Compare and contrast Hamlet and Oedipus in regard to their societies.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Both men are profoundly at odds with their respective societies, albeit for different reasons. Although Creon is king of Thebes and his word is law, he cannot overcome Antigone's stubborn defiance. In his role as king, Creon is supposed to protect his society from all manner of threats—both internal and...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Both men are profoundly at odds with their respective societies, albeit for different reasons. Although Creon is king of Thebes and his word is law, he cannot overcome Antigone's stubborn defiance. In his role as king, Creon is supposed to protect his society from all manner of threats—both internal and external. To that end, he believes himself to be doing the right thing in refusing to allow Polynices's body to be buried. Polynices was a threat to Thebes; he wanted to take over the city and was planning to desecrate the temples. However, in due course, Creon's stubbornness puts the safety and security of Theban society in serious jeopardy. By willfully ignoring the prophesies of Tiresias and the entreaties of his son, he risks not just his throne, but also the very integrity of his kingdom.

Hamlet's alienation from society stems largely from his wicked uncle's usurpation of the throne. The state of Denmark is so rotten, so contaminated by moral corruption, that it pollutes the very air that Hamlet breathes—"a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors" no less. The status of Denmark as a Christian country has been seriously compromised by Claudius's murderous actions; to some extent, Hamlet has taken upon himself the immense challenge of restoring the moral health of the kingdom.

But for multiple reasons, Hamlet is unable to do so. Torn between his desire for revenge and the need to preserve his self-image as a goodly Christian prince, he finds himself trapped in a rut of torpor and indecision. Though alienated from society, he also gradually begins to imbibe its moral corruption. As well as preventing him from doing what is necessary to avenge his father's murder, the prevailing moral climate incites and inspires Hamlet to engage in unacceptable behavior toward Ophelia, Gertrude, Polonius, and the unfortunate Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team