Essay on Problems in the Revenge Tragedy: William Shakespeare's Hamlet

Essay on Problems in the Revenge Tragedy: William Shakespeare's Hamlet

Length: 2634 words (7.5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Research Papers

Open Document

Essay Preview

Shakespeare's Hamlet presents the generic elements found in Renaissance revenge tragedies ("Revenge Tragedy"). However, although Hamlet is a revenge tragedy by definition, Shakespeare complicates the basic revenge plot by creating three revenge plots out of one. By adding significant innovations, Shakespeare creates "three concentric rings of revenge" (Frye 90), depicting an indecisive protagonist who is an intellectual rather than a physical hero, an ambiguous ghost, and several problematic aspects of the play, such as the reason for Hamlet's delay, the confusion of time, and the truth behind Hamlet's apparent madness.
In a typical revenge tragedy, a hero is called upon by the ghost of a family member to avenge his death ("Revenge Tragedy"). Hamlet is the main protagonist and hero called upon by the spirit of his father to "revenge his foul and most unnatural murder" (1.5.31). When Hamlet first hears that his father was murdered, he exclaims, "Haste me to know't, that I, with wings as swift...may sweep to my revenge" (1.5.35-37). He is hungry to avenge his father; however, Hamlet does nothing and at the end of Act II he scolds himself that "this player...could force his soul so to his own conceit...all for nothing...yet, [he]...can say nothing for a king upon whose property and most dear life a damned defeat was made" (2.2.578-598). Hamlet is upset that he cannot act to avenge his father, but this mere actor can build up so much emotion for nothing. Shakespeare complicates the plot because revenge plots are supposed to have an aggressive protagonist with courage to carry out his deed of revenge; instead, Shakespeare modifies the hero and portrays Hamlet as an indecisive and contemplative man.
Additionally, because of the read...

... middle of paper ...

...grieving over his father's death and the shock of finding out his uncle murdered him. Hamlet's life was uprooted and destroyed in the matter of three months and that is enough to make anyone go crazy. Overall, Hamlet can be sympathized with more easily than the other characters by modern readers because we are able to see inside his head and understand his struggles and how deals with them as he progresses through the play.

Works Cited

Aeschylus. The Oresteia. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books, 1977. Print.
Frye, Northrop. Northrop Frye on Shakespeare. Ed. Robert Sandler. New Haven: Yale UP, 1986. 90. Print.
"Revenge Tragedy." Research at UVU. Utah Valley University, 2003. Web. 22 November 2013.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. The Folger Shakespeare Library. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperback, 2012. Print.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Revenge VS (Im)Morality in William Shakespeare's "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark"

- Hamlet’s Denmark is described as being a prison, “[a] goodly one, in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o’th’ worst” (Shakespeare 2.2.241-242) sets the setting, which illustrates that Denmark is a dystopia in which its people are enslaved. The world of Hamlet’s Denmark is a world that exudes injustice, revenge, deceit, slaughter, corruption, and most importantly, immorality. Modeled after Shakespeare’s very own England, Hamlet’s Denmark is a place filled with spies and espionage where the ambitious, immoral, corrupt and unjust rise to power and revel in glory....   [tags: Hamlet's Denmark, spies, espoinage]

Research Papers
1578 words (4.5 pages)

William Shakespeare's Hamlet as a Revenge Tragedy Essay

- William Shakespeare's Hamlet as a Revenge Tragedy Revenge Tragedy was a genre which lasted from 1590 until 1615. The genre appealed to the Elizabethan audience’s desire for blood and violence without emotional depth. ================================================================== Revenge tragedies originated in the writings of the Roman Seneca (4BC-AD65) whose plays heavily influenced Elizabethan dramatists. Seneca’s tragedies, using stories derived from mythology emphasised bloody action, horrific incidents and ranting speeches....   [tags: Papers]

Research Papers
1241 words (3.5 pages)

Tragedy in William Shakespeare´s Hamlet Essay

- ... In doubting that life is worth all the hardships one must face, Hamlet briefly relishes in the concept of death, equating it to nothing more than a sleep wherein one can be rid of the “heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks” of physical life (III.i.70). Though immediately thereafter Hamlet acknowledges the startling unknown, and the fact that one does not know what comes after death. Hamlet feels a great deal of uncertainty, which surely enhances his overall frustration. Herein lies Hamlet’s reservations in regards to committing suicide: it is a sin, and the afterlife may prove to be more unpleasant than life itself....   [tags: Revenge, Death]

