Revenge is a major theme in the Tragedy of Hamlet. In the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, the theme of revenge is repeated numerous times throughout the play and involves a great deal of characters. Of these characters, eight are dead by the end of the play by result of murder which was initiated through revenge. Shakespeare uses the revenge theme to create conflict among many characters. Revenge causes one to act blindly through anger, rather than through reason. It is based on the principle of an eye for an eye, but this principle is not always an intelligent theory to live by. Young Fortinbras,
Laertes, and Hamlet are all looking to avenge the deaths of their fathers. There are three major families in the Tragedy of Hamlet. These are the family of King Fortinbras, the family of Polonius, and the family of King Hamlet. The heads of each of these families are all slaughtered within the play. Fortinbras, King of Norway, is killed by King Hamlet; slain by sword during a man to man battle. “our valiant Hamlet-for so this side of our known world esteem’d him-did slay this Fortinbras. ” This entitled King Hamlet to the land that was possessed by Fortinbras because it was written in a seal’d contract.
Polonius is an dvisor to the King, and father to Laertes and Ophelia. He is nosy and arrogant, and he does not trust his children. He is killed by Young Hamlet while he is eavesdropping on a conversation between Hamlet and his mother. “How now! A rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead! ” King Hamlet is the King of Denmark, and Hamlet’s father. He has killed King Fortinbras, only to be killed by his brother, Claudius. “My offense is rank, it smells to heaven; A brother’s murder? ” Each of these events effects the sons of the deceased in the same way, it enraged them. Shakespeare uses the revenge theme to create conflict between Hamlet and
Claudius. In Act I, scene 5, Hamlet is visited by the ghost who was his father. The ghost makes Hamlet aware of his murderous death when he tells Hamlet of how Claudius had killed him. The ghost says this to Hamlet regarding Claudius, “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder. ” 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.
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. ” Hamlet declares Claudius’ guilt to Horatio and now realizes that he must continue on with his revenge plot.
The conflict between Hamlet and Claudius is delayed by Hamlet but does eventually occur in the last scene. Hamlet’s mother has just died, Hamlet has been sliced by Laertes’ poison sword, and Hamlet has just struck Laertes with a fatal blow when Laertes says that this was all brought on by Claudius. Hamlet, now realizing that there is no more time for him to delay his revenge, stabs Claudius and kills him.
Revenge was the motive for the onflict between Hamlet and Claudius. Every one of the three eldest sons has one thing in common, they all want revenge for a slaughtered father. In the time in which this play is set, avenging the murder of a father was part of one’s honor, and had to be done. All of the three sons swears vengeance, and then acts towards getting revenge for the deaths of their fathers. Young Fortinbras is deeply enraged by the death of his father, and he wants revenge against Denmark because of this occurrence.
Fortinbras wanted to, by force, regain the lands that had been lost by his father to Denmark. Now sir, young Fortinbras-as it doth well appear unto our state-but to recover of us, by strong hand and terms compulsive, those foresaid lands so by his father losta” Claudius sends messengers to talk to Fortinbras’ uncle, the new King of Norway. He forbids Fortinbras to attack Denmark, and instead convinces him to attack the Poles to vent his anger. “His nephew’s levies, which to him appear’d to be a preparation ‘gainst the Polack; But better look’d into, he truly found it was against your highness.
On Fortinbras; which he, in brief, obeys, receives rebuke from Norway, and, in ine, makes vow before his uncle never more to give the assay of arms against your majesty. ” Laertes finds out about his father’s death, and immediately returned home. He confronts the King and accused him of the murder of his father. Claudius told Laertes that Hamlet was responsible for his father’s death. He then decides to kill Hamlet to avenge the death of his father. He and Claudius concoct a plot to kill Hamlet.
Hamlet dies of wounds from the poisoned tipped sword Laertes used. Hamlet, thou art slain The treacherous instrument is in thy, unbated and envenom’d” Hamlet is deeply sorrowed by his father’s eath. He speaks to a ghost, and this ghost states that his father’s death was a murder, by the hand of his uncle, Claudius. “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown. ” Hamlet is astonished, and then swears vengeance for his father’s death. He then proceeds to try and prove his uncle’s guilt, and then finally kills him while he himself is dying of poisoned wounds inflicted by Laertes during their duel.
The point envenomed too! Then venom, to thy work Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane, drink off this potion,-is thy union here? Follow my mother. ” This left the King dead, and his ather’s death avenged. Shakespeare uses the revenge plot to create conflict between Laertes and Hamlet by having Laertes avenge his father’s and sister’s death which Hamlet is responsible for. After learning of his fathers unnatural death, Hamlet decides that he can no longer trust anyone, except for Horatio.
