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Analysis of the Theme of Revenge in Hamlet

Analysis of the Theme of Revenge in Hamlet

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a complex play where many themes are intertwined – themes that are essential to the development of the play. The issue of death and disease, both physical and emotional is very prevalent throughout the duration of the play, as well as fate and divine providence. The play also questions madness and whether it can be feigned, as well as corruption and its moral implications. Of course, who could forget the famous ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy, where Hamlet not only questions life and death, but many of life’s other uncertainties as well.

Undoubtedly, the most essential theme in the development of Hamlet is revenge and question ‘Does revenge pay?’ Revenge is a frighteningly bloodthirsty emotion, which causes people to act blindly and without reason. Revenge is a theme that is cleverly built upon throughout the extent of the play; with it being the driving force behind two of the main characters in the play.

The play is introduced by the appearance of the ghost of Hamlet’s father in the first scene, which automatically gives the impression that something is amiss. This is later clarified by the statement that “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (Act1 Scene 4 Line 90). The ghost emerges before Hamlet and insinuates that his death was not as innocent as it may seem. The ghost urges Hamlet to “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (Act1 Scene 5 Line25) and informs him that “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown “(Act1 Scene5 Line 38). This appears to indicate that Hamlet’s father’s death was actually murder, and that the deed was committed by King Hamlet’s brother, Claudius, who had now taken over as King of Denmark. The Ghost taunts Hamlet, telling him that it is part of every man’s honor to avenge his death. Hamlet then becomes a part of Denmark’s foulness and wretchedness when he agrees to avenge his father’s death. This is the beginning of a vicious cycle of hatred, death and revenge that destroys many lives.

Soon after Claudius marries Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, Hamlet feigns madness as a ploy to cover up his attempts to avenge his father’s death and to bring him closer to Claudius. One of the first things...

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