Essay on Vengeance in Shakespeare's Hamlet - The Theme of Revenge

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The Theme of Revenge in Hamlet

In Shakespeare's tragedy, Hamlet, the thoughts of revenge are introduced early in the play. At the end of the first act, Hamlet meets the ghost of his deceased father. He is brought to see him by Horatio and Marcellus, who saw the ghost "yesternight" (Shakespeare 1.2.190). During this exchange of words between the Ghost and Hamlet, the Ghost tells Hamlet, "[s]o art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear." (Shakespeare 1.5.5). He is telling Hamlet to listen closely to what he has to say. Then he tells Hamlet to "[r]evenge his foul and most unnatural murder" (Shakespeare 1.5.23). When Hamlet finds out that it was his Uncle Claudius who murdered his father, Hamlet plots against him to avenge his father's
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This play would be non-existent if it was not for the agonizing trials that Hamlet put himself through while plotting his father's revenge.

Gareth Lloyd Evans points out that when Hamlet is first given his task from the Ghost, he was told to make sure his mother gets to heaven, so she can be judged by the almighty. "Hamlet is in fact called upon to avenge the wrong deed. The Ghost wishes him to leave his mother to heaven, and reminds him in the closet scene that his 'true purpose' (the avenging of his father's death upon Claudius) is almost blunted" (Evans 250). Hamlet is not really told by the Ghost kill his uncle when Hamlet first meets the spirit of his deceased father. He was told:

"[...]Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive

Against thy mother aught: leave her to heaven,

And to those thorns that in bosom lodge,

To prick and sting her" (Shakespeare 1.5.88).

The Ghost says in that passage that Hamlet is not to torture his mother, but make her own inner guilt eat away at her like a fatal illness. He wants her to suffer the guilt that is associated with her incestial actions. But later in the third act the Ghost revisits Hamlet, this time while he is yelling at his mother because of her actions. He tells Hamlet:

"Do not forget: this visitation

Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.

But look, amazement on thy mother sits:

O, step between her and her fighting soul:

Conceit in weakest bodies
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