Resilience of Sophocles’ Oedipus and Shakespeare’ Hamlet
Witnessing the death of a loved one and realizing that now a person has to come to terms and live with this loss is a very difficult challenge in a person’s life. It is known that humans usually experience the loss of their friends and relatives in different ways. Some people, while grieving, can move on; others fall into a severe depression and do not see any reason in their further being; and there are also those who experience strong rage and a desire to punish the guilty person, even if there is none.
In such situations, it is beneficial for one to have such a character trait as resilience, which is the ability to find the strength in oneself to quickly recover from a tragedy and withstand adversity. Since this pain is familiar to almost everyone, this topic was raised by writers in ancient times and later. The purpose of this paper is to explore the resilience of Hamlet in the play of the same name by Shakespeare and Oedipus from Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex.
To begin with, it is essential to notice that it is rather controversial whether to consider both characters resilient enough. For instance, in Sophocles’ play, there is another character who demonstrates more strength and inner power over her irrational emotions. Jocasta, the mother and wife of Oedipus and also the mother of his children, learns the horrible truth about their blood relations. However, in order to keep the peace and safety of her family, she remains strong and decides to hide this knowledge from her husband. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Oedipus himself.
His fate is rather difficult and unhappy, and the event that completely changes his life is the murder of his father. Oedipus the King is extremely determined to find the guilty person and punish them:
And I pray
whoever the man is who did this crime,
one unknown person acting on his own
or with companions, the worst of agonies
will wear out his wretched life (Sophocles, n.d., 284-288).
Despite the fact that the King is searching for the murderer, he is able to live his own life and be happy with his wife and children. However, after learning that he himself is the killer, Oedipus loses his mind. He is not able to show resilience anymore, and the realization of committing two crimes, including the murder of the father and an intimate relationship with the mother, is unbearable. Oedipus has no more hope:
Now I am abandoned by the gods,
the son of a corrupted mother,
conceiving children with the woman
who gave me my own miserable life (Sophocles, n.d.,1606-1609).
After that, Oedipus blinds himself and insists on his expulsion from his native lands.
As for Hamlet, he is also determined to punish his father’s murderer. This goal even becomes an imperative idea, and the audience can observe how Hamlet gradually loses his mind. For example, to make sure that Claudius is guilty, Hamlet even replays the scene of the murder of his father (Shakespeare, n.d.). Despite some irrational actions, including the accidental killing of Polonius (Shakespeare, n.d., 3,4,30), Hamlet is able to maintain his inner strength and survive different adversities. Additionally, the fact that he does not immediately kill Claudius during his prayers and confession but analyses the situation proves that he can think coldly and avoid spontaneous actions:
Now might I do it pat, now he is a-praying,
And now I’ll do ’t.
And so he goes to heaven,
And so am I revenged (Shakespeare, n.d., 3,3, 77-80).
Overall, it is possible to say that both characters show resilience, but Hamlet demonstrates it more since he is able to control his emotions and irrational actions.
Shakespeare. (n.d.). Hamlet. Folger Shakespeare Library. Web.
Sophocles. (n.d.). Oedipus Rex [PDF document]. Web.