The Libation Bearers and Hamlet

1302 Words6 Pages
The Libation Bearers and Hamlet
Many of Shakespeare’s plays draw from classical Greek themes, plot and metaphors. The tragedies of Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides and Homer have themes like royal murders, assassinations by near relatives, the supernatural, ghostly visits, and vengeful spirits of the dead- themes which reappear in Shakespeare’s tragedies with a difference.
Shakespeare’s tragic hero Hamlet and Aeschylus’s Orestes have a great deal in common. Both the plays are set in a time when the society is going through transition. In Orestia gods are changing. Furies turn into Eumenides or the Pacified Ones. Social and political norms are changing. The old laws of revenge and retribution have to be re-established. Similarly Hamlet’s
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Both the tragic heroes are troubled by supernatural visits and nightmares. Both have ethical and moral dilemmas , nevertheless, Hamlet is much more scholarly and agonized than Orestes who better fits in the robe of a Classical Greek revenge hero.
Jessica Price observes:
“An onslaught of tragic elements appear in both Hamlet and The Oresteia. Hamlet's hamartia in William Shakespeare's Hamlet leads to his succumbing to corruption and his eventual demise. In The Oresteia by Aeschylus, Orestes' hamartia takes a slightly different course, causing him to stumble, but not completely fall.”
While Orestes never indulges in long existential speeches or philosophical thinking Hamlet delays the action in his endless quest for a right answer. Hamlet is not faced with the terrible commitment of killing his own mother. He has to kill his uncle to whom one is not as dearly related as a son is to his mother. Still he does not consider it right to kill his uncle on an apparitions’ command. He puts him to test to affirm what his father’s ghost said. He arranges a play based on the actual event of king’s murder to be performed before his uncle and mother and note their responses to it. Even after his suspicion is validated he cannot bring himself round to kill his uncle. He wants to heal what has been hurt, make right what is wrong, do the justice but deep inside he does not want to kill Claudius. Orestes, on the other hand, right

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