A baffling array of considerations relevant to the revenge aspect of Shakespeare’s tragic drama Hamlet make an essay on this topic an interesting experience.
Ruth Nevo in “Acts III and IV: Problems of Text and Staging” explains the uncertain place which revenge occupies within the hero’s most famous soliloquy:
And conversely, because self-slaughter is the ostensible subject of the whole disquisition, we cannot read the speech simply as a case of conscience in the matter of revenge – Christian revenge and the secular sanctions and motivations of honor. Whether Hamlet is talking of his revenge or of his desire for death, or of both, one substituting for the other as mask for truth (or truth for mask) therefore becomes the problem that this speech poses. (46)
Howard Felperin sees in Hamlet a return to the once-extinct revenge play (Felperin 105). Although defunct for awhile, the revenge tragedy resurrected prior to the date of Hamlet’s composition.
The prince has a possible motive for revenge from the very outset: he is dejected by the “o’erhasty marriage” of his mother to his uncle. Hamlet’s first soliloquy sees the expression of his negative feelings and their growth in intensity; it emphasizes the corruption of the world and the frailty of women:
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on: and yet, within a month—
Let me not think on't--Frailty, thy name is woman!—(1.2)
Based on the meeting of the hero and Horatio, A.C. Bradley in Shakespearean Tragedy presents convincing evidence of the depth of the hero’s melancholy – is it potent enough to...
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...le Review. vol. 41 (1952) p. 502-23. Rpt. in Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Criticism. Rev. ed. Ed. Leonard F. Dean. New York: Oxford University P., 1967.
Nevo, Ruth. “Acts III and IV: Problems of Text and Staging.” Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. Rpt. from Tragic Form in Shakespeare. N.p.: Princeton University Press, 1972.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. http://www.chemicool.com/Shakespeare/hamlet/full.html No line nos.
Wright, Louis B. and Virginia A. LaMar. “Hamlet: A Man Who Thinks Before He Acts.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Ed. Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar. N. p.: Pocket Books, 1958.
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