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Revenge Themes In Hamlet English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1460 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Hamlet is a tragic play by William Shakespeare that consists of numerous deaths. It is believed to have been written between the year 1599 and the year 1601. The play is set in Denmark and describes how Prince Hamlet demands revenge on his uncle Claudius for killing his father, who was the previous King, and then rising to the throne and getting hitched to Gertrude, who was Hamlet’s mother. The play intensely moves the course of real and contrived madness, from devastating grief to livid rage and looks at the themes of revenge, treachery, moral corruption and incest.

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Hamlet is among the most quoted literature works in the English language, and it is time and again included on the lists of some of the world’s greatest literature. In this regard, it echoes through the literature of the later centuries. One academic, Laurie Osborne, identified the direct control of Hamlet in copious narratives of modern times, and splits them into four main categories.

   In this play these two characters Laertes and Hamlet both want to revenge their fathers’ deaths. Hamlet with his inert and devious approach at the end manages to kill his father’s murderer, who was his uncle Claudius. On the other hand Laertes with his straight and vigorous dedication kills his father’s killer, who was Prince Hamlet. Even though Laertes took a more direct approach than Hamlet not wasting time, they both accomplished their aim but at the eventual price of their lives!

During the early 17th century, this Shakespeare play was renowned for its ghoul and vibrant dramatization of misery and lunacy, leading to a demonstration of mad aristocrats and ladies in Caroline and Jacobean drama. Although it stayed well-liked with mass audiences, the late 17th-century restitution critics viewed Hamlet as archaic and disapproved of its lack of modesty and unity. This view drastically changed during the 18th century, when critics considered Hamlet as a champion-a brilliant, pure, young man propelled into ill-fated circumstances. But by the mid-18th century, the advent of Gothic literature brought mystical and psychological readings, returning the Ghost and madness to the forefront. It was not until the late 18th century that performers and critics began to view Hamlet as inconsistent and confusing. These advancements represented an essential change in literary criticism that came to center more on character and less on the plot of the play. By the 19th century, there were romantic critics who valued Hamlet for its inner, individual divergence that reflected the strong modern emphasis on inner struggles and internal character in general. Even then, critics began to concentrate on Hamlet’s delay as a character trait and not as a plot device. This focus on internal struggle and character persisted into the 20th century, when criticism split in several directions.


The central character of Hamlet is Denmark’s Prince Hamlet, who is the son of the recently departed King Hamlet and his spouse, Queen Gertrude. During the time the young Hamlet is away at school the brother of the newly deceased King, Claudius, is nominated king and hurriedly marries Gertrude.

The play begins on a cold night at the royal Danish castle. Francisco, who is one of the guards, is relieved of his watching duty by Bernardo, another guard, and goes away while Bernardo remains on stage. There after a third guard, Marcellus enters in the company of Horatio, who is Hamlet’s best friend. The guards notify Horatio that they have seen a spirit that resembles the departed King Hamlet. Once Hamlet heard of the appearance of the Ghost from Horatio, he decides to see the Ghost for himself. During that very night, the spirit comes out again. It guides Hamlet to a secluded place and discloses that it is the actual Ghost of his father and reveals that he, the senior Hamlet, was killed by Claudius who poured poison in his ear. The spirit demands the vengeance of his death.

In the course of revenging his father’s death, Hamlet in one way or another caused the death of numerous innocent people. When Gertrude sent for Hamlet to her closet to demand an explanation for his recent behavior, Hamlet obliges. On his way to see Gertrude, Hamlet passed Claudius who was in prayer but vacillates to kill him, thinking that passing away in prayer would send him to heaven. On reaching the queen, a squabble erupts between Gertrude and Hamlet. Polonius, who was spying on the scene, panicked when it looked like Hamlet was about to kill the Queen and cried out for help. Hamlet, believed that it is Claudius who was hiding behind the arras and stabbed violently through the cloth, and instantly killing Polonius

With the sad loss of her father, and also her recently lost relationship with Hamlet, Ophelia becomes mad. Her brother, Laertes wants revenge for the death of their father Polonius. Claudius suggests a fencing match that was to be between Hamlet and Laertes, because Hamlet was envious of Laertes expertise with a sword. Because Laertes was enraged at the slaying of his father, he informs the king that he would also poison the tip of his sword so that even a mere graze would mean certain demise. If that plan does not work, they would have a glass of wine containing poison that Hamlet would drink from. What can be learned from this is that the thought of revenge is healthy, but, actually going through with it by trying to murder a person who you have a bad connection with may not be a very good idea. The entire events took place mainly because of the slaying of Hamlet’s father ending up in a big tragedy because of the death of many others even more than the two who were concerned, Claudius and his nephew Hamlet.

Revenge is also demonstrated by Claudius after the death of his friend and most trust worthy chief counselor. Because Claudius feared for his life, he finally came up with a legitimate excuse to get rid of the prince, making plans to send Hamlet to England apparently on a diplomatic trip, and to be closely watched by Guildenstern and Rosencrantz. Alone, Claudius reveals that he is sending Hamlet to his demise. Afterwards a story spreads around that Hamlet’s ship was assailed by pirates on its way to England. Luckily King Claudius’ plan fails and Hamlet survives and goes back to Denmark. Claudius wanted to kill hamlet because he was a threat to him and also because he had killed Polonius.

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The lack of thinking that is used in executing the revenge was what led to the deaths Hamlet and of Laertes. This can be demonstrated when Laertes was planning with Claudius to kill Hamlet using the poisoned tipped sword. Strangely they had not thought that the sword could be used on them. Laertes having believed the King’s accusations that Hamlet had killed his father; he fought Hamlet and wounded him with the poisoned sword. Hamlet went on to wound Laertes with the same poison tipped sword, leading to his death. Hamlet had many opportunities to kill his uncle, but his wrath overshadowed his sound judgment; so he chose to wait until he could find the perfect chance, to smack him down into a world of everlasting damnation. “Now might I do it pat, now he is praying…A villain kills my father; and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven?”[Act 3, Scene 3, lines 74-98].  Hamlet waits until when he can slay his uncle while he is sinning but unluckily for Hamlet, his next chance to take revenge on Claudius is during his own death. 

Revenge is also seen when the troupe of actors came to town. Because Hamlet was uncertain if the Ghost had told him the truth, he devised a way in which he could know for sure if his uncle is the one who killed his father. The entrance of a troupe of actors at Ellsinore presented him with a solution. He decided to stage a play that will re-enact his father’s murder so as to determine Claudius’s innocence or guilt by reading his reaction. People assembled at the court to watch the play; Hamlet provided a frantic running commentary throughout the play. When the murder scene is presented, which was a scene of king being killed; Claudius suddenly rose and left the room, which Hamlet sees as proof of his uncle’s guilt.

Work cited

Bradbrook M.C. Shakespeare: the poet in his world. Oxon: Methuen and Co. Ltd, 1978

Michael Innes, John Innes and Mackintosh Stewart. Hamlet, Revenge!. Cornwall: House of Stratus, 2001.

Prosser, Eleanor. Hamlet revenge. California: Stanford university press, 1971

Rebecca, Dunn. Hamlet. Minnesota: Magic Wagon, 2009


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