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The Theme of Revenge in Shakespeare's Hamlet

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the theme of revenge in hamlet essay

Hamlet and Revenge

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What is arguably Shakespeare 's greatest play, "Hamlet,"​ is often understood to be a revenge tragedy, but it is quite an odd one at that. It is a play driven by a protagonist who spends most of the play contemplating revenge rather than exacting it.

Hamlet’s inability to avenge the murder of his father drives the plot and leads to the deaths of most of the major characters , including Polonius, Laertes, Ophelia, Gertrude, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. And Hamlet himself is tortured by his indecision and his inability to kill his father's murderer, Claudius, throughout the play.

When he finally does exact his revenge and kills Claudius, it is too late for him to derive any satisfaction from it; Laertes has struck him with a poisoned foil and Hamlet dies shortly after. Take a closer look at the theme of revenge in Hamlet.

Action and Inaction in Hamlet

To highlight Hamlet’s inability to take action, Shakespeare includes other characters capable of taking resolute and headstrong revenge as required. Fortinbras travels many miles to take his revenge and ultimately succeeds in conquering Denmark; Laertes plots to kill Hamlet to avenge the death of his father, Polonius.

Compared to these characters, Hamlet’s revenge is ineffectual. Once he decides to take action, he delays any action until the end of the play. It should be noted that this delay is not uncommon in Elizabethan revenge tragedies. What makes "Hamlet" different from other contemporary works is the way in which Shakespeare uses the delay to build Hamlet’s emotional and psychological complexity. The revenge itself ends up being almost an afterthought, and in many ways, is anticlimactic. 

Indeed, the famous "To be or not to be" soliloquy is Hamlet's debate with himself about what to do and whether it will matter. Though the piece begins with his pondering suicide, Hamlet's desire to avenge his father becomes clearer as this speech continues. It's worth considering this soliloquy in its entirety. 

To be, or not to be- that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them. To die- to sleep- No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die- to sleep. To sleep- perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub! For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause. There's the respect That makes calamity of so long life. For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The pangs of despis'd love, the law's delay, The insolence of office, and the spurns That patient merit of th' unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? Who would these fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death- The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn No traveler returns- puzzles the will, And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all, And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard their currents turn awry And lose the name of action.- Soft you now! The fair Ophelia!- Nymph, in thy orisons Be all my sins rememb'red.

Over the course of this eloquent musing on the nature of self and death and what actions he should take, Hamlet remains paralyzed by indecision.

How Hamlet's Revenge is Delayed

Hamlet’s revenge is delayed in three significant ways. First, he must establish Claudius’ guilt, which he does in Act 3, Scene 2 by presenting the murder of his father in a play. When Claudius storms out during the performance, Hamlet becomes convinced of his guilt.

Hamlet then considers his revenge at length, in contrast to the rash actions of Fortinbras and Laertes. For example, Hamlet has the opportunity to kill Claudius in Act 3, Scene 3. He draws his sword but is concerned that Claudius will go to heaven if killed while praying.

After killing Polonius, Hamlet is sent to England making it impossible for him to gain access to Claudius and carry out his revenge. During his trip, becomes more headstrong in his desire for revenge.

Although he does ultimately kill Claudius in the final scene of the play , it's not due to any scheme or plan by Hamlet, rather, it is Claudius’ plan to kill Hamlet that backfires.

  • Hamlet Plot Summary
  • Hamlet Themes
  • 'Hamlet' Overview
  • 'Hamlet' Themes and Literary Devices
  • Death as a Theme in Hamlet
  • 'Hamlet' Summary
  • A Scene-by-Scene Breakdown of 'Hamlet'
  • 'Hamlet' Characters: Descriptions and Analysis
  • 'Hamlet' Quotes Explained
  • Hamlet Character Analysis
  • The Prevalent Social and Emotional Themes in the Play "Hamlet"
  • A Study Guide for William Shakespeare's 'Hamlet,' Act 3
  • 'Hamlet' Act 1 Summary, Scene by Scene
  • What Is a Soliloquy? Literary Definition and Examples
  • 'To Be, or Not to Be:' Exploring Shakespeare's Legendary Quote
  • Tragic Flaw: Literary Definition and Examples

English Summary

Explain the Theme of Revenge in Hamlet

Back to: Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Table of Contents


Revenge is an action taken in return for an injury. In “The Tragedy of Hamlet”, Shakespeare deeply explores the theme of revenge. In the play, before the ghost reveals itself to those sentinels, Hamlet seems inactive. The knowledge of betrayal fills him with actions. The same goes for Laertes and Fortinbras.

