William Shakespeare's Hamlet as a Revenge Tragedy Essay

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William Shakespeare's Hamlet as a Revenge Tragedy

Revenge Tragedy was a genre which lasted from 1590 until 1615. The genre appealed to the Elizabethan audience’s desire for blood and violence without emotional depth. ==================================================================

Revenge tragedies originated in the writings of the Roman Seneca (4BC-AD65) whose plays heavily influenced Elizabethan dramatists. Seneca’s tragedies, using stories derived from mythology emphasised bloody action, horrific incidents and ranting speeches. The devices Seneca used in his tragedies were later imitated by Elizabethan playwrights. These included the five act structure, the appearance of ghosts, the
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Hamlet delays the whole process of revenge, and this is more subtle than Kyd’s 'Spanish Tragedy.'

Bernard Lott believes that 'when Hamlet's speeches are straightened out the evident complications of phraseology and syntax remain to sense reflection of the inner turmoil in his soul'. This is clearly shown in Hamlets 'To be or not to be' soliloquy. Soliloquies in general show characters’ innermost emotions and are frequently used in revenge tragedies. Shakespeare uses speech to reflect characters’ roles and status; superior figures such as Hamlet speak in verse, whereas characters with less significance to the play speak in prose. This dramatic effect raises ‘Hamlet’ above the typical Revenge Tragedy.

Laertes and Hamlet are the two main characters linked to revenge throughout 'Hamlet’. They are in the same situation, with Hamlet stating 'by the image of my cause I see the portraiture of his.' Laertes is the stereotypical revenger. He is quick to assume that Claudius murdered his father and goes to seek him with a 'riotous head' and only one thing on his mind. He will 'dare damnation' to get revenge for his father and will die for his family honour. Hamlet alternately spends most of his time contemplating revenge and deciding how he will get it on Claudius.

Hamlet: ‘conscience does make cowards of us all.

Levin says, “Hamlet is the man who thinks too much,
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