Revenge and Vengeance in Shakespeare's Hamlet - Why Revenge?

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Revenge in Hamlet In Elizabethan times, a type of play known as a "revenge tragedy" became popular. These plays revolved around, "... the revenge of a father for a son or vice versa, the revenge being directed by the ghost of the murdered man..." (Harmon and Holman #6). Other characteristics include real or pretend insanity, philosophic soliloquies, hesitation on the part of the protagonist, conspiracy, and the use of horror. William Shakespeare's Hamlet fully satisfies each of these traits, making it an excellent example of a revenge tragedy. Certainly, the most critical theme in the play by far is that of revenge; it fuels the plot and story of Hamlet, reveals the hamartia of the protagonist, and is used successfully to develop some of the main characters. Anne Barton says, "As a structural and thematic center for tragedy, revenge has much to recommend it," (Barton 11) and that, "For most Elizabethan dramatists, the attraction of revenge plots lay precisely in their tragic potentiality," (Barton 14). Shakespeare would undoubtedly agree. There are three rings of revenge at the center of the story of Hamlet. The first is that of Fortinbras Jr. who seeks vengeance against Hamlet Sr. for killing Fortinbras Sr. The second is that of Hamlet Jr. who seeks revenge against Claudius for the murder of Hamlet Sr. And the third is that of Laertes who seeks to avenge the death of his father Polonius at the hand of Hamlet Jr. Without these various plans for revenge, and the need to seek justice within the characters, there would be no story. However, the plot of this tragedy would be incomplete without the protagonist's hamartia. This characteristic flaw of tragic heroes is, "... an unwitting, even a necessa... ... middle of paper ... ...literary accomplishment. Works Cited Barton, Anne. Introduction. Hamlet. By Shakespeare, William. Markham: Penguin Books Canada Ltd., 7-53. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. T. J. B. Spencer. Markham: Penguin Books Canada Ltd., 1980. Frye, Northrop. Handout. "Clue #1: Northrop Frye on Shakespeare". Writing Assignment #7: The Question of Revenge in Shakespeare's Hamlet. By Hannusch, Brent. 1999. Harmon, William, and Holman, C. Hugh. Handout. "Clue #4: Tragedy". Writing Assignment #7: The Question of Revenge in Shakespeare's Hamlet. By Hannusch, Brent. 1999. --. Handout. "Clue #6: Hamartia". Writing Assignment #7: The Question of Revenge in Shakespeare's Hamlet. By Hannusch, Brent. 1999. --. Handout. "Clue #7: Revenge Tragedy". Writing Assignment #7: The Question of Revenge in Shakespeare's Hamlet. By Hannusch, Brent. 1999.

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