In the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, the theme of revenge is repeated numerous times throughout the play and involves many characters. Of these characters, eight are dead by the end of the play by result of murder which was initiated through revenge. Shakespeare uses the revenge theme to create conflict among many characters. Shakespeare uses the revenge theme to create conflict between Hamlet and Claudius.
In Act, I, scene 5, Hamlet is visited by the ghost who was his father. The ghost makes Hamlet aware of his murderous death when he tells Hamlet of how Claudius had killed him. The ghost says this to Hamlet regarding Claudius, “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.” This is where Hamlet is first introduced to the revenge plot between himself and Claudius. Hamlet wants to ensure that the ghost really was his dead father before he kills Claudius.
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To do this Hamlet has people act out the death of his father in front of Claudius and declares him guilty by his reaction to the play. ” O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound.” Hamlet declares Claudius’ guilt to Horatio and now realizes that he must continue on with his revenge plot. The conflict between Hamlet and Claudius is delayed by Hamlet but does eventually occur in the last scene.
Hamlet’s mother has just died, Hamlet has been sliced by Laertes’ poison sword, and Hamlet has just struck Laertes with a fatal blow when Laertes says that this was all brought on by Claudius. Hamlet, now realizing that there is no more time for him to delay his revenge, stabs Claudius and kills him. Revenge was the motive for the conflict between Hamlet and Claudius.
Shakespeare uses the revenge plot to create conflict between Laertes and Hamlet by having Laertes avenge his father’s and sister’s death which Hamlet is responsible for. After learning of his father’s unnatural death, Hamlet decides that he can no longer trust anyone, except for Horatio. While acting out his madness, he visited Ophelia and cut off his ties with her because of his distrust for everyone.
In Act III, when Hamlet talks with his mother, he notices that he is being spied upon. Thinking that it is the king, Hamlet mistakingly kills Polonius who was hiding behind a big rug, which for some medieval reason, was hung on the wall. It is believed Ophelia herself went mad because of Hamlet’s rude and violent treatment of her and also because Hamlet killed her father.
In Act IV Ophelia’s madness drives her to walk into the river and drown. When Laertes arrives back from France he has heard the horrible news and says, And so have I a noble father lost; A sister driven into desperate terms, Whose worth, if praises may go back again, Stood challenger on mount of all the age For her perfections: but my revenge will come.
Laertes is plotting revenge against the murderer of his father and sister, Hamlet. Claudius asks Laertes, “what would you undertake, To show yourself in deed your father’s son, More than in words?” Claudius and Laertes come to the conclusion that they will hold a sword duel between Hamlet and Laertes. Laertes will have poison on his sword and Claudius will have a glass with poison in it ready for Hamlet to quench his thirst.
During the duel, Hamlet is scratched by the poison-tipped sword of Laertes. It is now inevitable that Hamlet will die. Therefore, the conflict between Laertes and Hamlet has resulted in revenge for Laertes. Through the revenge theme, Shakespeare creates an interior conflict between Hamlet and himself. In Hamlet’s first soliloquy, Hamlet displays his melancholy state of being and his unwillingness to live. ”
Everlasting had not to fix’d His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter!” Hamlet states that if God was not against suicide then he would take his own life. In Hamlet’s second soliloquy, after the meeting with his father’s ghost, he beats himself up by saying,” Am I a coward…?”, and,” I am pigeon-liver’d, and lack gall”. Hamlet wants revenge at this time but he is questioning his willingness to kill Claudius, so he is calling himself a coward. Why, what an ass am I!
This is most brave, That I, the son of a dear father murdered, Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, Must like a whore unpack my heart with words,(2.2.584-588) The greatest interior conflict between Hamlet and himself occurs when Hamlet delays the killing of Claudius. Hamlet carefully examines the need to avenge his fathers death:
A villain kills my father, and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send To heaven. O, this is hire and salary, not revenge. Delaying at this point is Hamlet’s tragic flaw. The conflict between Hamlet and himself is resolved when Hamlet kills Claudius because he himself was going to die soon and had little time left. Therefore, the interior conflict between Hamlet and himself was created by the revenge plot. The revenge plot was used by Shakespeare to create conflict among many characters throughout the play, HAMLET.
Revenge causes one to act blindly through anger, rather than through reason. It is based on the principle of an eye for an eye, but this principle is not always an intelligent theory to live by. YoungFortinbras, Laertes, and Hamlet were all looking to avenge the deaths of their fathers. They all acted on emotion, and this led to the downfall of two, and the rise to power of one.
Since the Heads of the three major families were each murdered, the eldest sons of these families swore vengeance, and two of the three sons died while exacting their acts of vengeance, revenge is a major theme in the Tragedy of Hamlet. There were three major families in the Tragedy of Hamlet. These were the family of King Fortinbras, the family of Polonius, and the family of KingHamlet.
The heads of each of these families are all slaughtered within the play. Fortinbras, King of Norway, was killed by King Hamlet; slain byword during a man to man battle. ” our valiant Hamlet-for so this side of our known world esteemed him-did slay this Fortinbras.” This entitled KingHamlet to the land that was possessed by Fortinbras because it was written in a sealed compact. Polonius was an advisor to the King, and father to Laertes and Ophelia. He was nosy and arrogant, and he did not trust his children.
