The Stories of Hamlet (Shakespeare) and the Odyssey (Homer)

Topics: Odyssey, Odysseus, Trojan War Pages: 6 (2279 words) Published: March 14, 2011
The Stories of Hamlet (Shakespeare) and the Odyssey (Homer)
Throughout the world of literature, of Homer’s The Odyssey and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, revenge has been a common theme. Revenge can come in the form of many faces. It can manifest itself through pride, greed, carelessness, and murder. Revenge can provoke deep dark feelings towards others. These feelings lead to one not thinking about what’s moral but instead to just act instinctually. Revenge is expressed on behalf of a fatal occurrence. An incidence such as an unfavorable event involving an object or a loved one can ignite a fire in one’s inner being, and lead them to unconscious actions. There are those who go about revenge differently. Instead of acting instinctually they use their God-like reason to meticulously carry out their revenge. These are the ways in which the authors portray their characters throughout their epics.

To the Greeks, life was all about striving to be the best you can be. They tried looking upon their actions and that of their neighbors to decide what was right and what was wrong. Greeks believed that there were superior deities to petition to. Although they were superior, they were not exactly good examples to look upon. These gods were merciless and unjust with their decisions and actions. For example: the story of Zeus and Sisyphus. Sisyphus helped the god of rivers to find his daughter and rescue her from being seduced by Zeus therefore Zeus punished Sisyphus in the afterlife. His punishment was to push a rock up a hill, and just as the top was almost reached, the rock would slip out of his hands and fall back down leading him to repeat the process all over. This punishment was unjust because Sisyphus did an action that to others would seem like a good cause, but to Zeus it was hybris. Hybris is a general insult to a god. Greeks revered their gods, but even though they had a higher power they would not follow their examples which made them to be more self-reliant and almost independent from their gods. These gods were very vengeful people as well as the Greeks themselves. In order for the Greeks to look upon themselves for right and wrong, they would have to be Polytropos; skilled in all things, as well as achieve arête; strive to be the best one can be. A great example of both of these qualities is that of Odysseus in The Odyssey written by Homer.

Homer approaches revenge in such a way that he explains the characters in detail and places them in situations where they carry out revenge either purposely or forcedly. Homer describes revenge through Odysseus’ adventures after the victory of the Trojan War in the book The Odyssey. At the very beginning of the book, Homer starts by invocating the muse: “TELL ME, O MUSE, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy… Moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save his own life and bring his men safely home; but do what he might he could not save his men, for they perished through their own sheer folly in eating the cattle of the Sun-god Apollo; so the god prevented them from ever reaching home.”

Homer, through this quote, summarizes the consequences that Odysseus’ men and Odysseus himself went through for either committing hybris, the act of gloating, or disobeying commands. These actions brought upon them shipwreck by Poseidon, and lastly the privilege of Nostos, or Homecoming, for everyone but Odysseus from the Sun-goddess.

A chain-like revenge mentioned in The Book was that of the Cyclops and Odysseus. By chain-like I mean that it started as a simple revenge and led to another. When Odysseus landed with his men on the land of the Cyclops, he was trapped with a man-eating creature that was not hospitable in any way. His savage character was frightening and despicable to Odysseus and his men. “The cruel wretch vouchsafed me not one word of answer, but with a sudden clutch he gripped up two of my men at once and dashed them...
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