These three characters are developed under their insuppressible urge for vengeance. Hamlet is a philosophical observer who in the beginning is crushed by the fact that after the death of his father, his mother is married to his uncle now but he is yet to be revengeful.

Only when the ghost reveals the betrayal which resulted in the death of Hamlet’s father and asks to “ revenge his foul and most unnatural murder ”, Hamlet gains a completely new way to channel his earlier disgust and mourning. In front of the ghost he swears that “ the time is out of joint ” but he “ was born to set it right! ”.

Through the character of hamlet, the theme of revenge can be studied philosophically. Betrayal precedes revenge. Hamlet alongside the death of his father also avenges for the betrayal by his two friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern when he forges the very letter to the King of England in which Claudius had ordered the execution of Hamlet.

Hamlet shows us the moral thoughts and principles of existence which goes behind the choices he makes. Hamlet fights within. In him, revenge is first exercised in words. Inaction drains him. He cries out, “ what an a-ss am I!… prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, must like a wh-ore, unpack my heart with words and fall a-cursing like a very drab .”

Laertes and Hamlet

Laertes is against Hamlet since he knew about his affairs with his sister Ophelia. He is introduced in the play already with certain spite against Hamlet. Before leaving for France, he asks Ophelia to doubt Hamlet’s will. During his stay in France, Polonius mistaken for Claudius is stabbed by Hamlet and dies.

Laertes is enraged by this news. Under Claudius’ provocation, he swears revenge which is doubled after knowing that Ophelia has drowned herself. His way to seek revenge is an active way when Hamlet’s revenge is first worked out in his thoughts.

Fortinbras since the beginning of the play is determined to get the lands back from the kingdom of Denmark. He wants to avenge what Hamlet’s father did when he was the king. In a cunning way, he gets his army closer to the capital.

Different Dimensions of Revenge

Through his smooth victory in the end, Shakespeare might be showing us the smoothest way of revenge. Collectively, the theme of revenge is explored in its many dimensions.

Claudius manages to get Laertes and Hamlet in a fencing match but the fate worked differently and Gertrude is killed by mistake when she sips wine supposedly poisoned for Hamlet. Laertes dies in the fight but he amends with Hamlet right before dying.

Revengefulness can also have a consoling end. But it is Hamlet in whom revenge works out in an entirely different way. He can’t simply kill Claudius without questioning the morals of the time and place i.e. he didn’t kill Claudius when he saw him in a praying position. Revenge and its various implications is one of the prime thematic concerns of the whole play.

the theme of revenge in hamlet essay

the theme of revenge in hamlet essay

William Shakespeare

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Action and Inaction Theme Icon

Every society is defined by its codes of conduct—its rules about how to act and behave. In  Hamlet , the codes of conduct are largely defined by religion and an aristocratic code that demands honor—and revenge if honor has been soiled. As the play unfolds and Hamlet (in keeping with his country’s spoken and unspoken) rules) seeks revenge for his father’s murder, he begins to realize just how complicated vengeance, justice, and honor all truly are. As Hamlet plunges deeper and deeper into existential musings, he also begins to wonder about the true meaning of honor—and Shakespeare ultimately suggests that the codes of conduct by which any given society operates are, more often than not, muddy, contradictory, and confused.

