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Examining Themes Of Revenge And Relationships English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1025 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Throughout the plays Oedipus the King by Sophocles and Hamlet by Shakespeare many different themes are visible. Two of the most important include the themes of revenge and the importance of the relationship between father and son. There are numerous times in each play that the themes are brought up. Revenge and relationships present in the plays are just a few of the themes that have been examined throughout history. Themes hold a very strong importance because they provide the main ideas of the story or play. Themes are also general ideas that are widely known and hold great importance in society.

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People choose to seek revenge on others when they have perceived that someone has done something that is not right, or performed an act that has hurt the other persons feelings. In Oedipus the King, Creon dialogues, “He was murdered; and Apollo commands us now to take revenge upon whoever killed him” (1288.110) It could be said that revenge is a natural, common feeling in human being. No one likes feeling as though someone should be able to get away with committing a terrible crime, the circumstance in this play, killing the King. When something affects a whole area, such as the murder of the King, it is possible to say that most of the people who King Laius ruled over would want to see revenge taken on whoever murdered their king.

When the shepherd comes from Corinth he tells Oedipus “It was said that the boy would kill his own father” (1313.62) The idea of killing one’s own father as an adult, is a difficult concept to think about. If asked, most boys would argue that they would never kill their own father no matter what. Oedipus had no idea that King Laios was his father though, he believed his father was the man who raised him, King of Corinth. This idea of jealousy towards the same sex parent and wanting to be with the opposite sex parent has been explored for many years by Freud and other psychologists, and based on the storyline of this distinguished play, the occurrence of such a thing has been nicknamed the Oedipus complex.

Early on in the story Oedipus promises to seek revenge on whoever killed King Laios, before he knows that it is him. Most people would have made up excuses, fled or prevented the public from finding out that it was themselves who killed King Laios. But Oedipus admitted that it was him and even sought a kind of revenge on himself. “This punishment that I have laid upon myself is just. If I had eyes I do not know how I could bear the sight of my father, when I came to the house of Death.” (1319.140) Gouging out your own eyes is an act that is so gruesome that most people would never be able to perform such an act on themselves. Oedipus kept his promise made in the beginning and sought revenge on the one who killed King Laios, even though it was he who committed the crime.

Switching from Oedipus the King to Hamlet, the relationships between father and son change from a terrible situation in which the son has killed the father in Oedipus, to in Hamlet where the son loves his father and deeply wants to avenge his fathers death. When Hamlet first talks to his father’s ghost the ghost dialogues “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (1.5.26) In adulthood it is probable that any son who was raised with a father figure around would want to know if that father was murdered and be sure to seek revenge on whoever did it. The relationship between Hamlet and the deceased King Hamlet is very strong, strong enough for him to be able to speak to him in his afterlife.

During the story Claudius and Gertrude comment many times on the way Hamlet is behaving, as if the loss of a parent or husband should cause grief only for a short time, as was shown by Gertrude by her speedy new marriage. Maybe if the ghost of the King had not come back at all, Prince Hamlet would have had an easier time getting over the death of his father. If only he was left to believe that his death was natural and peaceful. Of course, some time to grieve the loss is crucial, but knowing that his father was murdered and by the man who is now married to his mother, Hamlet was perceived as a bit crazy by those around him because he felt the emotional need to avenge the crime.

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Revenge is a bit of a dangerous thing in any story, it strives merely on emotions and does not use any logic or reasoning. Hamlet was trying to prove that Claudius was guilty of the murder of his father. When Hamlet puts on the production of the play in order to prove Claudius’s guilt, it lets Claudius know that Hamlet has found him out and puts him on his toes, knowing he needs to watch out for himself. Hamlet was not the only one looking to avenge the death of his father, Laertes is deeply angered by the death of his father and his sister, and feels the need to avenge them. Fortinbras also wanted to seek revenge for his father who was killed by Hamlet’s father who then took the land that should have belonged to Fortinbras. When Laertes arrives with hopes of avenging his fathers death Claudius is happy to give forth the information that it was Hamlet who murdered his father. Claudius’s own sort of revenge is to get Hamlet out of the way and prevent him from telling anyone that he was indeed the murderer of King Hamlet.

Throughout both Oedipus the King and Hamlet, revenge and father-son relationships are important themes shown numerous times. These themes provide the drama necessary to entice the audience and keep them entertained. Without the stupidity of the male characters and the need of them to avenge the deaths of their loved ones, the royal families in both stories would never have died. If the main characters had been females the story lines would have been totally different, most girls wouldnot have chosen to seek revenge. But of course, Shakespeare and Sophocles knew that. Without the character’s as they were, neither of them would have had such successful plays that will last for many more years to come.


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