He was killed by Young Hamlet while he was eves dropping on a conversation between Hamlet and his mother. “How now! A rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!” King Hamlet was the King of Denmark and Hamlet’s father. He had killed King Fortinbras, only to be killed by his brother, Claudius. ” My offense is rank, it smells to heaven; A brother’s murder ” Each of these events affected the sons of the deceased in the same way, it enraged them.
Every one of the three eldest sons had one thing in common, they all wanted revenge for a slaughtered father. In the time in which this play is set, avenging the murder of a father was part of one’s honor, and had to be done. All of the three sons swore vengeance, and then acted towards getting revenge for the deaths of their fathers. Young Fortinbras was deeply enraged by the death of his father and he wanted revenge against Denmark because of this occurrence.
Fortinbraswanted to, by force, regain the lands that had been lost by his father to Denmark. ” No sir, young Fortinbras as it doth well appear unto our state-but to recover of us, by a strong hand and terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands so by his father lost ” Claudius sends messengers to talk to Fortinbras’ uncle, the new King of Norway. He forbid Fortinbras to attack Denmark and instead convinced him to attack the Poles to vent his anger. ”
His nephew’s levies, which to him appeared to be a preparation against the Polack; But better looked into, he truly found it was against your highness On Fortinbras; which he, in brief, obeys, receives a rebuke from Norway, and, in fine, makes a vow before his uncle never more to give the assay of arms against your majesty.” Laertes found out about his father’s death and immediately returned home.
He confronted the King and accused him of the murder of his father. Claudius told Laertes that Hamlet was responsible for his father’s death. He then decides to kill Hamlet to avenge the death of his father. He and Claudius concoct a plot to kill Hamlet. Hamlet dies of wounds from the poisoned tipped sword Laertes used. ” Hamlet, thou art slew The treacherous instrument is in thy, unabated and envenomed ” Hamlet was deeply sorrowed by his father’s death.
He spoke to a ghost, and this ghost stated that his father’s death was a murder, by the hand of his uncle, Claudius. “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life Now wears his crown.” Hamlet was astonished, and then swore vengeance for his father’s death. He then proceeded to try and prove his uncle’s guilt, and then finally kills him while he himself is dying of poisoned wounds inflicted by Laertes during their duel. “The point envenomed too!
Then venom, to thy work Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane, drink off this potion,-is thy union here? Follow my mother.” This left the King dead, and his father’s death avenged. The lack of thought used in exacting the revenge led to the deaths of both Laertes and Hamlet. Laertes planned with Claudius to kill Hamlet with the poisoned tipped sword, but they had not thought that the sword might be used against them.
With Laertes believing the King’s accusations that hamlet had murdered his father, he was in a blind rage and would not listen to Hamlet’s explanation and apology. “I am satisfied in nature to my revenge I stand aloof and will no reconcilement But till that time, I do receive your offer’d love like love, And will not wrong it.”. He fightsHamlet, and wounds him once with the poisoned tipped sword; but unfortunately, their swords are switched, and Hamlet wounds Laertes with the sword.
That is the wound by which Laertes dies. Hamlet had many chances to kill his uncle, but his rage outweighed his intelligence, and he chose to wait until the lord could see no good in Claudius, and then strike him down into a world of eternal 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.”
Hamlet waits until he can kill his uncle while he is performing a sin, unfortunately for Hamlet, the sin is the poisoning of his own son in law. Hamlet dies of his poisoned wound. Young Fortinbras regains his father’s land, without the use of violence, or death to himself.
Hamlet names him new ruler of Denmark before he dies, and Fortinbras regains all of his father’s lost land and becomes King of Denmark. Since the Heads of the three major families were each murdered, the eldest sons of these families swore vengeance, and two of the three sons died while exacting their acts of vengeance, revenge is a major theme in the tragedy of Hamlet. As a theme, revenge was present in all parts of the play.
It seems ironic that Claudius, Laertes, and Hamlet all died of the same sword. It is also ironic that the first the seek revenge against Claudius, Fortinbras, becomes King of Denmark. Revenge was the driving force behind three of the main characters of the play, for two it led to downfall, and for the other, it led to greatness.
Revenge has caused the downfall of many a person. Its consuming nature causes one to act recklessly through anger rather than reason. Revenge is an emotion easily rationalized; one turn deserves another. However, this is a very dangerous theory to live by. Throughout Hamlet, revenge is a dominant theme. Fortinbras, Laertes, and Hamlet all seek to avenge the deaths of their fathers.
But in so doing, all three rely more on emotion than thought and take a very big gamble, a gamble which eventually leads to the downfall and death of all but one of them. King Fortinbras was slain by King Hamlet in a sword battle. This entitled King Hamlet to the land that was possessed by Fortinbras because it was written in a sealed compact. “…our valiant Hamlet-for so this side of our known world esteemed him-did slay this Fortinbras.” Young Fortinbras was enraged by his father’s murder and sought revenge against Denmark.
He wanted to reclaim the land that had been lost to Denmark when his father was killed. “…Now sir, young Fortinbras…as it doth well appear unto our state-but to recover of us, by a strong hand and terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands so by his father lost…” Claudius becomes aware of Fortinbras’ plans, and in an evasive move, sends a message to the new King of Norway, Fortinbras’ uncle.
The king forbade Fortinbras to wage an attack against Denmark and instead suggested he attack the Poles to vent his anger. Fortinbras agreed to the plan but had no intention of following it. Polonius was King Hamlet’s advisor and the father of Ophelia and Laertes, both of whom respected and loved him, despite his arrogant demeanor.