As Hamlet begins considering what it would mean to actually get revenge—to actually commit murder—he begins waffling and languishing in indecision and inaction. His inability to act, however, is not necessarily a mark of cowardice or fear—rather, as the play progresses, Hamlet is forced to reckon very seriously with what retribution and violence in the name of retroactively reclaiming “honor” or glory actually accomplishes. This conundrum is felt most profoundly in the middle of Act 3, when Hamlet comes upon Claudius totally alone for the first time in the play. It is the perfect opportunity to kill the man uninterrupted and unseen—but Claudius is on his knees, praying. Hamlet worries that killing Claudius while he prays will mean that Claudius’s soul will go to heaven. Hamlet is ignorant of the fact that Claudius, just moments before, was lamenting that his prayers for absolution are empty because he will not take action to actually repent for the violence he’s done and the pain he’s caused. Hamlet is paralyzed in this moment, unable to reconcile religion with the things he’s been taught about goodness, honor, duty, and vengeance. This moment represents a serious, profound turning point in the play—once Hamlet chooses not to kill Claudius for fear of unwittingly sending his father’s murderer to heaven, thus failing at the concept of revenge entirely, he begins to think differently about the codes, institutions, and social structures which demand unthinking vengeance and religious piety in the same breath. Because the idea of a revenge killing runs counter to the very tenets of Christian goodness and charity at the core of Hamlet’s upbringing—regardless of whether or not he believes them on a personal level—he begins to see the artifice upon which all social codes are built.

The second half of the play charts Hamlet’s descent into a new worldview—one which is very similar to nihilism in its surrender to the randomness of the universe and the difficulty of living within the confines of so many rules and standards at one time. As Hamlet gets even more deeply existential about life and death, appearances versus reality, and even the common courtesies and decencies which define society, he exposes the many hypocrisies which define life for common people and nobility alike. Hamlet resolves to pursue revenge, claiming that his thoughts will be worth nothing if they are anything but “bloody,” but at the same time is exacting and calculating in the vengeances he does secure. He dispatches with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern , charged with bringing him to England for execution, by craftily outwitting them and sending them on to their own deaths. He laments to Horatio that all men, whether they be Alexander the Great or a common court jester, end up in the same ground. Finally, he warns off Horatio’s warning about dueling Laertes by claiming that he wants to leave his fate to God. Hamlet’s devil-may-care attitude and his increasingly reckless choices are the result of realizing that the social and moral codes he’s clung to for so long are inapplicable to his current circumstances—and perhaps more broadly irrelevant.

Hamlet is a deeply subversive text—one that asks hard, uncomfortable questions about the value of human life, the indifference of the universe, and the construction of society, culture, and common decency. As Hamlet pursues his society’s ingrained ideals of honor, he discovers that perhaps honor means something very different than what he’s been raised to believe it does—and confronts the full weight of society’s arbitrary, outdated expectations and demands.

Religion, Honor, and Revenge ThemeTracker

Hamlet PDF

Religion, Honor, and Revenge Quotes in Hamlet

Thrift, thrift, Horatio! The funeral baked meats Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.

Women Theme Icon

This above all—to thine own self be true; And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

O, villain, villain, smiling, damnèd villain!

O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

Action and Inaction Theme Icon

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form, in moving how express and admirable; in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god: the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

The play’s the thing, Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below; Words without thoughts never to heaven go.

We defy augury. There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all.

Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

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Hamlet Theme of Revenge

the theme of revenge in hamlet essay

Ghosts, perverse family drama, and a vow of revenge: Hamlet is all geared up to be a traditional bloody revenge play… and then it grinds abruptly to a halt. The play isn't about Hamlet's ultimately successful vengeance for his father's murder at all—that's taken care of in about two seconds during Act 5. Instead, most of the play is concerned with Hamlet's inner struggle to take action. Our point? The play is a lot more interested in calling into question the validity and usefulness of revenge than in satisfying the audience's bloodlust—although, sure, it does that too. Shakespeare had a theater to fill, after all.

Questions About Revenge

  • How does Hamlet's attitude toward revenge change throughout the play? When does he talk about revenge? How does what he says about revenge match what he actually does?
  • How does Hamlet's attitude toward revenge contrast with Fortinbras's or Laertes's approach?
  • Why does Hamlet delay so much in avenging his father's murder? Is there a part of him that doesn't really want to take revenge?

Chew on This

Hamlet deals with three revenge plots, all of which involve a son seeking vengeance for the death of a father. In the end, though, the resolution of each revenge plot highlights the inadequacy of revenge.

Hamlet 's delay is what separates the play from other revenge tragedies; it's also what marks the play as modern.

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Hamlet Themes

Want to know more about the Hamlet theme? This page discusses a number of the major Hamlet themes that are evident in the play.

