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Characters and Themes of Revenge in Hamlet

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1264 words Published: 21st Sep 2021

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This play written in 1601 by Williams Shakespeare is one of his most popular works. The major theme of the play is a tragedy as the quest for revenge resulted in numerous deaths of innocent people. The writer focused on the problems of prince Hamlet who is portrayed as an elegant instead of the evil deeds of his uncle, king of Denmark. In the beginning of the play, the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears to him and tells him that king Claudius has poisoned him. Prince Hamlet mourns both his father’s death and his mother remarriage to the new King Claudius which happened a few weeks after the late king’s death. Hamlet then seeks out to find out the real truth about his father’s death and plot revenge. In the process of finding out the truth, Hamlet acts mad and deceives a lot of people in order to mask his true intentions.

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The Major Characters in Hamlet

Prince Hamlet

The protagonist in the play, Hamlet was the prince of Denmark and son of the late King Hamlet of Denmark and nephew to the present King Claudius. In the beginning, Hamlet meets King Hamlet’s Ghost and learns that King Claudius murdered his father and this was the trigger that started his plot for revenge. Part of his plan required him to pretend to be mad in other to distract and hide his intentions from those around him and particularly the King. Hamlet distrusts and rejects almost everyone around him because of his paranoid belief that they are spying on him for King Claudius. His plan works and everyone believed he was mad then to confirm his suspicions of the King; Hamlet changed the lines of a play and got people to act it in front of King Claudius. The changes he made in the play made it cunningly tell the story of the murder of King Hamlet. This play made King Claudius uncomfortable and helped Hamlet confirm his suspicions about the murder of his father. Hamlet was also in love with Ophelia who is the daughter of Polonius. After his pretence of madness, Hamlet found out that Ophelia betrayed him which hurt him deeply. In his quest for revenge, Hamlet killed Polonius, Ophelia’s father accidentally. In the end, Hamlet was killed by the sword of Laertes but he made sure that he killed King Claudius before his death.

King Claudius

He was Hamlet’s uncle and the King of Denmark who was the antagonist of the play. Claudius murdered the previous king of Denmark to satisfy his ambitions and replace him as king and he took his wife in the process. Two months after he murdered the king, he got married to Queen Gertrude and prince Hamlet did not approve of this marriage. After Hamlet started his pretence of insanity, King Claudius sent Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and Ophelia to go and spy on him as he believed Hamlet’s intentions were not clear. When King Claudius got the impression that Hamlet was a threat, he sent for him to be killed but Hamlet survived. When Hamlet returned to Denmark and King Claudius found out that he wasn’t dead, he tried to trick Laertes into poisoning Hamlet as Laertes at that time was looking for a way to kill hamlet to avenge the death of his father Polonius. At the end of the play, King Claudius’s plan to poison Hamlet failed as he killed his wife queen Gertrude instead and then Hamlet killed King Claudius with the poisoned sword.

Queen Gertrude

Gertrude was Hamlet’s mother and the Queen of Denmark. She was married to the dead king Hamlet and after he passed away, she went on and married Claudius who was the brother to the King Hamlet and the present King of Denmark. Gertrude loved Hamlet deeply but disappointed hamlet when she got married to Hamlets uncle not long after her husband’s death. Queen Gertrude later realizes her mistakes when Hamlet scolds her and she promised to not sleep with the uncle anymore. When she found out that Hamlet wasn’t really mad, she helped him to continue his pretence of insanity. In the end, Queen Gertrude was killed by the poisoned drink which was meant for Hamlet.

Lord Polonius

He was the father of Laertes and Ophelia and also the Lord Chamberlain of Claudius’s court. Polonius owned his duty to kind Claudius and when he heard about Hamlets madness, he believed his daughter was responsible for that and warned his daughter to stay away from prince Hamlet. He later used his daughter to spy on the prince and this hurt him deeply. Polonius was later killed accidentally by prince Hamlet when he was caught eavesdropping on a conversation between Hamlet and his mother.


Ophelia was hamlet’s love interest and the daughter to Polonius and sister to Laertes. Ophelia was loved deeply by hamlet but never married him. She listened to her father’s advice and avoided Hamlet when she taught of him as mad. Her father then used her to spy on Hamlet but Hamlet knew this and it disturbed him deeply. After Hamlet killed Polonius and left Denmark, Ophelia became mad and ended up committing suicide by drowning herself

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He was Polonius’ son and played a minor part in the play until the death of his father Polonius. After finding out that prince Hamlet killed his father, he set out to avenge his father’s death by killing Hamlet. His plan was to kill him in a battle with a poisoned sword but King Claudius advised him to kill the prince with a poisoned drink. Laertes went with his original plan of using the poisoned sword and succeeded but was also killed by Hamlet in the end.

The Theme of Revenge in Hamlet

Revenge is the major theme portrayed in the play. The major events of the play portrays different characters showing their intent to revenge previous deeds by someone against them and this set up the tragic conclusion of the play as revenge most times leads to tragedy. Hamlet, the prince of Denmark, sought revenge on his uncle, the present king of Denmark, for killing his father the previous king of Denmark. Hamlet decides to act mad in order to achieve his revenge but in the process kills Polonius, Lord Chamberlain and the father of his friend Laertes accidentally, as a result of mistaken identity with Claudius the king. On the other hand, Laertes plots with King Claudius to kill hamlet by poisoning, to avenge his father’s death although King Claudius also wanted to kill Hamlet for his own personal reasons. Hamlet’s father killed the king of Norway, and his son Fortinbras the prince, also sought revenge on Denmark but later becomes the only one to avoid revenge and therefore being the only survivor of the tragedy and became the future king of Denmark. It is believed that all this took place because of the death of king Hamlet. In the plot of revenge, innocent souls were killed and Shakespeare uses the theme to explain that the quest for revenge often leads to tragedy.


Hamlet is a tragic play. The appearance of the dead King’s ghost marked the beginning of the tragedy as after persuading Hamlet to avenge his death, everything fell apart in Denmark. In the process of killing King Claudius, who was responsible for the King’s death, some innocent people also died. King Claudius’s marriage to Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude disturbed Hamlet. At the same time Denmark is under threat of attack from young Fortinbras, whose father was killed by the late king Hamlet and had come to avenge his father’s death. In the end, every major character died except for Prince Fortinbras of Norway who ended up being the only heir to the throne of Denmark.


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