Revenge and Vengeance in Shakespeare's Hamlet

Good Essays
Revenge in Hamlet

Shakespeare's Hamlet is largely coordinated by connections, parallelisms and contrasts between intermingled families.

In the play we see two families who are victims, as well as perpetrators, of revenge. The Polonius family is significant in key scenes and also in the language that the family members use.

The theme of revenge is central to the play and there are four "cases" of revenge - three involving "living" characters: Fortinbras, Laertes and Hamlet, and one which is a Classical legend which was the greatest symbol of secular disaster in the Renaissance world, the story of the destruction of Troy and the revenge of Phyrrus, for the death of his father, Achilles, on Priam, the Trojan King. Hamlet's choice of speech for the Player King, is no accident. The revenge/family motif of the Trojan conflict was well known to the Shakespearean audience.

The two "court" families, one Royal and the other in Royal service, are linked initially by Hamlet's love for Ophelia, but as the play develops, these links become more complex and more sinister, until there is a mortal collision which results in death and multiple tragedy.

There is antagonism between Polonius and Hamlet from the outset, as Hamlet sees himself as a victim of Polonius's support of Claudius as King. This adds to the sense of betrayal which he already feels as a result of his mother's actions. Polonius is keen to preserve his position and also displays a mistrust of Hamlet's intentions towards his daughter, forbidding her to see the prince and later using her as bait to ingratiate himself further to Claudius by proving that Hamlet's madness is the result of love. The exchanges between the two are characterised by a tension o...

... middle of paper ...

...e is articulate even in madness, and retains a gentleness which causes even Claudius to show compassion for her suffering. She has very little power or autonomy and her role as a constant and forsaken lover is one of great poignancy.

Laertes is forceful, ruthless and manipulated by Claudius. He too is a rival of Hamlet and linked to the prince in his love for his sister. He is protective of Ophelia and sees Hamlet as dangerous. there is also an implied rivalry of some standing between Laertes and Hamlet which is revealed in Claudius's speech about Lamord, the Frenchman. Laertes is passionate and ferocious in his defense of his family's honor. The "hugger-mugger" burial of his father and the sparse rites accorded his sister provoke passionate denunciations from him. He is also honorable and manages to redeem himself in his forgiveness of Hamlet before his death.
Get Access