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Comparing Oedipus and Hamlet

Free Essays – Oedipus vs. Hamlet as Tragic Protagonists

Oedipus fits Aristotle’s definition of the tragic flaw and protagonist almost flawlessly. Aristotle described the protagonist as “someone regarded as extraordinary rather than typical…”(1117). Oedipus freed Thebes from the Sphinx by solving her riddle– something nobody else had been able to do. The priest in the first scene of Act I calls Oedipus “…our greatest power” (1121) and describes him as rated first among men.

Hamlet is of noble birth but there is nothing else extraordinary about him. Unlike Oedipus, he had not saved a kingdom; he just happened to be born a prince. In tragedies the protagonists are usually of the nobility to make their falls seem greater. However, Aristotle said “What is finally important is not so much the protagonist’s social stature as a greatness of character…” (1117).

Protagonists, as described in our book, must also have a “determination to meet some goal or task to make them admirable”(1118). Oedipus set about to find the killer of King Laius to free Thebes from plagues. Hamlet’s goal was to avenge the murder of his father. Oedipus immediately began to look for the killer, even when the evidence pointed to himself and ruined his life. Hamlet seems to put off killing Claudius. He chose not to murder him as he prays is Act III scene iii. In Act III scene i Hamlet says: ” I’ll observe his looks: I’ll tent him to the quick: if ‘a do blench, I know my course. The spirit I have seen may be a devil:”(1315) Even after the ghost tells Hamlet how he was murdered, Hamlet has the players act it out just to be sure. Obviously, there is no hard resolution for him to finish his task.

Arthur Miller has said “tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life.

Biblical and Classical Interpretations of the Witches of The Scarlet Letter

Biblical and Classical Interpretations of the Witches of The Scarlet Letter

The theme of witchcraft is woven into the fabric of The Scarlet Letter. The introductory “Custom-House” chapter includes an appeal by the author to remove any witches’ curses on his family. Once he takes us back to the Boston of the 1640’s, he frequently hints about the cohorts of the “Black Man” who meet in the woods beyond the town. But if the reader understands the classical meaning of the word witchcraft such as used in the Bible and other classical works, then we understand that Hawthorne had something more in mind than the sad cultists like Mistress Hibbins. The real witch of The Scarlet Letter was a far more sinister character, a personality who makes a significant statement about the nature of man.

The Greek New Testament and Septuagint on Witchcraft

Witchcraft occurs only once in the King James New Testament and sorcery twice–Galatians 5:20, Revelation 9:21 and 18:23. The word in the Greek New Testament in all three cases is pharmakeia, derived from the word pharmakon (“drug”), the source of the English word pharmacy and its cognates. The standard koiné Greek-English Lexicon translates the word as “sorcery” or “magic,” but its cognate “sorcerer” (pharmakous) used in Revelation 21:8 and 22:15 is translated “mixer of poisons” as well as “magician.” The root of both words, pharmakon, literally means “poison” or “drug.”1

A few key Old Testament passages about witches which are often associated with the puritans such as Exodus 22:18 (“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”–KJV) use pharmakous in the Septuagint–the word translated sorcerer in Revelation 21:8 and 22:15.2 The Greek New Testament and the Septuagint version of the Hebrew Scriptures use different words such as mageia (“magic”) when other types of occult practices like calling on spirits or using curses are meant. In English such words are usually translated “wizard,” “necromancer,” or some other appropriate word or phrase.2 Because of the Greek word chosen in each case, it appears that the New Testament authors and Septuagint translators understood the idea of witchcraft in terms of the use of drugs or poisons.

Finding the Witch according to this Definition

Now there is a character in The Scarlet Letter who would be convicted of witchcraft, Mistress Hibbins. She characterizes the witch of New England folklore such as we see in “Young Goodman Brown.

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