Young Hamlet murdered Polonius accidentally, thinking him to be the king eves dropping on a conversation between Hamlet and his mother. “How now! A rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!” Laertes returned home immediately after hearing of his father’s death and confronted the King, accusing him of the murder of his father. Once Claudius told Laertes that Hamlet was responsible for his father’s death, he and Claudius concoct a scheme to kill Hamlet using a poison-tipped sword. “…Hamlet, thou art slain…The treacherous instrument is in thy, unabated and envenom…”
Hamlet does indeed die as a result of wounds inflicted by Laertes, but it is the poisoned tipped sword that causes the demise of Laertes as well. King Hamlet ruled Denmark and was the father of Hamlet. He had been slain by Claudius, his brother, who had since laid claim to the throne. While Hamlet mourned, he encountered the ghost of his father, who made him aware that his death had in fact been a murder, and the guilt laid squarely on the shoulders of Denmark’s new King.
“The serpent that did sting thy father’s life Now wears his crown.” Astonished, Hamlet swore vengeance for his father’s death. His efforts to prove his uncle’s guilt are hindered by his indecisiveness until he finally kills Claudius, while he himself is dying of poisoned wounds caused him by Laertes in their duel. “The point envenomed too! Then venom, to thy work…Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane, drink off this potion,-is thy union here? Follow my mother.”
This left the Claudius dead, and King Hamlet’s death avenged, but at a grave cost to Hamlet. It is the lack of thought used in exacting their revenge which led to the deaths of both Laertes and Hamlet. The plan Laertes devised with Claudius to kill Hamlet with the poisoned tipped sword would have been successful, had they thought that the sword might be used against them, and panned accordingly.
Laertes himself is at fault for his death for believing Claudius’ accusations that Hamlet had murdered his father. If not for his own blind rage, Laertes may have listened to Hamlet’s explanation and apology for the murder of Polonius and could have avoided his early demise. “I am satisfied in nature…to my revenge…I stand aloof…and will no reconcilement…But till that time, I do receive your offer’d love like love, And will not wrong it.”
Instead, he chose to fight Hamlet. He and wounds him fatally with the poisoned tipped sword, however, their swords become switched, and Hamlet inflicts the same wounds on with as those that had been inflicted on him. It is by these wounds that Laertes dies. Hamlet’s opportunities to kill his uncle were plentiful. However, his rage over-ride his intelligence and he waited; hoping to catch Claudius at a time he was committing an act of sin to strike him down, forcing him to spend eternity in a world of eternal 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.” Unfortunately for Hamlet, the only sin Claudius commits is the poisoning of his own nephew. Young Fortinbras was the only character in the play who exacted his revenge without dying. He regains his father’s land, without the use of violence, simply because Hamlet, Laertes, and Claudius had all killed each other. His patience saved his life; Hamlet and Laertes’ haste had caused their deaths.
Hamlet named him the new ruler of Denmark before he dies, making him the new King of Denmark. A fitting end to Fortinbras’ intelligent, thought out plan to exact revenge for his father’s death. Revenge can be an invaluable tool to amass success and wealth, or it can be a fatal flaw that guarantees imminent death. It is a dangerous emotion, which can easily consume, however, it can be used to great satisfaction.
Perhaps it is these qualities that lead us to allow ourselves to act on its impulses. The lessons learned by both Hamlet and Laertes are something that should be remembered. Revenge is not to be taken lightly. When acted on this is one emotion that can definitely come back to haunt you.
Storming into the palace and throwing accusations at Claudius, Laertes reveals he is impulsive. Laertes’ anger is due to the dishonor that has been inflicted on his family by Polonius’s murder. Claudius takes advantage of the sudden appearance of Laertes, by provoking Laertes into assisting him in plotting Hamlet’s murder.
Shakespeare uses Laertes not only as a catalyst in the story but as a contrast to the pensive Hamlet. Both men seek the same kind of justice but chose different paths to attain it. Laertes acts on anger without thinking, but Hamlet waits, debating the consequence of committing murder. Laertes’ function is to contrast Hamlet’s sensibility with his incensed spontaneity.
Claudius manipulates to his advantage Laerte’s lack of hesitation and hot temper. Winning Laerte’s support by painting Hamlet as a malicious killer Claudius provokes Laertes to avenge Polonius. Claudius gives Laertes the initiative to kill Hamlet saying for Hamlet’s “death no wind of blame shall breathe”(227) on the killer. Laertes is eager to “be the organ”(227) that aids Claudius in killing Hamlet, but to make sure Laertes is not “a face without a heart”(231) Claudius questions Laertes love for his father.
This is Laerte’s breaking point. Laertes wants immediate action so that his “revenge will come”(225), not thinking of the consequence. His ability to ignore what will result from his revenge contrasts Hamlet’s turmoil over killing Claudius.Because Hamlet thinks before he acts he is regarded more highly than Laertes. Both menswear to avenge their fathers? murder but approach the task in different ways. Laertes wants to “dare damnation”(215) letting “come what comes”(215) from killing Hamlet.
The idea of not avenging Polonius is unthinkable to Laertes. He is driven by his anger and can see no other option than to kill Hamlet. However, Hamlet considers his situation, studying what will come if he kills the king. Hamlet frustrates himself because he cannot bring himself to kill Claudius wanting to “have grounds more relative than”(119) ghost or suspicion.