The background to the Hamlet theme structure

When Shakespeare arrived in London and began his acting career he made many friends among the theatre community. Before long he tried his hand at working on plays with the play writers who welcomed anyone who could help them fulfill the voracious hunger for plays. His talent was soon recognised and he became a regular member of their fraternity.

One of the writers he worked with was Thomas Kyd , who was responsible for scores of plays, although only one has survived to be regularly performed in the 21st century – The Spanish Tragedy . Kyd and Shakespeare became friends, and it is thought that working with Kyd, first on an earlier play, Ur-Hamlet , one of Shakespeare’s earliest forays into playwriting, and then The Spanish Tragedy, formed a very significant part of Shakespeare’s apprenticeship.

The Spanish Tragedy was very popular. It caught the late Elizabethan taste for violence informed by revenge, a model that became full-blown in the Jacobean theatre, subsequently known as the genre of ‘Revenge Tragedy.’

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a revenge tragedy but, being by the mature Shakespeare, it is very much more than that. Nevertheless, the play hangs on the skeleton of the then fashionable revenge story – in this case, a young man told by his late father’s ghost that he has been murdered by his brother and so, according to convention, the young man has the obligation to seek and achieve revenge. There is no doubt that in that sense, Hamlet is the simple story of a man avenging his father’s death. It is in the telling of that story, though, that Shakespeare made this play what is so often described as the most famous play ever written.

Hamlet is a play about so many things that they can’t be reckoned. Those things that the play is about are the themes. One can name them as themes but it should be remembered that all each Hamlet theme interacts and resounds with all the others.

Here are brief accounts of a selection of the major Hamlet themes of revenge, corruption; religion, politics, appearance and reality, and women.

6 Major Themes in Hamlet

The theme of revenge in hamlet.

There are two young men bent on avenging their father’s death in this play. Hamlet and Laertes are both on the same mission, and while Hamlet is pondering his approach to the problem Laertes is hot on his heels, determined to kill him as Hamlet has killed his father, Polonius. This is, therefore, a double revenge story. Shakespeare examines the practice of revenge by having two entirely different approaches to it – the hot-headed abandon of Laertes and the philosophical, cautious approach by Hamlet. The two strands run parallel – invoking comparisons, each one throwing light on the other – until the young men’s duel and both their deaths. The revenge theme feeds into the religious element of the play as Hamlet is conflicted by his Christian aversion to killing someone and his duty to avenge his father’s death, whereas it is not a consideration for Laertes, whose duty is clear to him, and he acts on it immediately.

The theme of corruption

Corruption is a major concern in this play. The text is saturated with images of corruption, in several forms – decay, death, poison. From the very first moments of the play the images start and set the atmosphere of corruption which is going to grow as Shakespeare explores this theme. The tone is set when Marcellus says, ‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,’ after seeing the ghost of Hamlet’s father. What Shakespeare is doing here, and in using the image structure of corruption, is addressing the broadly held view that a nation’s health is connected to the legitimacy of its king. Here we have the ghost of a murdered king, and his murderer – a decidedly illegitimate king – is sitting on his throne. All through the play, Hamlet is preoccupied with rot and corruption – both of the body and the soul, reflecting the way in which society is destroyed by the corruption of its inner institutions – in this case, the court, which is the government.

Decay, rot and mould are always in Hamlet’s mind, and his language is full of those images – ‘an unweeded garden that grows to seed – things rank and gross possess it,’ and countless images of death and disease. He hides Polonius’ body in a place where it will decay rapidly and stink out the castle. It’s an image of the corruption in secret places that is going to contaminate the whole country.

The theme of religion

Religion has an impact on the actions of the characters in this play. Hamlet’s ‘to be or not to be’ soliloquy outlines his religious thinking on the subject of suicide. He declines to kill Claudius while he is praying for fear of sending him to heaven when he should be going to hell. Hamlet believes, too, that ‘there is a destiny that shapes our ends.’