Research Papers
1312 words (3.7 pages)

Essay on Hamlet by William Shakespeare

- The expression “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is never taken literally in the modern day, as it only exaggerates the idea of payback or karma, but this saying took a whole new meaning in the famous tragic-revenge play of Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare in 1601.What is so appealing about this masterpiece, to audiences of many decades, is the fact that revenge plays a rather large role throughout the play, motivating not only characters but developing an extensive plot. Revenge is the dominant theme that is intertwined into every character’s actions, forcing some to act out of blind anger and emotion instead of thoughtful reasoning....   [tags: revenge, tragedy, death]

Research Papers
1423 words (4.1 pages)

The Influence of Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy on Hamlet by William Shakespeare

- The influence of Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy is seen throughout the use the ghost in Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. This scene marks the beginning of Hamlet's action towards revenge. Through the allusions of Greek mythology, death and revenge, Elizabethan tragedy is displayed in both dialogues. The ghost present in both plays fit the what the Elizabethans held about superstition. Depicted by Shakespeare and Kyd, the theme of revenge correlates between both ghosts' monologues. Both of their objectives are set on seeking retribution for a relative....   [tags: revenge, ghosts, mythology]

Research Papers
584 words (1.7 pages)

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare Essay

- ... The ghost tells Hamlet that his brother killed him in order to steal both his wife and the throne. Hamlet becomes confused after seeing his father’s ghost and is unsure of how he should react. However, he vows to seek revenge against his uncle, although he refuses to do so without first having sufficient evidence to prove his uncle’s guilt. A few months later, with the help of actors from his university in Wittenberg, Hamlet decides to stage a play of his father’s poisoning for Claudius. Hamlet believes that Claudius’ reaction to the play will either confirm or deny his guilt....   [tags: revenge, inheriting, marry, murder]

Research Papers
1220 words (3.5 pages)

Revenge in Hamlet and The Revenger's Tragedy Essay

-     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...   [tags: Elizabethan Revenge Tragedies]

Research Papers
3225 words (9.2 pages)

Psychological Roles in The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare

- The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is a play written by the well-known William Shakespeare. The play contains many themes that greatly help to determine the aspects of a character; such as how they act, talk, and they ways they feel. One of the main themes that occurred continuously in this play and one of which readers can distinctly witness are the psychological roles that shape the characters. A psychological aspect that is portrayed in Hamlet is the role of insanity. Insanity is a form of illness which is characterized by abnormal mental or behavioral patterns ("Insanity." Wikipedia)....   [tags: insanity, revenge, characters]

Research Papers
1356 words (3.9 pages)

Define Revenge in Hamlet Essay

- Revenge is one’s desire to retaliate and get even. Human instincts turn to revenge when loved ones are hurt. But, these misdeeds of taking upon revenge may lead to serious consequences. In William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Hamlet,” Fortinbras, Hamlet, and Laertes’s each show how their desire for revenge unavoidably leads to tragedy. The loss of their loved ones caused these characters in Hamlet to take action. Young Fortinbras has built an army to get back the lands his father lost to King Hamlet and Denmark....   [tags: Hamlet Essays]

Research Papers
1222 words (3.5 pages)

Revenge and Vengeance in Shakespeare's Hamlet - Typical Revenge Tragedy

- Hamlet as a Typical Revenge Tragedy       Shakespeare’s Hamlet very closely follows the dramatic conventions of revenge in Elizabethan theater. All revenge tragedies originally stemmed from the Greeks, who wrote and performed the first plays. After the Greeks came Seneca who was very influential to all Elizabethan tragedy writers. Seneca who was Roman, basically set all of the ideas and the norms for all revenge play writers in the Renaissance era including William Shakespeare. The two most famous English revenge tragedies written in the Elizabethan era were Hamlet, written by Shakespeare and The Spanish Tragedy, written by Thomas Kyd....   [tags: GCSE Coursework Shakespeare Hamlet]

Free Essays
2712 words (7.7 pages)