Revenge Themes in Hamlet

1077 Words Nov 17th, 2006 5 Pages
In the play ‘Hamlet' written by William Shakespeare in Elizabethan times, the theme of revenge is a constant throughout the plot. Not only does it underlie almost every scene, but it also has a major effect on the story as a whole. Two of the main revenge plots within the play are Hamlet's aim to avenge his father by killing his uncle, the king Claudius, and Laertes' aim to avenge the murder of his father by killing Hamlet. These two revenge plots play a major role in presenting to the audience the theme of revenge.

There are many reasons why Hamlet's revenge plot is important to the development of the play; most are specific to the story-line. Hamlet is set upon revenge because of instructions from a ghost, which has taken his
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The most famous quote of this play, "To be or not to be, that is the question" is centred on this quandary. Hamlet, as he believes, has two choices to decide between. One is to kill his uncle and release his father from purgatory, where he is languishing presently, "Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night, and for the day confin'd to fast in fires". By doing this, Hamlet himself will almost certainly die in his efforts and go to hell as a murderer. The other choice he has is to not kill Claudius, which means that he will leave his father in Purgatory, but he himself will not die and go to hell. We get an idea of this terrible ‘catch twenty-two', so to speak, in many of Hamlet's early soliloquies.

Ultimately, possibly the main effect of the revenge theme is that nearly every main character in the plot has died by the end of the play. While this is in many cases not perhaps a direct consequence of revenge, the deaths do still occur in a non-direct way because of the ideas of Hamlet's revenge. For example, the death of Polonius is not because Hamlet wishes to kill him to get revenge, but it is because Hamlet thinks Polonius is Claudius, the one he actually wishes to kill. His confusion is shown by the quote, "Nay, I know not: is it the King?" This is much the same for the death of Ophelia. Hamlet does not kill Ophelia outright, but it is most likely because of Hamlet's actions towards her that Ophelia commits suicide –