Hamlet and Oedipus: Free Will versus Fate Essay

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For ages, man has sought to be in command of his life. The common debate is

whether we, as human beings, have free will or if a divine force, sometimes referred to as

fate, determines our destiny. Though the two plays, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and

Sophocles’s Oedipus were written in two different eras, these two ideas are common

between them. Although Hamlet and Oedipus both strive to be in control of their lives,

Oedipus refuses to accept his destiny and therefore unknowingly fulfills his fate.

In less than 2 months of the death of Hamlet’s father, the King of Denmark, his

mother marries the brother of the deceased King. This speedy marriage causes Hamlet a

lot of grief for he feels that he has not only
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When the time comes for them to escort him to England he

has no remorse as he sends them to their deaths, “…he should those bearers put to sudden

death, not shriving-time allow’d.” (142). In this way, Oedipus is a lot like Hamlet in that

he shows no compassion when killing the travelers after being pushed off the road by

them, “He more than paid for it…I killed him. I killed them all.” (Sophocles, 44). After

Oedipus finds out that his prophecy has become true he banishes himself from the city

and renounces the throne to Creon. But even then he tries to exert control over Creon and

his daughters’ destiny, first by asking him to adopt his daughters so they will have an

appropriate and normal ancestry, “…they have no father left but you. You must not see

your blood go down in beggary…” (79) and then (in contradiction) by asking that his

daughters not be taken away from him, “No, no, never! Don’t take them from me.” (80).

At the end of the play Creon sees the true character of Oedipus and his need to control

everything, “Stop this striving to be master of all. The mastery you had in life has been

your fall.” (80).

As Shakespeare’s play nears the end, and Hamlet returns to Denmark from the

sea, he tells Horatio the trip was full of accidents, and he is now convinced that there is a

divine power in control of everything that happens, “There’s a divinity that

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