Hamlet wants to be sure Claudius committed the murder before he kills him, but Laertes accuses whomever he suspects of killing Polonius without debating motive. Because Hamlet does not leap to kill as Laertes does, Hamlet is seen as the sensible of the two, justified for waiting to kill Claudius and not rushing into murder. Laertes is used in Act IV as a comparison to Hamlet because as the conclusion to the play draws near confusion is produced by Hamlet’s lack of action against Claudius.
Shakespeare uses Laertes reckless abandon as a way of showing how Hamlet’s contemplation is not procrastination but a sign of intelligence. Laertes will avenge his father, as will Hamlet, but only Hamlet foresees the horror of justice and avenges his father knowing full well the repercussions he will receive for murder. Shakespeare shows Hamlet maturity, and thus Hamlet receives respect for meditating on what he must do rather than if he had acted carelessly and killed without thinking.
“Haste me to know ’t, that I, with wings as swift As meditation or the thoughts of love, May sweep to my revenge.” Revenge causes one to act blindly through anger, rather than through reason. It is based on the principle of an eye for an eye, but this principle is not always an intelligent theory to live by.
In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Young Fortinbras, Laertes, and Hamlet were all looking to avenge the deaths of their fathers. They all acted on emotion, but the way the characters went about it was very different. Because of this, it led to the downfall of two, and the rise of one. The heads of the three major families were each murdered, the eldest sons of these families swore vengeance, and two of the three sons died while exacting their acts of vengeance, while the third rose to power.
All of the three eldest sons had one thing in common. All three of the murders affected the sons of the deceased in the same way; it enraged them. For people during this time, revenging the murder of one’s father was part of one’s honor and had to be done. All three of the sons swore vengeance and then acted towards getting revenge for the deaths of their fathers.
Because of all of this, revenge is a major theme in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Fortinbras took his revenge out in a proper way and rose to power in the end. Both Laertes and Hamlet, however, used force to accomplish their revenge. The lack of thought used in exacting their revenge led to the deaths of both Laertes and Hamlet.
The act of revenge never fails to gather an audience, due to the simple fact that revenge raises one of the great questions in regards to human life: how does one seek justice when the law ceases to function properly? William Shakespeare tapped into the human fascination for the act of revenge and produced a play that has revenge as its predominant motif. Hamlet has not one, but three revenge plots; each interrelated in a most mesmerizing manner.
In the play, young Fortinbras, young Hamlet, and Laertes all act to avenge their slain fathers. The first plot is because of the slaying of King Fortinbras of Norway by King Hamlet of Denmark; “…our valiant Hamlet – for so this side of our known world esteemed him – did slay this Fortinbras” (1.1.96-98). As a result, Fortinbras seeks revenge against Denmark. Hamlet wants revenge for the murder of his father by Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle.
The final revenge plot involves Laertes getting revenge against Hamlet for the death of Laertes’ father, Polonius. In Hamlet, Shakespeare uses revenge as the major force that drives the play and shows that revenge taken rashly rather than through reason leads to downfall.
All acts of revenge have four steps. The first step of seeking vengeance is a motivation for action. In the opening scene, Horatio asserts: “But to recover of us, by strong hand and terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands so by his father lost” (1.1.114-116). Following that speech by Horatio, the motivation for Fortinbras’s revenge becomes known; Fortinbras wishes to reclaim the lands lost to Denmark when his father was killed.
Hamlet’s revenge is also introduced; the Ghost of Old Hamlet speaks to the Prince for the first time, and Hamlet learns his father’s death had been a murder. The guilt lay squarely on the shoulders of Denmark’s new King; “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life Now wears his crown” (1.5.46-47). The Ghost orders Hamlet to, “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (1.5.31). Hamlet does not trust the Ghost and accepts the fact that he lacks actual proof to justify killing Claudius.
The majority of Denmark was Protestant during the setting of the play, including Hamlet. He had attended Wittenberg, a Protestant school, and Protestants did not believe in purgatory, or ghosts either, which leads Hamlet to think the ghost is a demon.
Accordingly, before Hamlet will act on the Ghost’s words, Hamlet will use his scholarly ability to confirm it in his own manner. Unlike Fortinbras, who is ordered to do nothing, Hamlet’s efforts towards revenge and proving his uncle’s guilt are hindered by his indecisiveness in taking his revenge on Claudius.
With his motivation for revenge, Hamlet remains suspicious of his uncle’s apparent guilt. Hamlet attempts to remove his high suspicions by feigning madness, so he can do and say almost anything he wants to, without fear of rebuke. “Though this is madness, yet there is the method in ‘t” (2.2.206). Polonius, in addition to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet’s childhood friends, are used by Claudius to spy on Hamlet.
Unbeknownst to Claudius, Hamlet sees right through their false words, and effortlessly recognizes Claudius’s true intentions. While faking lunacy, Hamlet bides his time while he figures out what to do in regard to revenging his father; by following his initial suspicion, Hamlet figures out a way to prove Claudius’s guilt.
A traveling acting company visits Elsinore Castle, and Hamlet first asks the players to perform a speech that particularly harps on the revenge motif; “With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus, old grandsire Priam seeks,” (2.2.488-489). Hamlet requests the speech because Pyrrhus resembles Hamlet in that his mission is to kill a king in revenge for his father’s death; Pyrrhus’ father was Achilles who famously died from an arrow wound in the ankle.