One of the most important things of all in this play is the Christian idea of making a sacrifice to achieve healing. Hamlet is Christ-like in his handling of the crisis. The court is rotten with corruption and the people in it are almost all involved in plotting and scheming against others. Hamlet’s way of dealing with it is to wait and watch as all the perpetrators fall into their own traps –‘hauled by their own petards,’ as he puts it. All he has to do is be ready – like Christ. ‘The readiness is all,’ he says. And then, all around him, the corruption collapses in on itself and the court is purified. Like Christ, though, he has to be sacrificed to achieve that, and he is, leaving a scene of renewal and hope.

The Hamlet theme of politics

Hamlet is a political drama. Hamlet’s uncle has murdered his father, the king. He has subsequently done Hamlet out of his right of succession and become king. Hamlet’s mother has married the king while the rest of the palace is engaged in palatial intrigues, leading to wider conspiracies and murders. The king, Claudius, determined to safeguard his position in the face of the threat Hamlet presents, plots in several ways to kill Hamlet. Polonius plots against Hamlet to ingratiate himself with Claudius. Characters, including Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, spy on each other. This is all to do with power and the quest to achieve and hold it.

The theme of appearance and reality

This is a major theme in every one of Shakespeare’s plays. The text of Hamlet is saturated with references to the gap that exists between how things seem to be and how they really are. Very little in this play is really as it seems. That is bound to be so in a play in which there are so many murderous plots and schemes by those who, on the surface, strive to appear innocent, like Claudius, who, behind his charismatic smile, is a damned villain. He is, as Hamlet puts it, a ‘smiling villain.’ Although Ophelia loves Hamlet she pretends to spurn his affections. Hamlet pretends to be mad so that he can explore the ghost’s assertion that Claudius killed him. All the characters, in one way or another, are hiding their true intentions.

What makes this theme particularly interesting and different in this play is that as the play develops the gap between appearance and reality narrows by the characters becoming more like the masks they are using than any reality that may lie behind that so the identities they have assumed eventually become their realities.

The theme of women

For much of the play, Hamlet is in a state of agitation. It is when he is talking to either of the two female characters that he is most agitated – so much so that he is driven to violence against them. He cares about both but does not trust either. He feels his mother, Gertrude, has let him down by her ‘o’er hasty marriage’ to Claudius. To him, it means that she didn’t really love his father. In the case of Ophelia, he is suspicious that she is part of the palace plot against him.

Both women die in this play. Ophelia is driven mad by the treatment she receives from the three men – Claudius, Polonius and Hamlet – and takes her own life. Gertrude’s death is more complex because it raises the question: how far is she responsible for the corruption that Hamlet has to deal with?

Whilst the play features the meeting and falling in love of the two main protagonists, to say that love is a theme of Romeo and Juliet is an oversimplification. Rather, Shakespeare structures Romeo and Juliet around several contrasting ideas, with a number of themes expressed as opposites. To say that the tension between love and hate is a major theme in Romeo and Juliet gets us closer to what the play is about. These – and other – opposing ideas reverberate with each other and are intertwined through the text.

Shakespeare Themes by Play

Hamlet themes , Macbeth themes , Romeo and Juliet themes

Shakespeare Themes by Topic

Ambition, Appearance & Reality , Betrayal , Conflict , Corruption , Death , Deception , Good & Evil , Hatred , Order & Disorder , Revenge , Suffering , Transformation

Kenneth Brannagh looks at skull as he considers the Hamlet theme of death

Kenneth Brannagh looks at skull, symbolising the recurring Hamlet theme of death

What do you think of these Hamlet themes – any that you don’t agree with, or would add? Let us know in the comments section below!

Helen Barrett

Don’t bereavement and madness feature in Hamlet too or are they subsumed by themes you identify?

Dek Mavodse

Wonderful notes

احمد أحمد

I believe the king Claudius is frevolous. Logacious and cantacarous as reflected by his mean personality and in terms of psychoanalysis as he asserts assert his dominance and show superiority as an alpha-male.

Naanpoes Benjamin Vien'toe

What if the character of hamlet was not pointed sheakspear..

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The Theme of Revenge in Shakespeare’s Hamlet Research Paper

Introduction, theme of revenge, works cited.

There is hardly a single play in the world that is as well-known and popular as Hamlet. One might enjoy it or hate it, but either way, one will definitely find something strangely attractive about it. Perhaps, the given effect owes much to the palette of emotions that Shakespeare uses in his play; it has something for everyone, starting with the pain of losing a father to the dilemma between betraying a friend and being killed, which Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have to deal with.

