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Who was more loyal and why, Hamlet or Odysseus?Who was more loyal and why, Hamlet or...

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girl224 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted July 29, 2011 at 1:34 AM via web

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Who was more loyal and why, Hamlet or Odysseus?

Who was more loyal and why, Hamlet or Odysseus?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 29, 2011 at 5:46 AM (Answer #2)

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In answering this question, it seems appropriate to look at each man in terms of being a hero. Odysseus fights against the Trojans and proves himself repeatedly in his endeavor to return home, while facing some of the most dangerous (and interesting) "villains" in Homer's epic, The Odyssey. Oddyseus has the help of Athena while he, imperfect as all people (even heroes) are, so he is fortunate to have someone to assist him in his trials and tribulations.

On the other hand, Hamlet, in Shakespeare's play, is relatively alone. Except for the trusted friendship of Horatio, he is surrounded by people who are dangerous (Claudius), untrustworthy (Polonius), unknown "quantities" (Gertrude and Ophelia), and puppets of those he must fear (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern). In the tragedy of Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark does not have any help: there is no army of devoted heroes to support his purpose of avenging his father's death. He is fraught with uncertainty, not even sure he can trust Old Hamlet's ghost as being "honest," and is, along with Odysseus, imperfect as well.

Odysseus seems more loyal to his desire to return home as we meet him after the Trojan War has ended. His loyalty to the hero's code is questionable as he acts with boasting and insults in defeating Polyphemus (and is punished by the gods), and he is never required to lay down his life in the story to protect those he cares for. He fights those who threaten his men and works tirelessly to reach home, but I find myself to favor Hamlet. 

It is said that "No greater love hath mortal man than for a friend to die." There is no more genuine expression of love than self-sacrifice in any situation: whether death is involved or not. Hamlet does not want to die—though he suspects (and is prepared for) treachery when he fights Laertes with swords at the play's end. However, he is noble enough (though it takes a while) to cast aside all other concerns to avenge not only his father's murder, but finally too, his mother's death and the scheming that brought about Laertes' death in his anger over the loss of two of his loved ones: all brought about by Claudius. Odysseus is a trained soldier, with long years of experience. Hamlet has just returned from the university for his father's funeral.

I would choose Hamlet as the more loyal: although he is uncertain as to how to proceed, he never loses sight of the task set before him.

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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted July 29, 2011 at 7:24 AM (Answer #3)

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I believe each man is loyal to an extent. Hamlet is young and has not matured at the level that Odysseus has. Odysseus is a proven leader and outstanding warrior. He has had more opportunities to prove himself. For this reason, I would argue that Odysseus is more loyal to his kingdom Ithaca.

Again, Hamlet is young. He has so much to learn, had he lived to learn it. He is learning loyalty. He has not reached the degree of loyalty that Odysseus has achieved.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 29, 2011 at 8:35 AM (Answer #4)

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Both of them had to consider loyalty to their fathers.  I had never really thought to compare them until you asked this question!  I think that both men are experiencing some emotional upheaval, but Odysseus handles it better.  Hamlet is loyal, but struggles with how to be loyal.  He does not have as much experience or maturity.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted July 29, 2011 at 12:29 PM (Answer #5)

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Hamlet is confused about where his loyalty lays. If he had a clear idea of the ghost's identity, that it was indeed his father, then (there would be no play!!) his loyalty to his father would be strong, perhaps even unshakable. However he is fearful of the ghost and wonders if it is actually a demon in disguise sent to ensnare him into doom--this is a reflection of his Protestant beliefs learned at Wittenburg. Odysseus has no such dilemma and has a strong and clear-cut understanding of his loyalties. Therefore it is Odysseus who has the stronger loyalty; he is more loyal.

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whatever1 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted July 29, 2011 at 1:05 PM (Answer #6)

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Hamlet's loyalty lies more with the dead than with the living, whereas Odysseus' stated goal at the beginning of The Odyssey is to bring him and his shipmates home alive.  While Hamlet works mainly to avenge the dead, it is Odysseus who proves his true loyalty to those who can actually benefit from it (even though through various misadventures his men eventually  perish).

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 29, 2011 at 1:11 PM (Answer #7)

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I'd say Hamlet is more loyal because the things that he does out of loyalty are less in character.  In other words, he behaves in totally uncharacteristic ways out of loyalty.  Odysseus is pretty much just doing (I think) what he would do anyway.  Hamlet, by contrast, has to do things that are really foreign to his personality.  Therefore, he sacrifices more of his personality in being loyal to his father.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 29, 2011 at 9:47 PM (Answer #8)

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Interestingly, I think Hamlet is more loyal than Odysseus. Let us remember that Odysseus does not present himself as a particularly attractive character in certain parts of his story. He is an arrogant, brash individual who becomes convinced by his own superiority and as a result loses many of his men through his desire to combat Scylla, even though he has been warned against pursuing this action. Hamlet, on the other hand, is at least loyal to his beliefs and values in the way that he tries to work out where his loyalty should lie. Once he has established this, he remains true to what he believes.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 29, 2011 at 10:53 PM (Answer #9)

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I agree that both Odysseus and Hamlet have noble causes and both of them endure great suffering because of their loyalty. I'm with accessteacher on this one, though, in that Odysseus does not always conduct himself in an honorable way--or at least is more self-serving in the doing. Hamlet is bewildered at times and even loses his way, but his only intentional selfishness seems to be trying to avoid eternal damnation by killing an innocent man. I choose Hamlet.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 29, 2011 at 11:07 PM (Answer #10)

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What a great question.  I had never thought to put this two together in such a way.  As you have in the posts above, both of these men were loyal to a degree, but they face their problems with a completely different set of circumstances which put them in a difficult light as far as comparison.  Hamlet would have to be my choice as far as "most loyal" since he was constantly surrounded by malicious individuals who were plotting against him all the while he was attempting to stay true to the course.  He had no "team" to support him, and even his own mother seemed untrustworthy and unable to come to his aide. 

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