Revenge in Hamlet and The Revenger's Tragedy

Powerful Essays
In this study of revenge and revengers in two Elizabethan revenge tragedies the two plays I shall look at are Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, and The Revenger's Tragedy, by Thomas Middleton. I shall look first at the playwrights' handling of the characters of the revengers, and then at the treatment of the revengers by other characters in the plays.

Although having similarities in their underlying themes, and in their adherence to conventions, these two plays present contrasting pictures of the figure of the revenger; Hamlet offering a far more complex treatment of its main character, and The Revenger's Tragedy appearing, in comparison, limited by the author's social message, and lacking in realistic characterisation.

Hamlet and Vindice, the two revengers, have in common their tasks as revengers, but they have very different methods of dealing with situations, modes of thought, and instinctual behaviour. Middleton's Vindice is largely an allegorical character; his name and the names of other characters in The Revenger's Tragedy (e.g. Spurio, Ambitioso) are derived from Medieval morality plays; names which suggest the quality of near-farcical exaggeration which is a feature of The Revenger's Tragedy from the opening scene's remarkable similarity to a procession of the Seven Deadly Sins, to Vindice's simplistic association of lust with Judas and the Devil.

Hamlet, in contrast, is an individual with depth, who suffers from insecurity, and a sense of absurdity. As we see him at the beginning of the play he is suffering from melancholy, not only from the death of his father, but also from "the moral shock of the sudden ghostly disclosure of his mother's true nature" (Bradley). Hamlet is psychologically real, and in my view...

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...tentions in the face of a whimsical providence.

Works Cited

Bradley, A. C., John Russell. Brown, and A. C. Bradley. A.C. Bradley on Shakespeare's Tragedies: A Concise Edition and Reassessment. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Print.

Garber, Marjorie B. Profiling Shakespeare. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print.

Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, and Ian Johnston. On the Use and Abuse of History for Life. Arlington, VA: Richer Resources Publications, 2010. Print.

Erlich, Avi. Hamlet's Absent Father. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1977. Print.

Middleton, Thomas. “The Revenger’s Tragedy.” 1607. Five Revenge Tragedies. Ed. Emma Smith. London: Penguin Classics, 2012. Print.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. New York: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1994.

Wilson, J. Dover "What Happens in Hamlet" New York: Cambridge University Press, 1959
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