Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’: the Tragedy of Revenge

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Revenge is a theme seen throughout Hamlet. It is a major element that makes the story more intriguing. Fear drives people to behave irrationally and leads to madness, confusion, death, and most importantly revenge. Revenge isn’t a good way to handle situations because you’ll notice a lot of accidental things that happen and faulty actions. I’m going to focus on three main characters who are seeking revenge; Hamlet and Laertes. All wanting revenge for the death of their fathers.

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The main example of revenge starts off with Hamlet wanting to kill Claudius because Claudius killed Hamlet’s father. Hamlet finds out that Claudius killed his father from the ghost of his father, telling him how Claudius put the poison in his ear and the ghost wants him to get revenge on Claudius. Hamlet is ready to seek his revenge but he faces many obstacles. He’s stuck because he wants to get revenge for his father but he also knows what’s right deep down. First he has to see if the ghost is telling the truth, so Hamlet is going to try and tests Claudius’ guilt, he tells Marcellus and Horatio he’s going to act like he’s insane to help him prove that Claudius is guilty. Which helped him buy some time to put together his whole plan for his scheme. Referring to Hamlets plan he says: About, my brain. Hum, I have heard/ T’ assume a pleasing shape. (2.2.592-604).

Hamlet is going to watch Claudius’ reaction to the play. If Claudius seems like the play is making him uncomfortable that will determine if the ghost is telling the truth. Claudius tells them to stop the play and leaves angrily. Hamlets says O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound. Didst perceive? (3.2.284-285). Hamlet believes that the ghost is indeed telling the truth. Claudius is alone in his chamber found by Hamlet, looking to kill him. He notices that the King is praying and draws his sword then stops and he thinks about it for a little while. Eventually realizing that if he kills him while he is confessing his sins, he would be doing him a favor not seeking revenge as his father asked. Meanwhile Hamlet is stirring up drama for himself and others. Making things worst amid a conversation with his mother Gertrude, he accidentally kills Polonius mistaking him for the King. Showing no remorse for his actions and leaves dragging Polonius’ corpse and hiding it. This was a big part in leadings to Ophelia’s death, her father’s death pushed her to her breaking point. Till that her garments, heavy with their drink, / Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay / To muddy death. (4.5.178-181).

Laertes has secretly sailed back from France and he is terrified about the death of his father Polonius and sister Ophelia. And of course, he is now seeking revenge. Laertes is looking to get straight to the point unlike Hamlet. Laertes is happy to hear that Hamlet is coming back to Denmark, so his revenge doesn’t have to be delayed. Claudius helps Laertes come up with a plan to kill him. He remembers how Hamlet has been jealous of how brave Laertes is with his sword. He made confession of you and gave you such a masterly report/Your sudden coming o’er, to play with him. Now, out of this??” (4.7.110-119). They are going to try and convince Hamlet to battle with Laertes. The final plan is for Laertes to us a sharpened sword instead of a dull fencing sword. Laertes also plans to poison his sword, so that even if he just cuts him, he will be poisoned and killed. If the plan falls through, their back up plan is to offer Hamlet a poisoned cup of wine to celebrate.

Now for the final scene of the play, one of the kings ask Hamlet if he is ready for the match. Hamlet agrees saying I am constant to my purpose. They follow the king’s pleasure. If his fitness speaks, mine is ready, now or whensoever, provided I be so able as now. (5.2.201-203). Hamlet asks Laertes for forgiveness, (5.2.228-234) saying that it was just his madness not his will, that murdered Polonius. Laertes decides to forgive Hamlet for his offer of love. And decides not to accept his forgiveness until the fight has settled everything for him. Hamlet and Laertes pick their swords. Claudius says that if Hamlet gets the second or first hit he will drink the poison for doing good. The fight begins! Hamlet has the first hit on Laertes he refuses to drink. He hits him again; this time Gertrude rises and drinks from the cup. The king tells her not to drink it, but she does it anyway. The King says quietly It is the poisoned cup. It is too late. (5.2.310). Hamlet and Laertes continue, Laertes finally gets a hit on Hamlet, making him bleed. Still fighting the somehow swap swords and Hamlet gets Laertes with his own blade. The queen has fallen, as well as Laertes. Laertes tells Hamlet that the King is responsible, he charges at him with his sword and forces him to drink the rest of the poisoned wine. Moment later Hamlet then dies.

In conclusion, wanting revenge did nothing but make things worse for everyone causing many deaths. This shows that hatred can ruin you. It just seemed like all the characters made things worse for themselves out of hatred, madness, and poor judgement.

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Shakespeare's 'Hamlet': The Tragedy of Revenge. (2019, Apr 01). Retrieved September 28, 2022 , from
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