Revenge is one of the most important themes in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. It is a major motivator for the characters Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras, as well as a key plot element. Hamlet is obsessed with revenge from the start of the play, when his father’s ghost tells him that he was murdered by Claudius.
Hamlet is determined to take revenge on Claudius, and this leads to a series of tragic events, including the death of Hamlet’s beloved Ophelia. Laertes is also driven by revenge after his father’s death, and he too ends up dead. Fortinbras’ quest for revenge against Denmark forms the backdrop to the entire play. In the end, it is only through revenge that Hamlet is able to achieve any kind of peace.
Many of the characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet suffer a tragic death as a result of their complete mission to seek revenge. First, Laertes kills himself and Hamlet when his father Polonius’ death enrages him and convinces him that he must avenge Hamlet for his father.
Hamlet also kills Laertes to avenge the death of his father, as well as his own death that Laertes has caused. Hamlet’s mother Gertrude drinks from the cup Hamlet has poisoned for Claudius in an attempt to kill Hamlet and save herself. She dies because of her son’s revenge plot. Polonius is killed by Hamlet when Hamlet mistakenly believes he is Claudius.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are killed because Hamlet finds out they are spying on him on behalf of Claudius. Ophelia goes mad from grief after her father Polonius is killed and eventually kills herself. Lastly, Claudius dies from being stabbed by Hamlet with a poisoned sword, and Hamlet dies from the poison that was meant for him.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare creates a world where external forces are constantly conspiring to destroy the lives of the protagonists. The theme of revenge is introduced early on in the play when Hamlet’s father, King Hamlet, is killed by his brother Claudius. Hamlet is then tasked with avenging his father’s death. However, the path to revenge is fraught with danger and ultimately leads to the destruction of nearly all the major characters in the play.
The death of Hamlet’s father sets off a chain reaction of events that lead to the downfall of almost every character in the play. Laertes, Polonius’s son, is consumed by thoughts of revenge after his father is killed by Hamlet. He enters into a plot with Claudius to kill Hamlet. Hamlet, in turn, kills Polonius in a fit of rage.
Ophelia, Polonius’s daughter and Hamlet’s love interest, goes mad with grief after her father’s death and eventually drowns herself. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet’s friends who are secretly working for Claudius, are sent to their deaths by Hamlet. And finally, Hamlet himself is killed by a poisoned sword wielded by Laertes. As the play comes to a close, almost all of the major characters are dead, leaving only Horatio alive to tell the story.
The theme of revenge is a destructive one. It leads to nothing but death and destruction. In Hamlet, Shakespeare shows us the dangers of allowing oneself to be consumed by thoughts of revenge. The play is a cautionary tale about the perils of seeking vengeance. Hamlet is a tragedy not simply because of the death of its main character, but because it is a story about the destructive power of revenge.
Secondly, Fortinbras is determined to take back the land that his father lost when he was killed in battle against King Hamlet. Last, Hamlet is responsible for all of the innocent lives lost because of his procrastination to kill Claudius, who murdered Hamlet’s father. All of these men desire revenge against those who killed their fathers, soHamlet can be seen as a tragedy of revenge.
Hamlet’s act one scene five soliloquy is the first time Hamlet reveals his innermost feelings to the audience. He is completely consumed by thoughts of death and suicide, which leads him to believe that life is not worth living. Hamlet’s despair is caused by his father’s death and his mother’s hasty marriage to Claudius. Hamlet feels betrayed by Gertrude, as she has seemingly forgotten about her first husband Hamlet Sr. Hamlet’s mental state deteriorates even further when the Ghost of Hamlet Sr. appears to him and tells Hamlet that he was murdered by Claudius.
The Ghost urges Hamlet to take revenge on Claudius, which Hamlet swears to do. Hamlet’s depression and lack of action throughout the play can be blamed on his Oedipal complex in which he subconsciously fears killing Claudius because he would be committing patricide. Hamlet’s procrastination in taking revenge ultimately leads to the deaths of Polonius, Ophelia, Laertes, Gertrude, and Hamlet himself.
Fortinbras is the prince of Norway and is Hamlet’s greatest foil. While Hamlet is a thinker who over-analyzes everything, Fortinbras is a man of action who follows through with his plans. Fortinbras’ father was killed by Hamlet Sr. in a previous battle over Hamlet Sr.’s kingship of Denmark. Fortinbras plans to lead an army through Denmark and take revenge on Hamlet Sr. for the death of his father. However, Hamlet Sr. killed Fortinbras’ father in self-defense and Hamlet Jr. kills Claudius in self-defense as well. In the end, both Hamlets are justified in their actions and are not truly at fault.
Laertes is another foil of Hamlet’s who shares many similarities with Fortinbras. Laertes is the son of Polonius, who was killed by Hamlet while he was trying to kill Claudius. Like Fortinbras, Laertes is a man of action who seeks revenge for his father’s death. Laertes returns to Denmark and challenges Hamlet to a duel in which he plans to poison Hamlet. Hamlet is unaware of the plot and is killed by Laertes. However, Hamlet manages to stab and kill Claudius with the poisoned sword before he dies.
In conclusion, Hamlet is a tragedy of revenge because the death of Hamlet Sr. leads to a chain reaction of revenge killings. Hamlet’s Oedipal complex prevents him from taking direct action against Claudius and leads to his eventual downfall. Fortinbras and Laertes are both men of action who seek revenge for their father’s deaths. However, Hamlet is justified in his actions and is not truly at fault for the deaths that occur.