The most powerful emotion that makes the play work, however, is the desire of taking revenge. Viewed from several perspectives in Hamlet , it was and still is one of the most complicated feelings to deal with. Exploring the many ways of how revenge shapes the lead characters’ lives, Shakespeare offers a unique journey into the troubled mind of the protagonist, showing how tragic and at the same enthralling vengeance can be.

The idea of revenge has always been controversial, allowing both to feel sorry for the leading character and at the same way to see him/her as an outsider crossing the line between good and evil. As a wise man, Shakespeare knows it and uses the given idea not only as a plot device, but also as a perfect foil for the character development.

Therefore, Shakespeare allows for viewing revenge as both the drastic measure that signifies Hamlet’s gradual descent into madness and as dispensed justice. Therefore, the double-sidedness of the argument adds controversy to the leading character, bringing the torture that Hamlet goes through into the light.

The plot of the play is known worldwide; a power-hungry brother of the monarch of Denmark kills the latter, marries the widow and plots to kill the monarch’s only son, Hamlet. The latter, after seeing his father’s ghost and learning the truth, feels that he is taken over by revenge and sets up a performance that copies Claudius’s, the murderer’s, plan and results in a tragic denouement and the untimely death of Hamlet and the rest of the characters.

Therefore, the story is basic enough; however, one more element at times seems to be on par with the leading characters of the play. To be more exact, the emotion of revenge that seizes Hamlet nearly becomes an independent being. Setting the theme for the entire story, it turns Hamlet into a three-dimensional character and creates a moral dilemma mentioned above, i.e., the explanation – though not a moral justification – for Hamlet’s actions.

The revenge theme gets the plot of the story off the ground, helping the readers view Hamlet as both a victim and a villain, bringing the XXII-century audience to the prehistoric eye-for-an-eye idea of justice: “Hamlet, in fact, is not represented at this point as a virtuous character” (Gottschalk 156). In fact, Kastan points out that Hamlet “is never quite as ‘apt’ as a revenger” (Kastan 112).

Shakespeare seemed to have conducted research on personality and how it influences human behavior at various levels. This play has focused mainly on the theme of death that has been propagated by the desire to seek revenge by different characters.

It is necessary to state that while reading this book an audience may be persuaded to think that the main theme is death but this is not the case. This play has focused on death through its major cause and not in its entirety. Therefore, this book presents death as an effect and not a cause as some readers may believe.

The story begins with the scene of a Ghost that speaks to Hamlet and informs him that the present king killed it. Apparently, this Ghost is the spirit of Hamlet’s father who was the previous king of this land before he was killed. It reveals to Hamlet that Claudius was responsible for its death and thus he should seek revenge to fulfill his father’s wish. Old Hamlet is very angry because his brother killed him to become the King of Elsinore.

Therefore, it can be concluded that Hamlet’s revenge mission is motivated by the need to seek justice and expose the evil deeds of his mother, as well as bring back the honor to his father’s name (Skulsky 78). Naturally, it is expected that when a husband or wife dies the other partner should at least wait for sometime before getting married. However, in this case the opposite happens when Gertrude rushes to marry Claudius even before the burial ceremony is over.

On the other hand, it cannot be denied that the idea of revenge that seizes Hamlet’s mind is self-destructive. Even though the audience would probably be happy to see the main antagonists of the play, i.e., Claudius and Gertrude, being punished and finally getting what they deserved, the ending does feel devastating, which must signify the fact that vengeance is a pointless end in itself; once it has been achieved, there is nothing left to live for.

It is necessary to state that Hamlet is seeking revenge just to prove that he is not a coward. His emotions betray him and he does not see why he should kill Claudius apart from the fact that he killed and took his late father’s wife (Shakespeare). However, after the First Player expresses his concern about Queen Hecuba’s misfortune Hamlet is convinced that this character is more concerned about his father’s death than he ought to be (Riley, McAllister and Symons). This challenges him to evaluate whether or not he should kill Claudius.

