Revenge In Hamlet Essay Research Paper The

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Revenge In Hamlet Essay, Research Paper

The Presence of Revenge in Hamlet

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Revenge is a major theme in the Tragedy of Hamlet. In the play Hamlet, by

William Shakespeare, the theme of revenge is repeated numerous times

throughout the

play and involves a great deal of 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. Revenge causes one to


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.

Young Fortinbras,

Laertes, and Hamlet are all looking to avenge the deaths of their fathers.

There are three

major families in the Tragedy of Hamlet. These are the family of King

Fortinbras, the

family of Polonius, and the family of King Hamlet. The heads of each of these

families are

all slaughtered within the play. Fortinbras, King of Norway, is killed by

King Hamlet; slain

by sword during a man to man battle. “our valiant Hamlet-for so this

side of our known

world esteem’d him-did slay this Fortinbras.” This entitled King Hamlet

to the land that

was possessed by Fortinbras because it was written in a seal’d contract.

Polonius is an

advisor to the King, and father to Laertes and Ophelia. He is nosy and

arrogant, and he

does not trust his children. He is killed by Young Hamlet while he is

eavesdropping on a

conversation between Hamlet and his mother. “How now! A rat? Dead, for a


dead!” King Hamlet is the King of Denmark, and Hamlet’s father. He has

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 effects the sons of

the deceased in the

same way, it enraged them.

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 insure that the ghost really was his

dead father

before he kills Claudius. 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


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.

Every one of the three eldest sons has one thing in common, they all want


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


vengeance, and then acts towards getting revenge for the deaths of their

fathers. Young

Fortinbras is deeply enraged by the death of his father, and he wants revenge


Denmark because of this occurrence. Fortinbras wanted to, by force, regain

the lands that

had been lost by his father to Denmark. “Now sir, young Fortinbras-as it

doth well appear

unto our state-but to recover of us, by strong hand and terms compulsive,

those foresaid

lands so by his father losta” Claudius sends messengers to talk to

Fortinbras’ uncle, the

new King of Norway. He forbids Fortinbras to attack Denmark, and instead

convinces him

to attack the Poles to vent his anger. “His nephew’s levies, which to

him appear’d to be a

preparation ‘gainst the Polack; But better look’d into, he truly found it was

against your

highness. On Fortinbras; which he, in brief, obeys, receives rebuke from

Norway, and, in

fine, makes vow before his uncle never more to give the assay of arms against



Laertes finds out about his father’s death, and immediately returned home. He

confronts 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 slain The


instrument is in thy, unbated and envenom’d” Hamlet is deeply sorrowed

by his father’s

death. He speaks to a ghost, and this ghost states 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 is astonished, and then swears vengeance for his father’s

death. He then

proceeds 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. Shakespeare uses the revenge plot to create conflict


Laertes and Hamlet by having Laertes avenge his father’s and sister’s death

which Hamlet

is responsible for. After learning of his fathers unnatural death, Hamlet

decides that he can

no longer trust anyone, except for Horatio. While acting out his madness, he


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 mistakenly kills Polonius who was hiding behind a big rug, which

for some

medeval 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


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 perfection?s: 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


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.

The lack of thought used in exacting the revenge leads to the deaths of both

Laertes and Hamlet. Laertes plans 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 fights Hamlet, 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


regains his fathers land, without 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.

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. ” Or that the Everlasting had not

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 murder’d,

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


A villian 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. (3.4.76-79)

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.

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 dies 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


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.

The revenge plot was used by Shakespeare to create conflict among many


throughout the play, Hamlet.