Oedipus Rex vs. Hamlet

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A Web of Destruction
A snake, which weaves itself throughout the veins of a family, spews its fatal venom into capillaries and infecting the soul. The poison of betrayal, despair and the disease of the psyches cloud the mind in both Oedipus Rex and Hamlet. In both instances, all characters fall victim to a shattered world, ripped apart by failed expectancies. Prince Hamlet and King Oedipus both watch as their families become dismembered. There was a pattern of ideals that were violated and corrupt, progressing the plays’ actions. The helping hands which aided the unraveling of their lives were perverted concepts, everyday characteristics needed to lead a sane life. These corrupt philosophies which color the pages of these plays touch on the ideals of cursed love, crumbled loyalty, a broken family and the virtue of suffering; all of which aid in the destined doom of the characters.

Love is golden, pure. It’s the saving grace which sheds light in the darkest of nights. But in our main characters’ stories, it’s part of their downfall. In both novels, love is one of the threads that are snapped. The tainted, incestuous love of Jocasta and Oedipus Rex helped to prove the prophecy true. It was essentially a mockery of what love is, for they believed it to be true but in the end what they really felt was the love of a mother to her son. Teiresias lays the first seed of their crime, crying to him, “I say thou livest with thy nearest kin in infamy, unwitting in thy shame.” As the truth unfolds and the couple begins to realize the depth of their sins, the love which they once knew morphs into an ugly, distorted perversion. It resulted in Jocasta’s suicide and Oedipus’s loss of sanity. The revolting reality that the truth posed was too much for the characters to rationalize. In the case of Hamlet, Ophelia’s rejection only added to the deep depression that already colored the Prince’s mind. Hamlet’s spurned desire caused him to alienate Ophelia, leaving him lonelier and believing that there was no one there for him. As he was contemplating suicide, he includes the “pangs of despised love” as one of the wounds that ravage his mind. Our Prince is angered by Ophelia’s rejection and unleashes his wrath on her, accusing that “God has given you one face and you make yourselves another. You jig and amble, and you lisp, you nickname God’s creatures and make your wantonness your ignorance.” His isolation and cruelty left Ophelia reeling and despairing, thus ending with the taking of her own life. Another instance of “incest” was between Claudius and Gertrude. The taboo of their relationship brought about Gertrude’s death and added to Hamlet’s reasons for avenging his father by murdering Claudius.

When the cement bonds of family are crushed and ground into dirt, it could cause one to question their life, their worth. All they’ve known vanishes. Family is the stoic rock that is supposed to support you, be there for you in times of need. As Oedipus inadvertently betrays himself and his family, he spells out the demise of his blood line and all others involved. His family becomes a perversion of what a true one should be, spawned out of betrayal and sin. His realization of his broken family snaps his sanity, crying out, “Then had I never come to shed my father's blood nor climbed my mother's bed; the monstrous offspring of a womb defiled, co-mate of him who gendered me, and child. Was ever man before afflicted thus, like Oedipus?” because of the God’s will, he kills his own father and sleeps with his mother. He’s fulfilling the prophecy and his destiny, committing taboos that will end up ripping apart the seams of his rational mind. The betrayal of Jocasta and Laius helped the story to progress as well. If they’d never abandoned their newborn son for death, Oedipus might have avoided ignorantly sleeping with his mother and carelessly murdering his father. The cursed King also broke the trust of his people. He alone was the cause of the...
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