On the other hand, King Claudius uses underhand ways to seek revenge against his enemies. He convinces Laertes that Hamlet is to blame for his sister’s madness and that he should seek immediate revenge (Shakespeare). However, Laertes is not convinced that Hamlet deserves to die even though he is later persuaded to kill him. His anger is not sufficient to warrant his vengeance against Hamlet and he finally tells him about his plans. However, Hamlet manages to persuade him to stop his plans and together they plan to kill the king.

Revenge has other effects on the characters apart from causing death and suffering to victims. First, it changes their perception towards life and other people (Gottschalk). Gertrude learns that all men are ruthless due to what she witnesses in her surrounding and vows never to get married again. Secondly, Hamlet is not persuaded to kill King Claudius but since this will be a show of brevity and loyalty he decides to do it just to make his father happy and prove that he is not a coward.

Gottschalk, Paul. “Hamlet and the Scanning of Revenge.” Shakespeare Quarterly 24.2 (1973): 155–170. Print.

Kastan, David Scott. “’His Semblable in His Mirror’: Hamlet and the Imitation of Revenge.” Shakespeare Studies 19.14 (1987): 111–124. Print.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark . n. d. Web. < http://shakespeare.mit.edu/hamlet/full.html >.

Skulsky, Harold. “Revenge, Honor and Conscience in ‘Hamlet’.” PMLA 85.1 (1970): 78–87.

Riley, Dick, Pam McAllister and Julian Symons. “Hamlet. Young Prince Takes Revenge on Murderous Uncle.” The Bedside, Bathtub and Armchair Companion to Shakespeare . London, UK: Continuum, 2001. 255–259. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2018, December 19). The Theme of Revenge in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-theme-of-revenge-in-shakespeares-hamlet/

"The Theme of Revenge in Shakespeare’s Hamlet." IvyPanda , 19 Dec. 2018, ivypanda.com/essays/the-theme-of-revenge-in-shakespeares-hamlet/.

IvyPanda . (2018) 'The Theme of Revenge in Shakespeare’s Hamlet'. 19 December.

IvyPanda . 2018. "The Theme of Revenge in Shakespeare’s Hamlet." December 19, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-theme-of-revenge-in-shakespeares-hamlet/.

1. IvyPanda . "The Theme of Revenge in Shakespeare’s Hamlet." December 19, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-theme-of-revenge-in-shakespeares-hamlet/.


IvyPanda . "The Theme of Revenge in Shakespeare’s Hamlet." December 19, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-theme-of-revenge-in-shakespeares-hamlet/.

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Justice And Revenge In Hamlet

Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. The story revolves around Hamlet’s quest for revenge against his uncle, Claudius, who murdered Hamlet’s father in order to take the throne. Hamlet is a tragedy, and as such, it raises questions about the nature of revenge and justice.

On the one hand, Hamlet is motivated by a desire for revenge. He wants to kill Claudius in order to avenge his father’s death. This desire for revenge is what drives Hamlet to commit murder himself. On the other hand, Hamlet also feels that it is his duty to bring Claudius to justice. He wants to make sure that Claudius pays for his crime, and he does not want anyone else to suffer because of Claudius’s actions.

Hamlet is torn between these two impulses, and he struggles to decide what is the right thing to do. In the end, Hamlet chooses revenge over justice, and he kills Claudius. However, this choice comes at a great cost. Hamlet dies in the process, and his death brings about the downfall of Denmark.

So, what can we learn from Hamlet? Perhaps Shakespeare is trying to tell us that revenge is not always the best course of action. Or maybe he is trying to say that while revenge may be satisfying, it ultimately leads to more pain and suffering. Either way, Hamlet provides us with a complex portrait of the human condition, and raises important questions about the nature of justice and revenge.

Hamlet’s aims fluctuate between revenge and justice throughout the play, with this interior debate determining how events unfold. Revenge motivates Hamlet as his initial aim in his quest for vindication of his father’s death. Later, Hamlet’s torn sensibility and concern for justice are revealed in Soliloquy. Hamlet’s ability to act against Claudius is hampered as a result of this internal conflict. Only when Hamlet faces his own procrastination does inaction cease.

Hamlet swings towards his newfound realization that in order for justice to be carried out, Claudius’ wrongs must be righted through Hamlet’s own death. In the end, Hamlet chooses justice over revenge and both he and Claudius die.

