Shakespeare's 'Hamlet': The Tragedy of Revenge

1165 Words Jan 9th, 2018 5 Pages
Shakespeare's Hamlet is an unwilling avenger. Despite his hatred of his uncle Claudius and his sense of the injustice perpetuated upon his father's memory, Hamlet seems unable to obey the will of his father's ghost. Ultimately, this is not shown to be a sign of weakness or cowardice upon Hamlet's part. Rather, the intellectual protagonist understands all too well the futility of attempting to use violence to enact justice. By attempting to become an avenger, Hamlet simply begets more violence. "But I am very sorry, good Horatio, /That to Laertes I forgot myself; /For, by the image of my cause, I see/The portraiture of his" (V.2). In seeking to revenge, Hamlet accidentally stabs Polonius, the king's advisor, thus killing the father of Laertes. Hamlet acknowledges, with his sense of higher justice and objectivity, that Laertes has a reason for hating him, given that he is also a parricide. There is a sharp, circular irony to this cycle of revenge. Similarly, Ophelia is driven mad by the death of her father and kills herself. Hamlet, while much of his madness is assumed, is also driven to a state of emotional distress. Laertes, Hamlet, and Ophelia all act irrationally in ways that bring about their death because of the extremity of their grief. Of course, it could be argued that the larger irony is that Hamlet could have avoided killing…
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