhibited better emotional intelligence because he is more aware of his thoughts, emotions, and inner potentials and thinks before reacting. Facing your fears, having a support group and having different ways of coping with a situation are good for resilience. However, being over-confident and not being able to control your negative emotions are not. Oedipus fears the prophecy of killing his father and marrying his mother. Once he realizes that the prophecy is true, he goes into a great depression. He ends up poking his own eyes out as he can no longer look into the eyes of the people. With blood streaming from his blind eyes, Oedipus goes into a rage and angrily rants at his fate and the infinite darkness that embraces him. He begs to be banished from Thebes and curses all births, marriages, and lives, as well as his own. Oedipus has no control over his emotions whatsoever. He is sad, embarrassed, depressed, angry and guilty over the things he has done.

In contrast, Hamlet is an actor prompted by heaven and hell to seek revenge for his murdered father. He is unschooled in his art and fears the consequences. His judgmental conscience stifles his emotions. He cannot sympathize with his mother or follow the Ghost’s instructions to defend her honor because his fears blind him. However, although Hamlet is also depressed and angry, he has more control over his emotions and fights to make the right choices. Having a good control of situations makes a person more resilient.

Finally, the last thing which I believe allows Hamlet advantage over Oedepus, is his locus of control. Locus of control refers to the extent to which individuals feel that they have control over the events that impact their lives. A person with an internal locus of control base their success on their own efforts and abilities. A person with an external locus of control base their success on luck or fate. Oedipus strongly believes in fate and swears that fate far overpowers human will. His desperate attempt to escape fate arises from a desire to live without committing shameful acts. Oedipus displays his power and greatness in what he regards as his heroic search for the murderer of Laius. He is blindly confident that he has taken care of his fate which initiates the fall that ends in his literal blindness. This serves as his way of taking control of the pain that torments him. The violence inhibits and weakens Oedipus’ fury. He accepts his fate by becoming one with it: ‘I am agony’. Everything that has happened to him is his own fault and is therefore the fault of fate. Oedipus ultimately surrenders to his destiny. He believes he has little control over his life and what happens to him. He has an external locus of control.

At the same time, fate and freewill both have a place in the life of Hamlet. His actions are carried out by his own freewill but determine his fate. This reflects Hamlet’s belief that a person’s fault or fortune can not be something that he chooses, but simply something that happens that can not be controlled. The quote ‘nature’s livery, or fortune’s star’ falls more into the freewill spectrum. While Hamlet’s fate is presented to him through the form of a ghost, who resembles his father, it is Hamlet who agreeably decides to murder the king. Hamlet declares that fate is driving him forward. However, he also realizes that fate will always have its way no matter how he deals with it. He knows that death will come when the time is right and has given up trying to interfere with fate. For Hamlet, the choice between good and evil represents a man’s basic dilemma. Though fate may ultimately win, a man must fight in order to remain the master of his own choices and decide if and how his fate defeats him. Overall, I believe Hamlet has more of an internal locus of control.

Resiliency is standing up for something that you believe in. It is the characteristic of rebellion and strength inside of a person. Although Oedipus seems powerful and in charge of his destiny, he is vulnerable and powerless and only slightly controls his own life. However, throughout the entire play, Hamlet’s notion of revenge drives him to avenge his father’s death. He is willing to risk everything, because he truly believes that he is just in his actions and beliefs. Hamlet’s choices are direct and essentially destroy him. Hamlet continues to be aware of himself, his shortcomings, and his powerlessness. He seeks his fate through intellectual guidance. Hamlet sees the world all too clearly. Overall, I believe Hamlet is more resilient because despite everything that happens, he tries hard to control and deal with his problems and thinks before acting. He exhibits more control over his life and does not give up, no matter what.  

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