Nature of revenge by Shakespeare

Posted on January 14, 2022 by Cheapest Assignment

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The Hamlet play by Shakespeare is understood to be a revenge tragedy. It is driven by a character who is seen mainly planning revenge and not executing it in the play. This play took place in Denmark, and it is more about Hamlet’s uncle, who murders his father to get into power in that region. In the play, many characters want revenge, just like Hamlet. Laertes and Fortinbras, just like Hamlet, each had a devastating loss of their family member, which pushed them to think and decide about vengeance. As a result, revenge led to the death of some characters and the gaining of power to some. The concept of vengeance in the play can be depicted by a quote said by a roman storyteller Phaedrus, which states that those who plan to destroy others often fall their own selves. In the play, we can see the prince of Denmark and Laertes revenge, leading to their government’s downfall. We see the spirit of his father bound Hamlet to revenge. Hamlet was, therefore, preoccupied with the goal of freedom. However, it was hard for Hamlet to perform revenge, as the play depicts. Due to his inability to avenge significant characters in the play died, including Gertrude, Polonius, and Ophelia, among others. Hence revenge is not an easy task to perform, and if it is executed, it comes with it a lot of repercussions. Nature of revenge makes one not act upon reason but on anger, which ends up inflicting greater self-injury without attaining complete satisfaction and happiness from it.

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Helmet seeks revenge on his uncle Claudius. To become the leader of Denmark, Claudius killed Hamlet’s father and married his mother after that. Later, we see Hamlet’s father’s spirit appear on him and inform him about the terrible acts that his uncle committed. The ghost says, “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.” (Page 25). This is said in order to ensure that Claudius gets punished for his actions. He then swears to avenge the death of his father, “with wings as swift As a meditation, or the thoughts of love … will sweep to his revenge” (page25-31). Despite the oath, he is seen in a large part of the play dramatically failing to keep his word.

Hamlet, however, gets several opportunities which he could have used to kill his uncle, but due to poor timing, he was not able to execute the act. Also, Hamlet had some other reasons, which made it challenging to be able to avenge. For instance, the affection of his mother, who was now the wife to Claudius. We can see clearly as the play proceeds that the relationship between Hamlet and his mother is almost an incest relationship. Hence Hamlet did not want to hurt his mum by killing Claudius, as this could have affected him. When his uncle was praying, Hamlet had a perfect opportunity to slay him, but he believed that if he killed him while he was in prayers, he (Claudius) would go to heaven instead of going to hell. Later, Hamlet kills Polonius by the sword, thinking it was his uncle Claudius spying on him. This act led to Ophelia going mad due to her father’s death and ending up drowning. The act made him depart to England, making it hardly possible to avenge his father’s death. When he was returning, he did not seem to have any plans for revenge. In act five is where we see him being able to take action and kill Claudius. It was after noting that Gertrude gets poisoned by drinking from a cup that was meant for him.


Laertes plans to avenge her father’s death by killing Hamlet. On his journey from England, Hamlet learns that Claudius is planning to kill him. He happens to meet Horatio, who was accompanied by a gravedigger in a graveyard. They talk for some time about the matters of life and death before the procession of Ophelia’s funeral. After that, due to the bitterness resulting from the loss of his sister and father, Laertes forms a duel with Claudius on killing Hamlet. Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle, was driven to plot his nephew’s killing for fear of his life. The two arrange to execute their plan by either poisoning him with wine or a poisoned sword. The two had an arrangement of making Laertes and Hamlet into a duel to be easier to kill him. The act was set in such a way that it would not have appeared as foul play. If the plan fails and Laertes gets killed in the planned flight, the king will then have Hamlet drink from the poisoned cup. All these were to ensure that Hamlet gets killed despite the consequences that might have followed. Their plans take an unexpected lead as Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, drinks from the cup with poison and dies. Then Hamlet gets wounded by Laertes, and in scuffing, they get to exchange rapiers, and Hamlet wounds Laertes in return, and shortly Laertes dies. Then Hamlet gets able while dying to wound Claudius with the poisoned rapier, hence killing him also. This leaves his friend Horatio to Fortinbras, who becomes the new king. Here we see that Laertes managed the revenge for the death of his father, but he also gets killed. He has been able to carry out the vengeance he had sworn to himself to perform when Hamlet accidentally killed his father, but also he loses his life in the plot. This act shows that revenge only leads to tragedy.

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Fortinbras seeks revenge for his father, who was the king of Norway. The late King Hamlet of Denmark killed his father. The Norway prince arrives in Denmark at the Elsinore castle. On his arrival, he finds Hamlet almost dying, and he heard him saying that he is the one to inherit the throne, which was left vacant, so he profits even without any vengeance. He plans to avenge the matter by attacking Denmark. This prince of Norway is believed to be raising an army to strike Denmark. Fortinbras had faith that due to the court’s tumultuous scene where king Hamlet gets killed under unclear circumstances will weaken Denmark. When he plans the revenge and is almost ready to accomplish his plans, all the main characters from the Denmark throne get killed, and he is left as the only person to inherit the throne. He, therefore, gains back the land of Denmark.


In the whole play, we see the pattern of revenge repeatedly. Different people in the play uses revenge differently, depending on their standpoints. Revenge has caused the death of Hamlet and Laertes, whom both were seeking revenge. It also makes Fortinbras gain Denmark’s land back, as all the other possible heirs die in the play. As we can see, the Phaedrus statement (quote) surrounds all the concepts of revenge in the entire play. The swordfight’s duel at the end of the Hamlet play allows Hamlet and Laertes to fulfil their revenge oaths. 

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Furthermore, if it were not for this duel, most retribution would have remained unperformed, for example, in the case of Hamlet, who kept on procrastinating the plans of reprisals. However, all through the play, we see that Hamlet, Fortinbras, and Laertes lost a family member by tragic death, hence the need to avenge the death. Revenge acts as a self-satisfactory if a person does it soon enough after being crossed. In the play, we see that Hamlet did not get that satisfaction as he kept on procrastinating his vengeance. When he finally did kill Claudius, he had not planned to do it, but it happened after Claudius’s plot to kill Hamlet backfired. Hamlet’s search for revenge ended up causing agony in his world. Hence instead of seeking vengeance, we should learn to move on and act naïve. The protagonist in the play teaches by his actions that no situation will get better as a result of revenge; instead, it leads to disastrous repercussions that unexpectedly cause harm to the guiltless people around us. 

Works cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. EP Dutton, 1905.

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