Hamlet: A Quest for Revenge Essay

Hamlet: A Quest for Revenge Essay

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Many scholars classify William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark as a revenge tragedy, a genre popular during the Elizabethan era (Gainor 41). Shakespeare's tragedy focuses on three sons–Hamlet, Laertes, and Fortinbras–seeking retribution for the unfortunate death of their fathers– King Hamlet, Polonius, and King Fortinbras respectively. In the play, the father-son relationship is the primary motivator for each son's revenge. Because Elizabethan society places a strong emphasis on the relationship between father and son, each son feels obligated to right his father's wrongs. According to Fredric B. Tromly, author of Fathers and Sons in Shakespeare: The Debt Never Promised, “A defining . . . feature of Shakespeare’s depiction of ambivalent sons is their rescue of their fathers At the risk of their own lives, these sons . . . attempt to rescue the paternal name and legacy" (Tromly 9). In order to maintain the reputation of his father, each son willingly takes on his duty avenge his father. Although each son attempts to revenge his father in the tragedy Hamlet, only Fortinbras succeeds, for he not only avenges his father's death but also maintains his father's legacy.
Hamlet's plan to avenge his father ultimately fails because of its indecisive and self-centered nature. The prince's inability to make decisions first surfaces after watching a group of actors rehearse for the play they are to perform for the kingdom. Dumbfounded, the prince does not understand how actors can feign emotions, but he cannot express his personal woes. In his second soliloquy, he admits, "I,/ A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak/ Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,/ And can say nothing- no not for a king/ Upon whose property ...


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...s. Hamlet's indecision and Laertes' hasty nature prevents them from truly avenge the death of their fathers. While each son kills his father's murderer, he also loses his life. Thus, neither Hamlet nor Laertes can preserve their father's legacy. In contrast, Fortinbras' decisive action and maturity allows him to not only revenge his father but also uphold his father's reputation as a noble man.



Works Cited

Gainor, J E, Stanton B. Garner, and H M. Puchner. The Norton Anthology of Drama:Shorter Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Gainor, J E, Stanton B. Garner, and H M. Puchner. The Norton Anthology of Drama:Shorter Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
Tromly, Frederic B. Fathers and Sons in Shakespeare: The Debt Never Promised. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, Inc: 2010. Print.

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