Compare and contrast Hamlet by Shakespeare and Odyssey by Homer
Hamlet is a poetic play about a young prince, Hamlet who returns home and finds that his father has been murdered by his brother, Claudius. Claudius is not only the king but has married Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude. The spirits of the slain king come haunting the living. The brother’s assassination and revengeful ghost control the disconsolate plot of the story. Upon their encounter, the ghost accuses his brother killing him and turning to marry his wife and seeks revenge (Shakespeare and Roma, Act1, scene5). Through the pressure exerted, Hamlet gives in to revenge her father’s death. He mourns and refuses both the king and queen’s consolations. He tells Claudius “A little more than kin, and less than kind,” (Shakespeare, p10). Claudius grows suspicious and sends two of Hamlet’s students, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy him but he notices and tells them “Denmark’s a prison!”(p16).The instability experienced in the kingdom posits a threat where the bordering states are seeking to attack. The ploy of unrelenting ghost, revenge, madness, and death sets the pace for this play.
On the other hand, Odyssey is a poetic epic set on Odysseus, the Ithaca king, as the hero of Greece and his long voyage home after defeating Troy. His ten years journey full of adventures forced him to wander around several territories. Some welcomed him and gave him gifts while others they robbed. While narrating his adventures to the Phaeacians, Odysseus explains “I sacked the town and killed the men. We took their wives and shared their riches equally among ourselves,” (Homerus and Emily, p20) Back at home his suitors are taking control of the palace and persuading his wife, Penelope to get married because he is dead, which she refuses. It also contains the Telemachus trip to search for his father after receiving the news with the help of Athena that his father is alive. The suitors are brewing and their conquest is to take over the kingdom. Finally, Odysseus returns home as a beggar to conceal his identity. With the assistance from his loyal servants, he kills all the suitors and reunites with his wife. Zeus sends out Athena to preach peaceful coexistence.
There are ideas of love, revenge, doubt, death, and honor. But the outstanding ideology in these two poetic books is the theme of revenge. Vengeance is the core pillar in both Hamlet and Odyssey and cuts across the entire plays. In Hamlet drama, the prince is seeking to avenge his father’s death. Learte is also seeking to revenge the death of his father, Polonius (Shakespeare and Roma). Further, Ophelia drowning into the river is also an act of revenge. From the Odyssey, the king takes revenge killing the suitors who wanted to seize power from him. Calypso, the goddess detains Odysseus for not loving her. The Poseidon, the sea god storms the voyage of Odysseus, as a revenge for the hero blinding his son. The act of the hero blinding Cyclops Polyphemus is also an act of revenge because the letter had slaughtered and eaten the hero’s members.
The ghost of Old Hamlet comes on seeking revenge upon the brother who killed him and married his wife through the son. In his, encounter Hamlet come to learn about his father’s killers. The voice pressurizes the prince to swear vengeance on her uncle who killed his further but to spare her mother. The prince stages a drama to test his uncle that indeed Claudius is the killer, an event that the king storms out before he is killed. The king sends Hamlet captive in England to be killed but as a result of the pirate attack, he returns. Hamlet narrates to Horatio the whole journey story and believes that there are some unseen powers which control everything that happens when he states that “There is a divinity that shapes our ends,” (Shakespeare and Roma, Act2, scene2)
Claudius plots a new plan to assassinate Hamlet by arranging for a fence fighting. Osric informs Hamlet of the arranged fight which he immediately accepts irrespective of Horatio’s warning “You will lose my lord” which doesn’t worry him (Shakespeare, p22). He is quoted: ‘if it be now, ‘tis not to come: if it be not to come, it is will be now.’ The king poisons Laertes sword so that Hamlet would die when the blood is drawn. Further, he poisons goblet from which the prince is to drink from when he wins. The prince wins but refuses to drink from the goblet. The queen comes and drinks from it and dies. Learte succeeds in stubbing Hamlet by the sword but he doesn’t die. Learte confesses that the sword was poisoned and blames the king “The king- the king’s to blame,” ((Shakespeare, p23). Hamlet wounds his uncle and forces him to drink the rest of the poisoned goblet and he dies. Hamlet while sensing death he states to Horatio ‘report me and my cause a right’ to the world and then dies (Act4, scene4).