He also resembles Claudius in that Pyrrhus is the murderer of the rightful king of Troy. In the soliloquy, Pyrrhus is presented as a hellish character, without remorse or pity. Hamlet may have also asked for the speech because he questions the morality of revenge and the speech’s portrayal of Pyrrhus helps him to confirm these doubts in his mind.
Hamlet then has a spur of the moment idea, and plans to have the players perform a play; the play in mind is, “The Murder of Gonzago.” Hamlet expresses his plan, saying, “…the play‘s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king” (2.2633-634). It mimics the method in which King Hamlet was purported to have been murdered by Claudius. Hamlet’s plan will remove all doubt, so his revenge can take place.
Thus, Hamlet’s confirmation of his suspicion will occur after Claudius watches the play; Claudius’ reaction will remove all suspicion of the Ghost’s words so that Hamlet can have his revenge. Hamlet tells Claudius the play is called, “The Mouse-trap” (3.2.261). Claudius flees the room after seeing the play, and Hamlet fittingly shouts, “What, frighted with false fire!” (3.2.292). Hamlet’s affirmation of his uncle’s guilt allows him to take vengeance; “Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood, And do such bitter business as the day Would quake to look on” (3.2.422-424).
Hamlet comes upon Claudius when he seems to be praying, so he decides to delay his killing because he is convinced that killing Claudius while he is praying will send him to Heaven which would ultimately disallow his revenge; “Now might I do it pat, now he is praying, And now I’ll don’t. And so he goes to heaven; And so am I revenged” (3.3.77-79). Ironically, Claudius, “And that his soul may be as damn’d and black as hell, whereto it goes” (3.3.99-100), is not praying, because he is unable to repent. Hamlet’s delay in achieving his revenge unfolds into his undoing.
Hamlet now has a good motive, and no longer any doubt of Claudius’s guilt. Hamlet needs only to kill Claudius, and his revenge will be complete. But Hamlet’s short temper and blind rage cause him to kill Polonius, “How now! a rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!” (3.4.29), thinking he was killing Claudius (whom he believed to be spying on Gertrude and Hamlet) instead.
Hamlet damns himself, and Hamlet’s vengeance will have a major complication; as a result of her father’s murder, Ophelia committed suicide, and Laertes now wishes to kill Hamlet to seek his own revenge. Fortinbras, Hamlet, and Laertes are now all in similar predicaments; it is the honorable thing to do to revenge slain fathers, and that is exactly what they each plan to do.
Laertes and Hamlet are both infatuated with revenge to the point at which they will act quickly without thinking, and ignore the consequences. Claudius orders Hamlet to England, with the apparent intent to collect tribute, but his real intent is for Hamlet to be executed, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are to be there to observe his death. On his way, Hamlet comes across the army of prince Fortinbras, where he makes his final, and most important, soliloquy.
Much is said about revenge and his failure to have accomplished it: “How all occasions do inform against me And spur my dull revenge!” (4.4.33-34). Hamlet becomes distressed that he has yet to kill Claudius, and it seems that everything now reminds him of his unaccomplished mission. Hamlet vows he will have his vengeance, and nothing will stop him from killing Claudius; “O, from this time forth, My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!”(4.4.68-69).
In his final soliloquy, Hamlet shows extreme respect towards Fortinbras because of his apparent readiness to risk everything only to gain a small, unusable patch of ground in the name of honor. Hamlet is angered that he has waited so long to take his revenge, and will not be delayed any longer. Meanwhile, Laertes and Claudius are concocting a scheme to kill Hamlet. Laertes, in his blind rage, takes Claudius’s words to be the whole truth.
The two agree to stage a duel between Hamlet and Laertes, and Laertes will use an unbiased, poison-soaked sword. “I’ll touch my point With this contagion, that, if I gall him slightly, it may be death” (4.7.166-168). Laertes is bloodthirsty for revenge, and it seems he will be successful, because Hamlet apparently trusts him, and will not expect Laertes to drop to Claudius’s level.
However, Claudius largely underestimates Hamlet, who said he would make his enemies, “Hoist with his own petard: and ‘t shall go hard but I will delve one yard below their mines, And blow them at the moon” (3.4.230-232). As a result, Claudius and Laertes will die by their own apparent trap. Hamlet returns having previously sent a letter to Claudius that said he would be returning to Denmark alone.
He implied he had done away with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, having made a royal order that executed them in England. Horatio notes that Hamlet is now acting rather kingly, “Why, what a king is that!” ((5.2.70) By ordering the execution of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet is on the path of vengeance, and is assuredly now a decisive, smarter person. Hamlet confronts Laertes and offers an apology, which Laertes refuses. Laertes is still too angered to back down from his position, and his anger will bring about his death.
Consequently, Hamlet and Laertes engage in their duel. Laertes strikes Hamlet and mortally wounds him, “It is here, Hamlet: Hamlet, thou art is slain; No medicine in the world can do thee good; In thee, there is not half an hour of life.” (5.2.344-346) However, Hamlet strikes Laertes with the same foil, and Laertes shouts, “I am justly killed with mine own treachery” (5.2.337), and accepts his own death. Laertes is revenged, in that Hamlet will die. Yet, he does not blame Hamlet in the end, but rather, Claudius.
After Gertrude drinks the poisoned wine and dies, and after his own fatal wound, Hamlet kills Claudius, “Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane, drink off this potion. Is thy union here? Follow my mother” (5.2.337-339), and Claudius dies, following Gertrude into death. Hamlet’s revenge is achieved, but at a great cost to him – his own life. Before his last breath, Hamlet names Fortinbras the new King of Denmark, which makes Fortinbras’s revenge complete as well, as he is now the ruler of Denmark.
