In life, destiny is the future shaped by one’s choices. It is not predetermined but rather influenced by the changes someone makes. In order for someone to successfully fulfill their destiny, they must be patient, reflect on their situations and feelings. This is demonstrated in the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare through the character of Hamlet and how he successfully fulfills his destiny by choosing to be patient and reflect on events and his feelings before taking action. Whereas, Oedipus in the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles makes hasty and thoughtless choices instead of being patient and allow fate his fate to take over. Through this, the plays reveal that a person who is patient and reflects on their situation as well as their feelings before taking action, will successfully fulfil their destiny.
The personalities of Oedipus and Hamlet need discussing first to facilitate a better understanding of their approaches to life. From exploring the play, it becomes evident to readers that Oedipus is a kind of a protagonist that is attractive by his immense desire to solve any problems that he encounters at any cost. For example, when he discovers that the reason behind the epidemic of plague in Thebes is the missing murderer of the former king, Laius, he is reasonable to wonder why the criminal has not been apprehended. Thus, driven by the desire to find the truth no matter what, Oedipus shows excellent persistence and uses every chance available to him to find out the information that may lead to discovery. Being highly decisive and hot-tempered, Oedipus does not possess any political ambiguity when striving for the truth, even in the face of the danger of losing his power or his life.
In contrast to King Oedipus, who is incredibly persistent and active in his pursuit of the truth, Hamlet presents as a less energetic character. While he also wants to find the truth, and the desire is strong, he takes the position of the philosopher rather than a warrior. Hamlet is shown to precede his actions with great contemplation and reflection on what takes place around him. As compared to Oedipus, Hamlet approaches his “battles” with intuition and voices his concerns when things seem to perfect, which is why he often uses caution in decision-making.
Firstly, Hamlets choosing to be patient makes him successful in fulfilling his destiny. Comparing Hamlet and Oedipus on their mission to find the truth, Hamlet gives himself time to respond to a situation before taking action contrary to Oedipus. Consequently, Hamlet is successful since he listens to the instructions of revenge given to him by the ghost and waits to carry out the plan until he knows the truth about who murdered his father. The Ghost reveals to Hamlet that Claudius is responsible for his fathers death. In their conversation, the ghost explains to Hamlet that Claudius is jealous of what he accomplished. Due to the confrontation, Hamlet wonders whether he can trust the Ghost: “The spirit that I have seen / May be a devil” (Shakespeare, III. i.). Hamlet realizes that if the ghost is a devil rather than the spirit of his father, it is possible that he will manipulate him into committing regicide. As a patient, reflective person, Hamlet does not want to risk damning his soul by following the plan. By questioning the validity of the Ghost and his message, Hamlet figures out the truth and successes at revenge. On the other hand, Oedipus struggles to listen to Tiresias when he confronts him about the death of King Laius.He tells Teiresias, as blind as he is, he cannot make guesses about things to harm him or any man who sees light; “ Your eyes are blind! You live in endless darkness of the night, so you can never injure me or any man who can glimpse daylight” (Sophocles, 449-450). He quickly assumes that Teiresias tells him he is the murderer because he wants to him to loose his status as the king of Thebes. Oedipus’s ignorance leads him to his blindness of the truth when he denies the truth about the killer of king Laius and allows fate to cause his downfall as he actually becomes blind. This
proves that Hamlets success is caused by his ability to reflect on a situation before taking action, whereas Oedipus completely ignores it and allows the consequences to be take over. as Hamlet follows the ghost to find the truth, Oedipus rejects the truth by insulting the deliverer of the truth. This makes Hamlet more successful in his mission than Oedipus because Hamlet embraces the truth whereas Oedipus ignores it and takes action right away, allowing the consequences to take over. Secondly, Hamlet is successful in his mission as he patiently waits for the right time to take revenge as Oedipus allows his emotions to drive thoughtless decision making. This can be seen throughout the play as Hamlet delays avenging his fathers death. At this point in the play, Hamlet feels the desire to avenge his fathers death but does not. He feels that killing Claudius while praying would “ send [this same villain] to heaven” while his father, who is unjustly murdered, suffers in hell (Shakspeare, III.iii.). Hamlet knows that it is better for him to wait till later on in the play to take revenge. That way he will successfully take revenge as Claudius will suffer in hell too. Contrarily, Oedipuss impatience causes him to make hasty decisions. At three crossroads, Oedipus kills king Laius for the reason being that he was in his way. He explains to Jocasta that, ” I lashed out at the driver, who was shoving me aside. The old man, seeing me walking past him in the carriage, kept his eye on me, and with his double goad struck me on the head […] Then I killed them all.” (Sophocles 800-810). From this quote, it is evident that Oedipus is a character who makes decisions based on his feelings as oppose to the situation. Oedipus is at the verge of finding the killer of King Laius which he knows could be him. He becomes aware that he could be the one to suffer the severe punishment of having his eyes plucked out. Sensing his own downfall, he opens up to Jocasta as he tells her about how he hastily killed some people at the three cross roads without giving it a second thought. This proves that Oedipus’s hastiness in decision making makes him impatient as he takes action before giving a second thought and gives fate the power to make him the murderer of King Laius. This shows that Hamlet is more successful in achieving his destiny, contrary to Oedipus as he lets fate take control of him by the decisions he makes without reflecting on the situation.
In conclusion, both Hamlet and Oedipus are on a mission to find the truth. While Oedipus appears more proactive in his search for answers, Hamlet usually takes the approach of a bystander and analyst who pieces information together to create a complete picture. Therefore, Hamlet is more successful than Oedipus, likely because of his character. Hamlet chooses to be patient and reflect on situations and his feelings before taking action therefore. This is apparent through the choices they make when they reflect on a situation and choose to be patient.
Shakespeare William. Hamlet. Flux, an Imprint of North Star Editions, Inc., 2017.
Sophocles. Oedipus The King. Flux, an Imprint of North Star Editions, Inc., 2014-2015.