Revenge is Hamlet’s dominant motive throughout much of the play. From the very beginning of the play, Hamlet is marked by his desire to avenge his father’s murder. Hamlet is unable to act on this feeling, however, because he is uncertain of Claudius’ guilt. Hamlet delay’s his revenge until he has absolute certainty that Claudius killed his father which leads him into a downward spiral as he attempts to Hamlet’s delay in revenge is caused by his uncertainty of Claudius’ guilt.

Hamlet’s soliloquies reveal his Hamlet’s thoughts and feelings to the audience, providing insight that would otherwise be unavailable. In Hamlet’s second soliloquy, Hamlet bemoans his inaction, cursing himself as a “dull and muddy-mettled rascal” (II.ii.560). Hamlet recognizes his own faults and weakness, yet he is still unable to take action against Claudius. Hamlet is again torn between his desire for revenge and his uncertainty of Claudius’ guilt, caught in a limbo between the two emotions.

However, Hamlet’s inaction is not simply caused by his uncertainty of Claudius’ guilt. Hamlet is also motivated by a desire for justice. Hamlet does not want to kill Claudius without just cause, as that would make Hamlet no better than a murderer himself. Hamlet wants Claudius to be punished for his crimes, but he also wants Claudius to suffer the same type of pain and anguish that he has been feeling since his father’s death.

Hamlet’s soliloquies make it clear that he is struggling with this internal conflict. In Hamlet’s fourth soliloquy, he contemplates suicide as a way to escape the pain and suffering that he has been experiencing. Hamlet is not sure whether death is the answer, but he recognizes that death may be preferable to the life that he is currently living. Hamlet is still motivated by his desire for revenge, but he is also motivated by his sense of justice.

Hamlet does not fully realize it until later in the play, but his desire for revenge and justice are actually two sides of the same coin. Hamlet wants Claudius to be punished for his crimes, and he wants Claudius to suffer as much as he has suffered.

Hamlet’s ultimate goal is to see that justice is done. Hamlet finally realizes this near the end of the play, when he decides to take action against Claudius even though he knows that it will lead to his own death. Hamlet’s decision to kill Claudius is motivated by his desire for justice, not revenge. Hamlet knows that he will die in the process, but he also knows that it is the only way to ensure that Claudius is punished for his crimes. Hamlet’s final act is one of justice, not revenge.

While Hamlet’s initial motivation is revenge, he eventually realizes that justice is more important. Hamlet’s journey from revenge to justice is a long and difficult one, but it is ultimately a successful one. Hamlet chooses to sacrifi ce himself in order to ensure that Claudius is punished for his crimes. In doing so, Hamlet ensures that justice is done. Hamlet’s story is a reminder that justice is more important than revenge.

Hamlet triumphs over his internal debate by combining opposed forces and justifying vengeance from the inside out. Hamlet’s will isn’t initially strong enough to act only on revenge. Even though Hamlet promised he would be “swift” and “sweep to my revenge,” he admits in the “rogue and peasant slave” soliloquy that he has been “unpregnant of my cause.” It is not until Hamlet grows weary of his own passivity that he begins to question Claudius’ culpability.

Hamlet’s procrastination is due to his conscience, which reminds Hamlet that murder is a sin. Hamlet must find a way to take revenge without becoming a sinner himself. Hamlet then decides that it is better to kill Claudius in public and suffer the consequences than to privately damning Claudius, who would go unpunished in the eyes of God.

Hamlet also justifies taking revenge as a form of justice as he believes that Claudius deserves to die for murdering Hamlet’s father and marrying Hamlet’s mother. Hamlet’s internal struggle between doing what is morally right and satisfying his thirst for revenge ultimately leads him to commit murder.

Revenge is often seen as an act that is motivated by anger and hatred. Hamlet is no different as he wants to revenge his father’s murder. However, Hamlet is also motivated by a sense of justice as he believes that Claudius deserves to be punished for his crimes. Hamlet’s inner struggle culminates in him committing murder, which can be seen as both an act of revenge and an act of justice.

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the theme of revenge in hamlet essay

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The Theme of Revenge in Hamlet

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