In addition, revenge also manifests in the book, when Laertes returns to establish the cause of his father’s death. The king convinces him that Hamlet is to be blamed for the death. He assures him his support to take revenge against the killer. When Claudius arranges for a fight between him and Hamlet he quickly accepts just to avenge his father`s death. He proceeds in his vengeance by stabbing Hamlet with the poisoned sword. Though at the later drama, he forgives Hamlet for the murder, the poison kills the prince. Hamlets sentiments “I say we will have no more marriage. Those that have married already -all but one- shall live?” drives Ophelia crazy, and when she learns that her father is also dead she drowns in the river ((Shakespeare and Roma, p17). It is to serve as revenge where she thinks that by doing so she might have accomplished some mission. By the graveyard, Laertes and Hamlet fight because the former thinks that the latter knows very well the cause of his sister’s death since they were once lovers.
On the Odyssey revenge, the hero, Odysseus, slaughters all the suitors who wanted to seize power from him. On his return, he finds that the king’s palace has been preoccupied with the suitors. On the drama arranged by the wife to identify the man who will marry her, Odysseus appears and succeeds in the task after the others have failed. He reveals himself and asks the suitors to tear his path. On their refusal Odysseus and his son with the help of his loyalists murders all the suitors. He recaptures the power, reunites with his faithful wife and orders Athena to spread peace messages across the kingdoms. The book quotes “Finally, at last, with joy the husband and the wife arrived back in the rites of their old marriage bed,” (Homerus, and Emily, p72).
On the journey to see his father, Learte, Odysseus is attacked by family members avenging for the death of their suitors. But his father slays the father of Antinous to end the attack. Zeus then sends peace envoys to bring back the lost peace. Calypso, the beautiful goddess held the king captive for refusing to satisfy her undying love for him. Irrespective of the king longing for his home and family, the goddess refuses to let him leave. Odysseus preference is to “see even just the smoke that rises from his homeland,” (Homerus and Emily, p3). Homerus states that “Cyclopic people have no red-cheeked ships, no shipwright among them who could build boats, to enable them row across to other cities, as most people do” (p21). He sobs by the shores of the “fruitless sea” for any boat that can take him home.
Through Hermes Calypso is persuaded and let Odysseus leave the island. Furthermore, Poseidon act is revenge because the god of the sea was unpleased when the king blinded his son. He attacks Odysseus voyage by storms though he doesn’t succeed as Athena come for Odysseus rescue. Blinding of Cyclops Polyphemus is also an act of revenge since he had murdered and eaten Odysseus men.
The theme of revenge is identified as a strong pillar in both the cases, where the characters stage revenge against their enemies. In both, there is revenge for love, where Ophelia drowns because Hamlet has rejected him and Calypso detaining Odysseus for refusing to fall in love with her (Homerus and Emily). In both, the writings revenge is centered upon the protection of the territory and power. When Hamlet seeks revenge he aims at protecting the throne not to be in the hand of his uncle who rules through deceit. Odysseus kills the suitors to retain the throne and keep it out of bound for enemies. This makes the acts of revenge to be interested centered.
On contrary, the revenge in Hamlet is majorly individual-centered where you find that individual characters are killed. Hamlet revenges his father’s death by killing Claudius, Clearte focuses on killing Hamlet and Ophelia droves to revenge her rejection by Hamlet (Shakespeare and Roma). In the Odyssey case, the revenge is group centered. Odyssey and son together with his loyalists seize and kill the suitors. The storm attacked a voyage and there was a group attack on Odysseus when he visited his father. Additionally, in the Hamlet case, the main character dies while in the second plot the main character survives. Odysseus is depicted as a hero while Hamlet is not given such accolade.
Homerus, and Emily Wilson. The Odyssey. W.W. Norton & Company, 2018.
Shakespeare, William, and Roma Gill. Hamlet. Oxford University Press, 2002.
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