Revenge is the driving force of Hamlet and is what brings about the death of Hamlet and Laertes and the rise of Fortinbras. Hamlet waits too long to take his revenge, and then acts suddenly and thoughtlessly, which allows Laertes to mark him a dead man. However, the same spontaneous and hasty pursuit of revenge also brings about Laertes’ death.
Ironically, Hamlet and Laertes (and Claudius as well) all die by the same sword because of their blind fury and lack of foresight. Only Fortinbras acts smartly and with a keen eye. He first pretends not to attack Denmark by instead indicating as though he were going to attack Poland when his true intentions were to invade Denmark all along. Because of his steadfastness and patience, he is able to exact his revenge and live through it as well.
Revenge is defined as “…a desire to do harm in return for a wrong; returning evil for evil; vengeance” (Webster Dictionary). Revenge is an extremely powerful tool that, if not used properly, can cause more detriment then benevolence. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, several of the characters are compelled to restore family honor by exacting vengeance.
Young Fortinbras reclaims his father’s lost honor by gaining territory; Hamlet must avenge his father’s murder by killing Claudius, and Laertes must avenge his father and his sister by exacting revenge upon Hamlet. Each character is driven and controlled throughout the play by this desire and need for revenge.
Young Fortinbras’s motive is to regain the land that his father has lost to Hamlet’s, now deceased, father. Over the years, Fortinbras has brewed up a plan to avenge his father’s death. He has lived in Norway for many years, undisturbed by the Danish Crown, which has had its own problems in the past, including the death of their king and the reelection of an incompetent, know nothing king. With Claudius, the new King in power, Norway is able to go on with their plans of the reconquest of the lost territory.
Through this self-concerning attitude, Shakespeare shows that internal conflict is the main force that compels the revenge in the three characters, Fortinbras, Laertes, and Hamlet. Fortinbras’ internal conflict is based on a nonviolent plan of revenge, although if fighting is required, he is more then prepared to take action.
In addition, Fortinbras has to win back the honor for the Norwegian people. Norway has been like a tributary state to Denmark ever since the battle of the two late Kings. But do not be fooled. Fortinbras is not the type of ruler who is all for the people, by the people, of the people.
In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, several themes within the play comprise it’s the storyline and ultimately hold major influences on the plot. Conflict underlies almost every scene and is reinforced by the central idea of revenge. Several characters attempt to entice their enemies and even lead them to their own death through schemeful acts of manipulation.
The idea of revenge is first presented when Shakespeare creates conflict with Hamlet and Claudius which leads to a series of betrayals, treachery, and deception. Revenge is the underlying theme within the storyline and is reinforced with motifs of power and corruption leading to the vengeance most of the characters seek to obtain.
When developing the central focus of the play, Shakespeare inserts a dialogue between the ghost that haunts the castle and Hamlet, Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder, (I.v.25) indicating and introducing a revenge plot between Claudius and Hamlet. Much is said between this dialogue which invigorates Hamlet’s pursuit of revenge. Instead of rushing to accuse Claudius of such a tragic crime, Hamlet ponders upon what he believes is a more effective and schemeful alternative.
He decides to dominate Claudius through guilt by presenting a play that would ultimately expose him. The true accounts of King Hamlet’s death would come to light in front of all and Claudius’ reaction would confirm his criminality. Throughout the whole play, the driving force is Hamlet’s ambition to inflict total vengeance on his father’s murder.
Through a series of developed plans to trick one another, Shakespeare creates a plot focused essentially on revenge. Specifically, it plays a major role in the development of the characters within the play – Fortinbras, Hamlet, and Laertes as they all approach the same desire for revenge while pursuing it differently. Although Hamlet has met with the ghost of his father who specifically instructs him to gain revenge in the name of his murder, Hamlet seems uncertain to kill his uncle as a form of payback.
However, upon his father’s command Hamlet swears to retaliate in some form against Claudius and promises to prove his love and loyalty by fulfilling his duty as a son. Unlike Fortinbras and Laertes, Hamlet did not question the motive of his advisor and why he should take the advice but as time passes he feels as though he’s fallen short with gaining ultimate revenge and begins to doubt himself. Out of disgust, Hamlet says, What an ass am I!
This is most brave, That I, the son of a dear father murdered, Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell and must like a whore unpack my heart with words and fall a-cursing like a very drab (II.ii. 594-598) This statement is a clear indication that Hamlet knows how he should act and what initiatives he should take but does not want to act out so hastily.
After reaching his breaking point and seems on edge of madness, Hamlet acts out destructively and kills the Polonious father of Laertes whom upon hearing of his father’s murder reacts swiftly. After being notified that Hamlet is responsible for his father’s murder he swears he will have revenge, Only I’ll be revenged. Most thoroughly for my father. (IV.v. 133 – 134).
He immediately agrees to take part in the King’s plan to kill Hamlet and conspires with the king to deceive and challenge him to a fencing match where Laertes will kill Hamlet with a poisoned sword. For reassurance, Claudius prepares another form of murder in case all else fails and prepares a cup filled with poison for Hamlet. Although Claudius and Laertes seem to prepare themselves for the murder of Hamlet, their death comes along with it too, which points back to the theme of vengeance.
