Revenge In Hamlet

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What do you consider to the main theme(s) of Hamlet?

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a complex play where many themes are intertwined – themes that are essential to the development of the play. The issue of death and disease, both physical and emotional is very prevalent throughout the duration of the play, as well as fate and divine providence. The play also questions madness and whether it can be feigned, as well as corruption and its moral implications. Of course, who could forget the famous ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy, where Hamlet not only questions life and death, but many of life’s other uncertainties as well.

Undoubtedly, the most essential theme in the development of Hamlet is revenge and question ‘Does revenge pay?’ Revenge is a frighteningly bloodthirsty emotion, which causes people to act blindly and without reason. Revenge is a theme that is cleverly built upon throughout the extent of the play; with it being the driving force behind two of the main characters in the play.

The play is introduced by the appearance of the ghost of Hamlet’s father in the first scene, which automatically gives the impression that something is amiss. This is later clarified by the statement that “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (Act1 Scene 4 Line 90). The ghost emerges before Hamlet and insinuates that his death was not as nocent 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, who had now taken over as King of Denmark. The Ghost taunts Hamlet, telling him that it is part of every man’s honour to avenge his death. Hamlet then becomes a part of Denmark’s foulness and wretchedness when he agrees to avenge his father’s death. This is the beginning of a vicious cycle of hatred, death and revenge that destroys many lives.

Soon after Claudius marries Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, Hamlet feigns madness as a ploy to cover up his attempts to avenge his father’s death and to bring him closer to Claudius. One of the first things Hamlet does in his attempt to prove Claudius’ guilt is to have ‘The Mousetrap’ performed in court. ‘The Mousetrap recreates ...

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...amned Dane, Drink off this potion. Is thy union here? Follow my mother.” Laertes dies, content that justice has been served and Hamlet himself dies soon after, his father’s death finally avenged.

The obsession and need for revenge displayed by our two main characters eventually led them both to their downfall. Not only did it hurt themselves, but many others close to them. Ophelia’s death, for example could be blamed on Hamlet’s desire for revenge, whilst Hamlets death occurred as a result of Laertes quest to avenge his father’s death.

Hopefully, it is easy to see why I believe that revenge is the core theme in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Revenge shapes the entire plot of the play and could be blamed for corrupting Hamlet and Laertes, making them almost evil in their final intentions. Shakespeare highlights the moral implications of revenge, and how a person can be corrupted by their need for revenge. The age-old saying ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ is outlined perfectly in Hamlet. You cannot receive a punch, return a punch and then all sit down together for a lovely dinner. The second that you retaliate, it starts a horrible chain that is almost impossible to break.

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