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One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest vs Hamlet

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    A tragic hero is a character who possesses or withholds heroic qualities, but overall has flaws that leads to their eventual downfall. As Aristotle once stated, “A man doesn’t become a hero until he can see the root of his own downfall”. In the following works, two tragic heroes are present which lead to events which impact supporting characters and the plots of the writings. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey and Hamlet by William Shakespeare can be compared by the similarities in the main characters; Randle McMurphy and Hamlet, and Nurse Ratched and King Claudius through their actions, personality, and their roles in the story.

    The first comparison in these pieces of work that can be made are the similarities between main protagonists Randle McMurphy and Hamlet. These two characters have one main similarity that links them, they are both tragic heroes. McMurphy overall has few heroic qualities, but his recognition of Nurse Ratched’s manipulation and ability to stand up for himself and the other patients is honorable. When he is first placed in the ward, he decides to conform to Nurse Ratched’s strict rules and demeanor, in hopes of being let out sooner. As time goes on, he soon becomes fed up with her ways, and makes it his goal to overthrow her. Similarly, Hamlet is put in a position where he has no power. His father dies suddenly, and his mother quickly remarries to King Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle. At first, Hamlet acts as if everything is fine and follows King Claudius’s rule. Then, when Old Hamlet’s ghost appears to tell Hamlet exactly what happened on the event of his death, Hamlet decides to seek revenge. It is discovered that King Claudius murdered his brother to take his throne. Hamlet plots to murder Claudius in order to avenge his father. Both McMurphy and Hamlet choose to rise against the tyranny placed upon them. Also, in order to secretly plot against the antagonists, both characters use insanity to their advantage. Hamlet pretends to be mad after his father’s death, and also due to his love for Ophelia. As said by Polonius, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t” (Ⅱ.2.198). Polonius believes the reason behind his madness is love-sickness, which is exactly what Hamlet wants people to believe. The method of his madness allows him to stay under Claudius’ radar, so that he is not seen as a threat if he is insane. Acting mad buys Hamlet time to plan. On the other hand, McMurphy acts clinically insane to blend in. Just like Hamlet, he is not actually insane, but he is using this concept to avoid going to prison.

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