Young Fortinbra’s motive is to essentially regain the land that his father has lost to Hamlet’s father. Over the years, Fortinbras has brewed up a plan to avenge his father’s death. He has lived in Norway for many years, undisturbed by the Danish Crown, which has had its own problems in the past, including the death of their king and the reelection of an incompetent, know nothing king. With Claudius, the new King in power, Norway is able to go on with their plans of the reconquest of the lost territory.
Shakespeare depends on the reactions of Hamlet, Fortinbras, and Laertes to convey the theme of revenge. Their rage has taken different forms and collectively reveals the diversity of human feelings in bringing the theme of revenge into life. Hamlet, who acts slowly and with much contemplation, and Laertes, who acts with intense anger show polar opposites amongst these two characters. Meanwhile, Fortinbras’ rationality and deliberate measurements represent in some sense a combination of the two.
The play shows the strain of knowing the truth about people, living in a world of appearances. Fundamentally, Hamlet expresses the dilemma of living in that world. Marcellus’ remark “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (Hamlet 1.2. 65), reveals the corruption that is found on all levels in the state. As a result, there are frequent references to corruption. Claudius is irredeemably corrupt, guilty of the murder of not only a king but his brother as a King. Hamlet refers to Claudius as “a Canker in our nature” (Hamlet 2.2. 290). The relationship between Claudius and Gertrude, which starts with adultery, is immoral, but this is overlooked.
Because of the vengeance that both Laertes and Hamlet take, revenge is a major theme in Hamlet. It seems ironic that the three characters who were involved with all of the revenge (Claudius, Laertes, and Hamlet) all died from the same sword. Revenge was the driving force behind both Laertes and Hamlet, but both of them also approached their downfall because of it.
Their lack of thought behind their plans not only eventually killed them, but Laerte’s lack of thought also killed his partner in the conspiracy to kill Hamlet, King Claudius, which realized Hamlet’s revenge.
Hamlet’s revenge is delayed in three significant ways. First, he must establish Claudius’ guilt, which he does in Act 3, Scene 2 by presenting the murder of his father in a play. When Claudius storms out during the performance, Hamlet becomes convinced of his guilt.
Hamlet then considers his revenge at length, in contrast to the rash actions of Fortinbras and Laertes. For example, Hamlet has the opportunity to kill Claudius in Act 3, Scene 3. He draws his sword but is concerned that Claudius will go to heaven if killed while praying.
After killing Polonius, Hamlet is sent to England making it impossible for him to gain access to Claudius and carry out his revenge. During his trip, he decides to become more headstrong in his desire for revenge.
Although he does ultimately kill Claudius in the final scene of the play, it’s not due to any scheme or plan by Hamlet, rather, it is Claudius’ plan to kill Hamlet that backfires. Revenge is represented as the ultimate destructive force in Hamlet. It draws out the worst traits in the characters seeking it and has negative consequences on bystanders.
For a play to be considered a revenge tragedy, revenge has to be a prevalent theme throughout. Revenge needs to be intertwined in character interactions, and have a stronghold on the driving force of the plot. The desires of Hamlet, Laertes, and young Fortinbras each exhibit how the plot of Hamlet, by William Shakespeare revolves entirely around revenge.
The theme of revenge starts off very early in the play when Hamlet speaks with the ghost of his deceased father. When the ghost tells Hamlet how Claudius murdered him, Hamlet is infuriated and overtaken with feelings of responsibility to right the wrong that has been done; to murder Claudius.
Hamlet, through soliloquy, tells his audience that he has a master plan of revenge for his father. He plans to act insane, and commits to the role very well; almost too well. The portrayal of Hamlet’s initial undertaking of his insanity act is easily shown by what he says to Gertrude, “That essentially am not in madness, but mad in craft.”
This shows that Hamlet was only acting crazy as a component of his revenge scheme. However, later in the play, we witness the murder of Polonius by Hamlet. Hamlet killed Polonius without meaning to, thinking he was killing the king who murdered his father. But right as he realizes what he has done, he has no sympathy or regret for his actions, and simply brushes it off as a mistake well spent.
Hamlet says after the deed, “How now? A rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!” Hamlet (III, iv, 23) This quote is clearly an argument for Hamlet’s right state of mind, and only further develops the plot of the story. He begins to become a reckless killing machine, which changes from what he wanted in the beginning; to only kill Claudius.
In the play Hamlet written by William Shakespeare, several characters attempt to lure their foes into their death as payback for any wrongdoing. This highlights the main theme of revenge in the play. Revenge is a constant theme throughout the plot.
Not only does it underlie almost every scene, but it also has a major effect on the story as a whole. Three of the main revenge plots within the play are Hamlet’s aim to avenge his father by killing his uncle, Laertes’ target to avenge the murder of his father by killing Hamlet, and Prince Fortinbras’ wish to reclaim his father’s land.
These three revenge plots play a major role in presenting to the audience the theme of revenge through a series of developed plans to trick one another. Shakespeare first uses the revenge theme to create conflict between Hamlet and Claudius. In Act I, Hamlet is visited by the ghost of his father, who makes Hamlet aware of his murderous death completed by his brother.
The ghost says this to Hamlet regarding Claudius, “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (Shakespeare, Hamlet, I, v, 25). This is where Hamlet is first introduced to the revenge plot between himself and Claudius. Hamlet wants to ensure that the ghost really was his dead father before he kills Claudius. Hamlet wants to entrap the King by making him admit his actions.
