Oedipus by Sophocles vs. Hamlet by Shakespeare

Subject: History
Pages: 5
Words: 1447
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: School


“To be, or not to be: that is the question” – a quote that reflects to the most vivid and compelling extent the mental tossing, doubts, and torments of Oedipus and Hamlet due to several critical situations, problems, and circumstances. It is no secret that life is fraught with many adversities that are challenging to avoid, but a person must react, recovering from them. In this case, resilience is the ability to recover quickly from complex troubles. People take various actions, which makes their character unique. Thus, for instance, both Oedipus and Hamlet show resilience in multiple ways. Still, Oedipus fares better in it than Hamlet due to his ability to face reality, his dedication to pursuing truth, his proactive nature, his concern for his mistakes, and his willingness to face the consequences. In essence and nature, Oedipus shows the most extraordinary fortitude, endurance, perseverance, courage, and determination compared to Hamlet.


Primarily, one should remark that Oedipus is resilient because he overcame his tragic fate, becoming a fair leader and great father. Towards the end of the narrative, Oedipus worries about his children’s fate after everyone knows his actions of murdering his father and bearing children with his mother. Oedipus says: “I pray that Fate always remains on my side and that I stay on the path of the reverent” (Sophocles 101). This moment shows that he had come to terms with his fate and was dealing with the consequences without ignoring its effects on his children. On the other hand, Hamlet is not as resilient as Oedipus because although he is intelligent, he cannot overcome his dreadful fate as his thoughts and emotions consume him. He was so caught up in his head that he could not see the reality of what was happening around him. The hero was terrified, discouraged, and confused about making a crucial and prompt decision.

Oedipus can confront life issues and work tirelessly to find solutions. For example, when Oedipus learned that he had killed his father and married his mother, he did not try to deny or hide the truth. Instead, he accepted responsibility for his actions and took steps to make amends, immediately setting out to learn the truth. He interrogates witnesses, gathers evidence, and ultimately faces the painful truth about his identity. In contrast, when Hamlet learns that his father was murdered by his uncle, he withdraws himself from everyone else, and his sorrow drives him to suicidal thoughts, mental instability, and revenge.

Oedipus had a robust support system that stood by him in the face of affliction. For example, Creon and Oedipus’ wife were always present when needed. He encouraged Oedipus throughout the narrative, giving him hope. Creon responded to Oedipus that “No longer will you have to bear the burden of caring for me, which was difficult” (Sophocles 361). Creon never gave up on pursuing the truth for Oedipus, even when he was accused of killing his father. Hamlet did not have the same support system as Oedipus. Hamlet’s only confidante was his friend, Horatio, who was not always able to provide the level of support that Hamlet required.

Oedipus is more proactive than Hamlet in dealing with his problems. Oedipus takes the initiative to solve his problems, even if it means putting himself in danger. For instance, Oedipus actively investigates the claims of the prophecy, not denying the fact that it might be the cause of his troubles and those of his people. Sophocles (99) states, “but if he speaks of a single man, a lone murderer, then clearly the story points toward me.” This was Oedipus relating to his actions earlier in life, with the information they awaited from the servant who was presented at his young age. Oedipus was determined to establish truth, even if it was about him, for the sake of his people. In contrast, Hamlet is often passive, preferring to wait and see what will happen instead of taking action. Hamlet often shied away from adversity, preferring to retreat into his thoughts and brood over his problems.

Oedipus is more willing than Hamlet to face the consequences of his actions. Oedipus knew that his actions had results and were prepared to meet them. Oedipus accepted the truth about himself and his situation, even when it was painful. For example, when Oedipus realizes that the older man he murdered in his defense years ago was his father, he faces the truth boldly and accepts the punishment he promised as king. He further took off his own eyes to punish himself for his actions. In contrast, Hamlet often tries to avoid the consequences of his actions, preferring to bury his head in the sand. He often pretended to be insane to get away with his crimes. In Shakespeare (108), Hamlet states, “That I essentially am not in madness, but mad in craft.” He said this to the Queen as he helped her plot against the king.

Oedipus is more open and honest than Hamlet in dealing with others. “I will never relent in my tireless search until I have uncovered the truth about my birth” (Sophocles 129). This quote shows how Oedipus receives all news, whether good or bad, with openness and does everything to get to the roots of the truth before taking any actions. This made him stronger in handling situations about his birth. Hamlet in Shakespeare (58) states, “Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. To me, it is a prison.” Hamlet constantly internalizes his thoughts and emotions, which leads him to believe that everything is terrible, making him less resilient.

Oedipus is more optimistic than Hamlet in outlook. Oedipus believes that things will eventually get better, even in adversity. On the other hand, Hamlet often has a pessimistic view, thinking that things will always stay the same or worsen. In Shakespeare (74), Hamlet says, “For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, the oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, the pangs of disprized love, the law’s delay, the insolence of office, and the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes, when he might his quietus make with a bare bodkin?” This quote from Hamlet shows that he is not hopeful about his situation. He believes that life is full of misery and suffering and that there is no hope for things to get better.

Oedipus regretted his actions and was remorseful, but Hamlet was not known for repentance and always ended up consumed by revenge. “Against those two I have committed acts so vile that even if I hanged myself that would not be sufficient punishment” (Sophocles 59). In this quote, Oedipus is concerned about the adversities he committed against his parents. Acceptance of truth is always a strength in dealing with painful experiences. Oedipus does not see any punishment on earth that could cover his mistakes, showing his remorsefulness for all that occurred. In Shakespeare (111), Hamlet responds to Rosencrantz by saying, “Compounded it with dust, whereto ‘is kin” when asked where he placed the dead body. His response depicts his uncaring attitude, a trait that prevented him from attaining resilience.

However, Oedipus is less patient than Hamlet, although he makes amends after realizing his mistakes. Oedipus’ quick actions bore so much trouble for him and his people. In Sophocles (96), Oedipus narrates, “I paid him back, though, with interest, and before he knew what hit him, I swatted him with a stick.” He killed an older adult who later happened to be his father and king Laius. In this case, Oedipus showed less resilience than Hamlet. Hamlet always took time to plan his crafty ideas, which eventually led to devastating outcomes, the death of Polonius, the king’s right-hand man. He was accustomed to attaining revenge, preventing him from achieving peace.


Resilience is one of the essential qualities of two different but, at the same time, similar to each other characters. Nevertheless, the analysis of the works demonstrated that Oedipus shows more extraordinary grit, courage, determination, and perseverance than Hamlet. At the same time, Hamlet “plays to the public” and uses cunning techniques, tactics, and strategies to achieve what he wants. However, even when faced with adversity, Oedipus does not hide and does not run away from problems but realizes, accepts them, tries to correct the situation, and lives in harmony with himself, following the fate and foundations of society. Hamlet, in his reflections, shows less confidence and even carelessness, deceiving himself and others. It is more difficult for him to find a certain balance, a “golden mean” that would allow him to be characterized as a resilient character.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Tragedy by William Shakespeare. Culturea, 2022.

Sophocles. Oedipus Trilogy: New Versions of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2019.