Essay about Hamlet as So Much More Than a Traditional Revenge Tragedy

Essay about Hamlet as So Much More Than a Traditional Revenge Tragedy

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Hamlet as So Much More Than a Traditional Revenge Tragedy

Although Shakespeare wrote Hamlet closely following the conventions of
a traditional revenge tragedy, he goes far beyond this form in his
development of Hamlet's character. Shakespeare's exploration of
Hamlet's complex thoughts and emotions is perhaps more the focus of
the play rather than that of revenge, thus in Hamlet Shakespeare
greatly develops and enhances the form of the traditional revenge

The main source of Hamlet is Saxo Grammaticus' Historiae Danicae, a
folk tale that has a similar plot to Hamlet; however, Shakespeare
greatly transforms this story of revenge when creating Hamlet.
Shakespeare also draws upon contemporary revenge tragedies, in
particular Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, which exemplifies the main
traditions of the Elizabethan revenge tragedy, which was developed by
Kyd from the tragedies of the Roman writer Seneca. When comparing 'The
Spanish Tragedy' and Hamlet, we can clearly see how Shakespeare has
gone far further than the conventional revenge tragedy.

Kyd's transformation of Senecan traditions of revenge tragedy in The
Spanish Tragedy, provided the main principles for the popular
Elizabethan Revenge Tragedy, and thus gave Shakespeare the basic model
for Hamlet. Therefore, it is easy to draw parallels between The
Spanish Tragedy and Hamlet, for instance the use of a ghost seeking

In The Spanish Tragedy, the ghost of Don Andrea begins the play by
retelling the story of how he was 'slain,' and how the gods have sent
him back with Revenge to avenge his death. Therefore, Kyd uses the
ghost to introduce the main theme of reveng...

... middle of paper ...

... confines of the popular revenge tragedy genre at the time. In Hamlet
he shows the complex human emotions that arise as a result of grief,
and also takes a new stance on the 'burden of the call to revenge,'[3]
by showing how Hamlet is hindered by his overwhelming feelings about
the corruption in Denmark, such as the 'incestuous' marriage of his
mother to Claudius. Therefore, although very much adhering to the
conventions of the traditional revenge tragedy, Shakespeare goes
beyond this in Hamlet, through his focus on human nature, rather than
that of revenge.


[1] A. Bailey, Tragedy, Revenge and Revenge Tragedy in Hamlet

[2] A. Bailey, Tragedy, Revenge and Revenge Tragedy in Hamlet

[3] A. Bailey, Tragedy, Revenge and Revenge Tragedy in Hamlet

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