In the play Hamlet written by William Shakespeare, several characters attempt to lure their foes into their death as payback for any wrongdoing. This highlights the main theme of revenge in the play. Revenge is a constant theme throughout the plot. Not only does it underlie almost every scene, but it also has a major effect on the story as a whole. Three of the main revenge plots within the play are Hamlet’s aim to avenge his father by killing his uncle, Laertes’ target to avenge the murder of his father by killing Hamlet, and Prince Fortinbras’ wish to reclaim his father’s land. These three revenge plots play a major role in presenting to the audience the theme of revenge through a series of developed plans to trick one another.
Shakespeare first uses the revenge theme to create conflict between Hamlet and Claudius. In Act I, Hamlet is visited by the ghost of his father, who makes Hamlet aware of his murderous death completed his brother. The ghost says this to Hamlet regarding Claudius, “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (Shakespeare, Hamlet, I, v, 25). This is where Hamlet is first introduced to the revenge plot between himself and Claudius. Hamlet wants to insure that the ghost really was his dead father before he kills Claudius. Hamlet wants to entrap the King by making him admit his actions. To do this Hamlet has people act out the death of his father in front of Claudius and declares him guilty by his reaction to the play, “O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound” (III, II, 281-282). Hamlet affirms Claudius’ guilt to Horatio and now realizes that he must continue on with his revenge plot. Hamlet’s desire to get revenge for his father is the driving force to the development of the play.
While Hamlet takes the length of the play to take action, Laertes, upon hearing of his fathers’ murder, reacts swiftly and recklessly. He returns to Elsinore threatening to overthrow Claudius if he does not explain the death of Polonius. When Claudius tells Laertes that Hamlet is responsible, Laertes swears he will have his revenge; “Only I’ll be revenged. Most thoroughly for my father” (IV, v, 133-134). He immediately agrees to take part in the King’s plan to kill Hamlet. Laertes conspires with the King to deceive Hamlet and challenge him to a fencing match, where Laertes will kill Hamlet with a poison-tipped rapier. For good measure, Claudius also prepares a cup filled with poison ready for Hamlet, if Laertes’ sword fails to achieve its goal. King Claudius and Laertes’ plan to exterminate Hamlet works, but it comes along with their deaths as well, which reinforces the theme of vengeance. While Hamlet and Laertes are at opposing ends of the spectrum, however, Prince Fortinbras is in the middle. When King Hamlet kills Young Fortinbras’ father, his reaction was neither delayed nor reckless. In contrast to Hamlet’s procrastination and Laertes’ haste, Fortinbras reacts rationally. Rather than excessively contemplating his circumstances or acting on impulse, he calmly and deliberately forms a practical plan to avenge his father’s death and reclaim his lands. He assembles an army, and arranges plans to have that army march to Denmark. The Prince tricks the King by explaining to Claudius that his army is simply marching through Denmark, and that he had no intentions on attacking it. He arrives, conveniently, soon after the carnage at Elsinore has unfolded. It is no coincidence that Fortinbras, who acts rationally and decisively, is the only one of the three characters to survive the play. Shakespeare uses Fortinbras to show that acting with rationality rather than on impulse or with excessive contemplation results in the superior end. Hamlet, Laertes, and Fortinbras are three individuals who were placed in a similar position, but who reacted in drastically different manners. Hamlet, who acts slowly and with much contemplation, and Laertes, who acts with reckless anger, represent polar opposites. Meanwhile, Fortinbras’ rational, deliberate execution represents the ultimately superior combination of the two. Even though they all contrasted for the most part, they all did have one thing in common: secretive plans to entrap one of their rivals. Shakespeare’s masterful use of characterization therefore illuminates that aspect of human nature that gives us an impulse to seek revenge, and shows how different responses to that impulse can have drastically different results. Revenge is shown as a chain reaction by Shakespeare that all starts with a stealthy blueprint.
Show MoreThroughout the play of Hamlet by William Shakespeare it becomes apparent that revenge isn’t really worthwhile if you die in achieving it. Hamlet Sr. was murdered by his brother, Claudius, who then became king of Denmark and married his sister-in-law, Hamlet Sr.’s queen. Upon Hamlet’s discovery of the act of treachery he wants his revenge. In trying to accomplish it he kills an innocent man, Polonius. In result, the daughter of Polonius and former lover of Hamlet, goes mad and kills herself. The deaths of the innocent father and daughter cause another to seek revenge, Laertes. Laertes wants to avenge the deaths of his father and sister. The man who started it all is worried about being found out. In order to keep his actions covered up he…show more content…
Thus proving that to achieve their revenge they had to die and did not get the chance to enjoy any satisfaction they may have had. This play was good it portrayed its themes very well, it was very interesting and kept me wanting to know what was going to happen next. The play left me wondering the answers to certain questions such as; Where Hamlet’s motivation’s to avenge his father’s death truly honourable, or was he just jealous of Claudius? While “putting on his act” and pretending to be mad, did he perhaps actually go mad? I believe the answers to these questions are truly a matter of opinion and I like that. However, there were parts of the play that I disliked. I disliked the fact that Hamlet over thought every little thing and was unable to kill Claudius when the many opportunities he was given arose. But when it came to killing Polonius, and sending Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths, after finding his own letter ordering his death, that was easy and he acted on impulse. Which is what made me question Hamlet’s sanity. Was Hamlet enjoying acting insane and subconsciously did not want it to end therefore not really wanting to kill the king? When Hamlet was in the graveyard and met the grave digger who had no sympathy for the dead which offended Hamlet, I agreed with Hamlet. However at Ophelia’s burial he did not think twice about fighting her brother in her grave with