While acting out his madness, he visited Ophelia and cut off his ties with her because of his distrust for everyone. In Act III, when Hamlet talks with his mother, he notices that he is being spied upon. Thinking that it is the king, Hamlet mistakenly kills Polonius who was hiding behind a big rug, which for some edeval reason, was hung on the wall. It is believed Ophelia herself went mad because of Hamlet’s rude and violent treatment of her and also because Hamlet killed her father. In Act IV Ophelia’s madness drives her to walk into the river and drown.
When Laertes arrives back from France he has heard the horrible news and says, And so have I a noble father lost; A sister driven into desperate terms, Whose worth, if praises may go back again, Stood challenger on mount of all the age For her perfections: but my revenge will come. Laertes is plotting revenge against the murderer of his father and sister, Hamlet. Claudius sks Laertes, “what would you undertake, To show yourself in deed your father’s son, More than in words? ” Claudius and Laertes come to the conclusion that they will hold a sword duel between Hamlet and Laertes.
Laertes will have poison on his sword and Claudius will have a glass with poison in it ready for Hamlet to quench his thirst. During the duel, Hamlet is scratched by the poison tipped sword of Laertes. It is now inevitable that Hamlet will die. Therefore, the conflict between Laertes and Hamlet has resulted in revenge for Laertes. The lack of thought used in exacting the revenge leads to the deaths of both Laertes and Hamlet. Laertes plans with Claudius to kill Hamlet with the poisoned tipped sword, but they had not thought that the sword might be used against them.
With Laertes believing the King’s accusations that Hamlet had murdered his father, he was in a blind rage, and would not listen to Hamlet’s explanation and apology. “I am satisfied in nature to my revenge I stand aloof and will no reconcilement But till that time, I do receive your offer’d love like love, and will not wrong it. “. He fights Hamlet, and wounds him once with the poisoned tipped sword; but unfortunately, their swords are switched, and Hamlet ounds Laertes with the sword. That is the wound by which Laertes dies.
Hamlet had many chances to kill his uncle, but his rage outweighed his intelligence; and he chose to wait until the lord could see no good in Claudius, and then strike him down into a world of eternal damnation. “Now might I do it pat, now he is praying; A villain kills my father; and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven. ” Hamlet waits until he can kill his uncle while he is performing a sin, unfortunately for Hamlet, the sin is the poisoning of his own son in law. Hamlet dies of his poisoned wound. Young Fortinbras egains his fathers land, without use of violence, or death to himself.
Hamlet names him new ruler of Denmark before he dies, and Fortinbras regains all of his father’s lost land, and becomes King of Denmark. Through the revenge theme, Shakespeare creates an interior conflict between Hamlet and himself. In Hamlet’s first soliloquy, Hamlet displays his melancholy state of being and his unwillingness to live. ” Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! ” Hamlet states that if God was not against suicide then he would take his own life. In Hamlet’s second soliloquy, after the meeting with his father’s host, he beats himself up by saying, Am I a coward…? ,and, I am pigeon-liver’d, and lack gall”.
Hamlet wants revenge at this time but he is questioning his willingness to kill Claudius, so he is calling himself a coward. Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave, That I, the son of a dear father murder’d, Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, Must like a whore unpack my heart with words,(2. 2. 584-588) The greatest interior conflict between Hamlet and himself occurs when Hamlet delays the killing of Claudius. Hamlet carefully examines the need to avenge his fathers death: A villian kills my father, and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send To heaven.
O, this is hire and salary, not revenge. (3. 4. 76-79) Delaying at this point is Hamlet’s tragic flaw. The conflict between Hamlet and himself is resolved when Hamlet kills Claudius because he himself was going to die soon and had little time left. Therefore, the interior conflict between Hamlet and himself, was created by the revenge plot. Since the Heads of the three major families were each murdered, the eldest sons of these families swore vengeance, and two of the three sons dies while exacting heir acts of vengeance, revenge is a major theme in the Tragedy of Hamlet.
As a theme, revenge was present in all parts of the play. It seems ironic that Claudius, Laertes, and Hamlet all died of the same sword. It is also ironic that the first the seek revenge against Claudius, Fortinbras, becomes King of Denmark. Revenge was the driving force behind three of the main characters of the play, for two it led to downfall, and for the other it led to greatness. The revenge plot was used by Shakespeare to create conflict among many characters throughout the play, Hamlet.