Hamlet tells Horatio, "there's a divinity that shapes our ends/ Rough hew them how he will." How does Hamlet's insight apply to the action of Oedipus and Hamlet? My teacher gave this question to...

Hamlet tells Horatio, "there's a divinity that shapes our ends/ Rough hew them how he will."

How does Hamlet's insight apply to the action of Oedipus and Hamlet?

My teacher gave this question to us in class and I am not quite sure how to answer it. A brief explanation of the question's meaning would be helpful. 

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare Hamlet tells Horatio "there's a divinity that shapes our ends/ Rough hew them how he will" in Act Five Scene Two. Hamlet is anxious to tell Horatio about his journey as he feels it is quite a story. First he checks that Horatio is up to speed on the tale so far and asks him if he remembers the gist of the story and the background. We know the story is pretty amazing because Horatio's comment is to say that he couldn't forget it. 

Hamlet tells him that there was conflict in his mind that was so intense that he couldn't sleep and made him feel as if he was a prisoner. He says that excitement and spontaneity are often good but can sometimes border upon recklessness, even when we have to suddenly change a failing plan. He says that it is comforting to know that there is a being, a deity, a God watching over us and pointing us in the right direction even when we mess everything up.

Your teacher probably wants you to compare the idea of predestination in terms of both plays. In one sense, predestination saves man from worry as everything that happens to him is pre ordained by God and Hamlet seems to find comfort in that idea, although he also has human expectations to deal with. However the idea that a hero should be a man of high status and integrity who is thrown down by some inner weakness dominates Oedipus The King. Oedipus doesn't seem to have true agency over his life but the decisions Hamlet makes propel him towards disaster and finally destroy him. Oedipus frees himself of the urge to understand forces that he should not question, merely obey. He only gains insight when he blinds himself. He tries to control Fate and then finally his strength gives way to the destruction of self, where he finally gains insight into his own personality.

Conversely, Hamlet is acutely self aware and conscious of his faults and weaknesses. He also feels impotent and feels he cannot change anything, relying only on his mind which lets him down through lack of clarity and confused opaque perception. He struggles between opposing expectations and trying to find closure on matters of conscience is a war he will never win as he is pinned by man on one side and the will of God on the other. Oedipus only has the Gods to worry about in terms of his Fate.

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