Revenge in Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

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The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is one of William Shakespeare’s most renowned works of literature. Published in the very early sixteenth century, the play remains to be the longest of all Shakespearean works and the most popular as well. Perhaps what is so appealing about this masterpiece, the tragic story of the death of King Hamlet, murdered by Hamlet’s uncle Claudius, who later marries Queen Gertrude in order to take the throne, and Prince Hamlet’s journey to exact revenge on Claudius for all he’s done to the kingdom, is the fact that revenge plays a rather large role throughout the play, being what motivates Hamlet to pretend insanity in order to succeed. Revenge is an important theme portrayed constantly throughout Hamlet, …show more content…
Once finished with his story, the Ghost asks Hamlet for one simple favor: “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (Lawall et al. 1799). The death of King Hamlet is foul as it was done while he was asleep, and unnatural because someone of his own kin committed it. Hamlet promises to fulfill the ghost’s request, which sets the play’s entire plot into motion. Afterwards, Hamlet advises his friends not to pay attention to his behavior from that point on, as he will put on “an antic disposition”; he will fake insanity to distract everyone from his actual motives.
However, whether or not Hamlet is actually insane or just pretending to be has been a subject of criticism by literary analysts. In his legal and metaphysical study titled “Is Hamlet Mad?” Newman Watts argues for the former. He presents his evidence in a very legal manner, accusing Hamlet of suffering from mental aberration, as evidenced by “his morbid temperament… his defective memory and illogical condition of mind, evidenced by his treating the combined secret of his life, and the motive for his revenge, as a confidence reposed” (Watts 7). The main act that Hamlet committed during his “staged” madness, the murder of Polonius — although his identity was unbeknownst to Hamlet prior to the killing — would not be something any sane individual would commit
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