A Comparison of Tragedy in Hamlet, The Book of Job, and Oedipus Rex

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Interpretations of Tragedy in Hamlet, The Book of Job, and Oedipus Rex

For ages, man has pondered upon the roots of destiny. Is the outcome of a man's life determined by human qualities and failings, the meddling of a divine power, or simple fate? Shakespeare's Hamlet made the argument that tragedy is caused by human folly. The idea that divine intervention is at the root of human suffering is put forth in the Book of Job. In Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, fate is given as the root of man's suffering. Three divergent perspectives on the origins of calamity exist within the tragedies Hamlet, Job, and Oedipus Rex.

Shakespeare's Hamlet enforced the idea that Human suffering is a result of human faults. Hamlet possesses extreme indecisiveness, but at times exhibits dangerous recklessness. Both contribute to his ultimate destruction. The majority of the play consisted of Hamlet deciding when, where, and how to kill Claudius, the murderer of his father. When Claudius is alone praying, Hamlet had the perfect chance to avenge his murdered father, but he decided to postpone the act. "Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent. / When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage" (Hamlet III.iii.88-89). If Hamlet had simply slew Claudius at that juncture, the situation would have never complicated; the story would have been over. Such innocents as Hamlet's mother, Polonius, Laertes, and Ophelia would have never met tragic ends. Although Hamlet possessed the fault of indecisiveness, at times, he exhibited a recklessness that led to suffering. When Hamlet was in his mother's room he heard a rustling behind a tapestry that he presumed was Claudius. He decided to kill the man behind the curtain without checking to make sure th...

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... misfortune is a matter of fate that cannot be changed by any mortal actions. All provide a valuable insight into one of life's greatest quandaries: the root of tragedy.

Works Cited

Green, Joel B., & Longman, Tremper (Eds.). Holy Bible -- The Everday Study Edition. Dallas: Word Publishing. 1996.

Shakespeare, William. The New Cambridge Shakespeare: Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Ed. Philip Edwards. Cambridge: Cambridge U P, 1985.

Sophocles. "Oedipus Rex." An Introduction to Literature, 11th ed. Eds. Sylvan Barnet, et al. New York: Longman, 1997.

Works Consulted

Fox, Robin Lane. The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible. New York: Vintage, 1991.

G. K. Chesterton, "Introduction to The Book of Job", The Hebrew Bible In Literary Criticism, Ed. and Comp. Alex Preminger and Edward L. Greenstein, (New York: Ungar)

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