A revenge tragedy is a style of drama, popular in England during the late 16th and 17th centuries, in which the basic plot was a quest for vengeance and which typically featured scenes of carnage and mutilation. The first, and perhaps most popular of the revenge tragedies, is Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which two characters, Hamlet and Claudius, take revenge on each other, each having different motivations to do so. Hamlet defined the outline that every proceeding revenge tragedy would follow which included the development of major characters as avengers and the avenged, the structure of the play, and the question of morality in every aspect of the play create a thrilling story for the audience which ends with the demise of all the characters. The first aspect of Hamlet is the presence of two hesitant avengers, both with unique motives which arise at different times during the play.
One necessary aspect in any revenge tragedy is the presence of a hesitant avenger with a motive for revenge. In Shakespeare 's tragedy, Hamlet plays the role of the hero and the avenger, and Claudius is the villain Hamlet vows to kill. However, after encountering the ghost of his dead father, Hamlet hesitates before taking revenge on Claudius, and he shows his hesitation when he says to the ghost, “Haste me to know 't, that I, with wings as swift / As meditation or the thoughts of love, / May sweep to my revenge,” (I, V, 35-37). Hamlet hesitates again when he encounters Claudius praying because he does not want Claudius to go to heaven. Hamlet reasons that, “A villain kills my father, and for that, / I, his sole son, do this same villain send / To heaven,” (III, III, 81-83) so, in order to extend the story, Hamlet waits to get his revenge on Cl...
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...ifference between Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet and the modern revenge tragedy is the question of the morality of revenge. Modern audiences see revenge as ill because it takes the law into inappropriate hands, but the idea of “an eye for an eye” in the Elizabethan time periods caused audiences to view the play in an honorable way. The plays also took place in foreign countries where audiences believed these barbaric methods of getting revenge were more likely and far enough away from their home country to ensure safety. Hamlet takes place in Denmark, so English audiences feel they are a safe distance away from where the tragic events are occurring to know that they do not affect them. Clearly, this distance justified the revenge to the Elizabethan audiences, however, modern audiences would find the actions of the avengers in Hamlet to go against law and morality.
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- 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.... [tags: Confusion of Time, Artificial Madness]
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