The Theme of Revenge in "Hamlet" Essay example
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Revenge is a recurring theme in Hamlet. Although Hamlet wants to avenge his father’s death, he is afraid of what would result from this. In the play Hamlet, Hamlet’s unwillingness to revenge appears throughout the text; Shakespeare exhibits this through Hamlet’s realization that revenge is not the right option, Hamlet‘s realization that revenge is the same as the crime which was already committed, and his understanding that to revenge is to become a “beast” and to not revenge is as well (Kastan 1). According to David Scott Kastan in “Hamlet and the Imitation of Revenge” Hamlet is concerned that he will leave a “wounded name” behind (1). What Hamlet fails to realize is that his name is already “wounded” because his father was murdered.…show more content…
The revenger is not allowed to develop a plan of action and is only allowed to re-enact the original crime (Kastan 2). As Kastan acknowledges, “Hamlet’s delay may be understood as his resistance to accept his imitative relation” (2). This means that although Hamlet wants to avenge his father’s death, he realizes it is not the right thing to do. It is only when Hamlet assures himself that revenge is “a mode of restoration rather than reprisal” that he can try to execute his plan, still acknowledging the inescapable relation he would have as a villain and avenger (Kastan 2). Hamlet ultimately believes that to revenge is to become a “beast” but to not revenge is also to be a “beast” (Kastan 3). According to Kastan, “Hamlet is prevented from enacting his revenge by the discomforting ratios that his literary imitations generate” (4). He is also stopped from executing his revenge because of his inability to separate himself from his father, to be different from what generated him (Kastan 4). By this point, Hamlet is no longer caught between whether to avenge his father or not, it is that he no longer realizes whether he is doing this for his father or for himself. When Hamlet finally does kill Claudius, he does it to avenge not his father, but himself (Kastan 4). “Hamlet dies with no word of the father he has sworn to remember” writes David Scott Kastan, “The act he finally
A mysterious ghost drives Hamlet to grudgingly avenge the death of his father. The senseless slaying of Laertes' father causes him to resolutely take vengeance on his father's murderer. The wartime assassination of Fortinbras' father creates a need for retribution. William Shakespeare utilizes the reactions of Hamlet, Laertes, and Fortinbras to explore the theme of revenge in Hamlet.
Hamlet's reaction to his father's death exemplifies the theme of revenge. Hamlet's father, murdered by Claudius, appears to him and asks for revenge. Hamlet never totally accepts his father's challenge to seek revenge on Claudius. Shakespeare creates a situation in which Hamlet has an obligation to seek revenge as a final duty to his father, but Hamlet does not have a strong desire to seek revenge. Hamlet's vacillation between self-pity and determined rage exemplifies his situation. Hamlet, expressing his own desires, does not want to take revenge on Claudius, but has to comply as a duty: "O cursed spite / That ever I was born to set it right!" (I.v.215-216). In contrast, Hamlet angrily emphasizes that he must seek revenge: "Now could I drink hot blood / And do such bitter business as the day / Would quake to loot on" (III.iii.397-399). Hamlet's wavering desire for retribution reinforces the theme of revenge.
Laertes' reaction to his father's death also explores the theme of revenge. Shakespeare designs a situation in which Laertes' need for revenge is driven by illogical anger and grief. Laertes enthusiastically seeks revenge on Hamlet for killing Polonius. Laertes is determined to seek retribution caused by anger: "I am satisfied in nature, / Whose motive in this case should stir me most / To my revenge" (V.ii.246-248). Laertes' need for revenge is also caused by his need for closure of his father's death. Laertes desires reconciliation of his father's death and inner peace. Laertes believes that the solace he desires will come through revenge: "But in my terms of honor / I stand aloof, and will no reconcilement / Till by some elder masters of known honor / I have a voice and precedent of peace" (V.ii.248-251). Laertes' reaction to his father's death exposes revenge as a means to bring closure to Polonius' death. Shakespeare uses Laertes' reactions in Hamlet to explore the theme of revenge.
Fortinbras' reaction to his father's death elucidates the theme of revenge. Shakespeare composes conditions in which Fortinbras' revenge is driven by honor. Fortinbras wishes to recover the territory that was lost when his father died: "Now, sir, young Fortinbras, / Of unimproved mettle hot and full, / ... But to recover of us, by strong hand / And terms compulsatory, those forsaid lands / So by his father lost" (I.i.109-117). Fortinbras' need for reprisal is based on honor. Fortinbras feels that his father's death and loss of Norwegian land brings dishonor upon his father and upon himself. Therefore, he needs to recover the lands in order to regain his family's honor and the honor of the nation. Fortinbras is also humbled by his father's death. Fortinbras believes that regaining the territory lost during the war will restore the honorable conditions in Norway that existed before the war. Fortinbras' honorable vengeance demonstrates another aspect of revenge. Fortinbras' behavior is employed by Shakespeare to probe the topic of revenge.
The reactions of Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras allow William Shakespeare to delve deeply into the theme of revenge in Hamlet. Shakespeare demonstrates how rage emerges in many different forms. Hamlet, Laertes, and Fortinbras bring the theme of revenge to life, revealing the complexity and richness of human feelings.