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Oedipus Rex, Hamlet, & Willy Loman Comparison

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Oedipus Rex, Hamlet, & Willy Loman Comparison

“Still, the Truth Remains”

An immense desire for personal satisfaction, and extraordinary reputation can often result in a sickly, perverse distortion of reality. In Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, a man well known for his intellect and wisdom, finds himself blind to the truth of his life, and his parentage. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet also contains a character that is in search of the truth, which ultimately leads to his own demise, as well as the demise of many around him. Arthur Miller’s play, The Death of a Salesman, tells of a tragic character so wrapped up in his delusional world, that reality and illusion fuse, causing an internal explosion that leads to his downfall. Each play enacts the struggle of a man attempting to come to grips with his own, harsh reality and leaving behind his comfortable fantasy world. In the end, no man can escape the truth no matter how hard he may fight it. In choosing the fragility of chimera over the stability of reality, the characters meet their inevitable ruin.

From the beginning of Sophocles’ unfortunate play, Oedipus Rex, Oedipus takes many actions and makes many choices leading to his own collapse. He could have endured the plague, but out of sympathy for his anguished citizens, he has Creon go to Delphi. When he learns of Apollo’s word, he could have calmly investigated the murder of the former King Laios, but in his hastiness, he condemns the murderer, forbidding the fellow citizens “ever to receive that man or speak to him…let him join in sacrifice, lustration…driven from every house,” (632-3). In doing so, he inadvertently curses

himself. Oedipus chooses to ignore multiple warnings, involving truth of his life and parentage. He chooses to disregard the ruinous prophecy of his fate to murder his father and wed his mother, since he thinks he can escape the divination of the gods. Oedipus attempts to defy the gods by fleeing his homeland, Corinth, but instead launches himself directly into the hands of fate. Oedipus ignores another warning of truth in ignoring the words of Teiresias. He believes he has successfully escaped his own destiny and, therefore, Teiresias’ words mean nothing, yet Oedipus could not have been farther from the truth. In a few moments, Teiresias provides Oedipus with everything he needs to know concerning his fate by saying, “You yourself are the pollution of this country,” (635). Despite this obvious proclamation of truth, Oedipus chooses to wallow in his pleasant fantasy, that he has escaped his inevitable fate. Oedipus’ foolish decisions ultimately lead to his downfall in the play. Oedipus chooses to kill Laios. He chooses to marry Iocaste. He chooses to forcefully, and publicly, assume the mission of discovering the identity of Laios’ murderer saying ironically, “I say I take the son’s part, just as though I were his son, to press the fight for him and see it won,” (633). He proceeds on this mission and chooses to ignore the warnings of Creon, Iocaste, Teiresias, the messenger, the shepherd, and anyone who attempts to stand between him and the truth; and, he chooses to blind himself. In the end, Oedipus’ most foolish choice prevails throughout the play; the choice of illusion over reality ultimately costs him his life.

Similar to the quest for truth in Oedipus’ case, so does Hamlet lead to his own decease. In the first act of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, after Hamlet is aware of the tormented ghost of his father walking on the ramparts, he goes to witness it for himself. This immediately exemplifies the theory that Hamlet, like Oedipus, is in search of the truth, until he realizes it is too much to bear. Subsequent to seeing the apparition, he is convinced to avenge his father’s murderer. The ghost tells him, “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder,” (29). As Hamlet lays the trap for the new King Claudius, he is procrastinating in order to solve his self-doubt. Even after the ghost tells Hamlet how his father was murdered, Hamlet has the players act it out, just to be certain. His ambiguity of the truth remains constant. Although the king gives himself away after watching the reenactment of his brother’s murder, by shouting, “Give me some light. Away!” (79), Hamlet is still inconclusive. Hamlet must speak with his mother before he persists his plans for revenge. Hamlet meets with his mother in an attempt to set her straight. He intends on making her understand the truth behind her wrongdoings. “Come, come, and sit you down; you shall not budge. You go not, till I set up a glass where you may see the inmost part of you,” (88). It was Gertrude’s subsequent reaction that led to the pivotal moment when Hamlet kills Polonius. The murder of Polonius was completely impetuous. It is only after the reappearance of the apparition that Hamlet begins to ease up on his mother. It is by this moment in time,

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