Revenge and Vengeance in Shakespeare's Hamlet - Why Revenge?

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Revenge in Hamlet

In Elizabethan times, a type of play known as a "revenge tragedy" became popular. These plays revolved around, "... the revenge of a father for a son or vice versa, the revenge being directed by the ghost of the murdered man..." (Harmon and Holman #6). Other characteristics include real or pretend insanity, philosophic soliloquies, hesitation on the part of the protagonist, conspiracy, and the use of horror. William Shakespeare's Hamlet fully satisfies each of these traits, making it an excellent example of a revenge tragedy. Certainly, the most critical theme in the play by far is that of revenge; it fuels the plot and story of Hamlet, reveals the hamartia of the protagonist, and is used successfully to
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In this case, Hamlet is obsessed with yet unable to act out his revenge since he is a man of thought and reflection, not of action and impulsiveness. "Revenge, said Francis Bacon in his essay on the subject, is a kind of wild justice, and something in Hamlet is too civilized for stealthy murder," says Northrop Frye (Frye). While he knows it is his duty to avenge his father's murder, Hamlet's desire to fulfill this obligation constantly wavers. In self-pity he cries, "O cursed spite / That ever I was born to set it right!" (1.5. 188-189), and yet in rage he utters, "Now could I drink hot blood / and do such bitter business as the day / Would quake to loot on," (3.2. 397-399). Hamlet hesitates numerous times to fulfill his duty to avenge his father, and in the end he must actually convince himself to kill Claudius. "... I do not know / Why yet I live to say 'This thing's to do', / Sith I have cause, and will, and strength, and means / To do't... / ... / O, from this time forth, / My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!" (4.4. 43-46, 65-66). This unusual flaw leads to Hamlet's inevitable demise, and is the most convincing evidence that Hamlet is, indeed, a tragedy. The protagonist, however, is not the only character in the play that experiences a want for revenge. Shakespeare uses all three of the sons seeking vengeance to reveal the complexity of the human yearning for

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