To do this Hamlet has people act out the death of his father in front of Claudius and declares him guilty by his reaction to the play, “O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound” (III, II, 281-282). Hamlet affirms Claudius’ guilt to Horatio and now realizes that he must continue on with his revenge plot. Hamlet’s desire to get revenge for his father is the driving force for the development of the play.
While Hamlet takes the length of the play to take action, Laertes, upon hearing of his fathers’ murder, reacts swiftly and recklessly. He returns to Elsinore threatening to overthrow Claudius if he does not explain the death of Polonius. When Claudius tells Laertes that Hamlet is responsible, Laertes swears he will have his revenge; “Only I’ll be revenged.
Most thoroughly for my father” (IV, v, 133-134). He immediately agrees to take part in the King’s plan to kill Hamlet. Laertes conspires with the King to deceive Hamlet and challenge him to a fencing match, where Laertes will kill Hamlet with a poison-tipped rapier. For good measure, Claudius also prepares a cup filled with poison ready for Hamlet, if Laertes’ sword fails to achieve its goal.
King Claudius and Laertes’ plan to exterminate Hamlet works, but it comes along with their deaths as well, which reinforces the theme of vengeance. While Hamlet and Laertes are at opposing ends of the spectrum, however, Prince Fortinbras is in the middle. When King Hamlet kills Young Fortinbras’ father, his reaction was neither delayed nor reckless.
In contrast to Hamlet’s procrastination and Laertes’ haste, Fortinbras reacts rationally. Rather than excessively contemplating his circumstances or acting on impulse, he calmly and deliberately forms a practical plan to avenge his father’s death and reclaim his lands. He assembles an army and arranges plans to have that army march to Denmark.
The Prince tricks the King by explaining to Claudius that his army is simply marching through Denmark and that he had no intention of attacking it. He arrives, conveniently, soon after the carnage at Elsinore has unfolded. It is no coincidence that Fortinbras, who acts rationally and decisively, is the only one of the three characters to survive the play. Shakespeare uses Fortinbras to show that acting with rationality rather than on impulse or with excessive contemplation results in the superior end.
Hamlet, Laertes, and Fortinbras are three individuals who were placed in a similar position, but who reacted in drastically different manners. Hamlet, who acts slowly and with much contemplation, and Laertes, who acts with reckless anger, represent polar opposites. Meanwhile, Fortinbras’ rational, deliberate execution represents the ultimately superior combination of the two.
Even though they all contrasted for the most part, they all did have one thing in common: secretive plans to entrap one of their rivals. Shakespeare’s masterful use of characterization therefore illuminates that aspect of human nature that gives us an impulse to seek revenge and shows how different responses to that impulse can have drastically different results. Revenge is shown as a chain reaction by Shakespeare that all starts with a stealthy blueprint.
Example #10 – interesting ideas
A revenge tragedy was a popular form of writing during the Elizabethan age, in this form of writing the main character is directed by a ghost of his murdered father or son and the ghost inflicts retaliation, amongst a powerful villain.
Revenge tragedies usually include the following; violence, bizarre criminal acts, insanity, a hesitant protagonist, and the use of soliloquy. Thus Hamlet becomes a Revenge of Tragedy it follows all the guidelines and in some cases goes above and beyond.
Revenge tragedies have been pretty popular, because of the fact that everyone deep down can understand at one level, its something that we all understand and respond to even if it be imaginatively because we can’t carry out such a vengeance our selves.
In Hamlet, William Shakespeare uses revenge as the key theme for the play. Revenge starts as anger as we see in act 1 where Hamlet is encouraged to take vengeance on his father’s murder, and so forth throughout the play. It is through revenge that ultimately leads to Hamlet’s and Laerte’s very own death along with the death of other prominent characters.
The play is introduced by the site of the ghost of Hamlet’s father in the first scene, which automatically gives the impression that something is wrong. “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (Act1 Scene 4 Line 90). The ghost emerges before Hamlet and indicates that his death was not as innocent as it may seem.
The ghost urges Hamlet to “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (Act1 Scene 5 Line25) and informs him that “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life Now wears his crown “(Act1 Scene5 Line 38). This appears to indicate that Hamlet’s father’s
death was actually murder, and that the deed was committed by King Hamlet’s brother, Claudius. The Ghost taunts Hamlet, telling him that it is part of every man’s honor to avenge his death. Hamlet then becomes filled with anger after he agrees to avenge his father’s death. This is the beginning of a nasty phase of hatred, death, and revenge that ultimately devastates key character’s lives.
Use the mousetrap scene obviously, where Hamlet tries to confirm whether or not Claudius is guilty “the plays the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king”.
Also the soliloquy in act 4, “how all occasions do inform against me, and spur my dull revenge”, and in the same soliloquy at the end, hamlet makes up his mind, “from this time forth, let my thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth”.
Also, consider the scene where hamlet has the opportunity to kill Claudius but doesn’t because Claudius was praying and hamlet didn’t want Claudius to go to heaven (because then, wheres the justice/vengeance in that according to hamlet).
Those are just some ideas. try structuring your essay with the following:
- Ghost to Hamlet: Hamlet learns of his father’s foul murder
- Indecisiveness of Hamlet
- Hamlet’s need for confirmation of what the ghost tells him (mousetrap)
- build up — Hamlet finally becomes ready to act (my thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth)
- the ending — Hamlet kills claudius and finally gets revenge