The Theme of Revenge in Hamlet Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1774 Words
Date:  2022-05-06

Hamlet, a play by William Shakespeare, was written in 1601. It is considered to be one of his most admired works. A tragedy is the primary theme of the play which resulted in the death of many innocent people. There is a general thirst for revenge. The main plot in the play, Hamlet, is revenge. Revenge is considered to be the most famous theme in Hamlet. Shakespeare does an excellent job of beautifully covering the concept of revenge in every act of the now famous drama ("SCENE II. A Room Of State In The Castle."). The author centers the play on Prince Hamlet who appears to be elegant in spite of his numerous problems. Tragedy covers three young men, Laertes, Fortinbras and the prince himself, Hamlet. They are all determined to avenge their father's death.

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Revenge is not only the primary plot of the play; it is a driving force that keeps the play going. Without the concept of revenge Hamlet would be reduced from an extraordinary character to an ordinary character since he acts as the focal point of the theme throughout the play. Hamlet, the main character of the play is evidently driven by his desire to revenge. He pursues Claudius; a man he believes is responsible for the death of his father, King Claudius. Claudius is Hamlet's uncle, a brother to King Claudius. Other than the Hamlet revenge plot, there are two different main revenge plots; Prince Fortinbras wishes to reclaim land owed to his father and Laertes' planned revenge against Hamlet for murdering his father. In the play, revenge is first used by the author when creating conflict between Claudius and Hamlet. In act 1, the ghost of King Claudius visits Hamlet and informs him of that his brother is the one responsible for his death. The ghost tells Hamlet about Claudius, "Revenge was his foul and most unnatural murder."

Hamlet is first introduced to the revenge plot when he speaks to his father's ghost. Before he can do anything to harm Claudius, Hamlet wants reassurance that the ghost is indeed his father. Hamlet is determined to get a confession from the king about his actions by entrapping him. After his father's instructions, a lot happens after that. The first development leads Hamlet to act mad because he believes it is the only way to gain revenge. Hamlet stages his father's death in front of King Claudius. He observes the reaction to the play and uses it to declare him guilty, "oh, good Horatio, I'll give a thousand pounds for the ghost's word" ("SCENE II. A Room Of State In The Castle."). Hamlet, therefore, uses this experience to ascertain Claudius' guilt to Horatio and decides that he must push through with his revenge plans. The plot, therefore, changes heading in a different direction. Ophelia, Hamlet's lover, suffers the consequences of Hamlet's decision to avenge his father's death because Hamlet thinks the relationship is not as important as protecting his father's honor. Ophelia is significantly affected by this, and in response, she goes mad and commits suicide. Hamlet is so desperately seeking revenge and lets the audience know his plans when he was giving his speech.

Hamlet's soliloquy is depicted in scene two of act two when he explains his intentions to thoroughly observe his uncle focusing on the murder of this father. Hamlet's intentions to expose secrets of the king is illustrated in the quote, "in case the King does not like the play, why, then, belike it not" ("Hamlet: Major Themes | Critical Essays | CliffsNotes"). By analyzing the theme of revenge, we realize how undecided Hamlet is about revenging his father's death. A famous quote of the play, "the question is whether to be or not to be" which focuses on the quandary.

Ultimately, the revenge theme is dependent on Hamlet's dilemma between two choices. The first choice presents him with the opportunity to free his father from purgatory by killing his uncle. Presently his father is languishing, "he's doomed to walk through the night, while during daytime he is made to fast in fires." Taking this path leaves Hamlet in a state of guaranteed death. He will also go to hell for committing murder. His other choice was to forgive Claudius which meant not killing him leaving his father in Purgatory.

The theme of revenge has had an impact on people's lives negatively because nearly most of the main characters die when the play finally comes to an end. This may not necessarily be a direct consequence of revenge. However, Hamlet's revenge plans indirectly led to the some of the deaths in the plot one way or another. Hamlet is at one point quoted saying, "no, I don't know it is, is it the King?" ("Hamlet: Major Themes | Critical Essays | CliffsNotes"). Hamlet confuses Polonius for Claudius, the person he must kill. This confusion on Claudius leads to the death of Polonius. Ophelia's death was also an indirect consequence of Hamlet's plot to seek revenge.

Ophelia committed suicide and was not outrightly killed by Hamlet's actions to seek vengeance. A priest is quoted saying that her death was doubtful. Most of the main characters in the play die as a consequence of Hamlet's plans to seek vengeance and Ophelia is no exception. Laertes is another major revenge plot in the play. Laertes at the time of his father's death was in Paris. Upon hearing the news of his father's death, he returns to Denmark in a plot to defend his family's honor.

Fortinbras father was killed by King Hamlet while fighting in battle. As a result of this loss, land gained by Denmark was lost. Fortinbras decides it time to confront Hamlet to discuss the land he so desires to regain. "Tell him Fortinbras requests a promised march over the land lost by Denmark," Fortinbras is quoted ordering his captain soldier about what he ought to tell Hamlet when they meet. Even though Fortinbras' old brother tells him to forget about the lost land, he decides to push forward with his plans ("Hamlet And Revenge"). He is driven by anger because of losing his father. He believes the duty is his to regain the land that was lost. He wants to take it back from Hamlet because Hamlet's father is responsible for his father's death. Fortinbras captain upon meeting Hamlet is quoted telling Hamlet that the lost land must be regained by Fortinbras for no profit but to gain a good name. It shows Fortinbras' intentions are not selfish or for personal gain, rather he wants to restore and uphold his good name. The only way for Fortinbras to revenge his father's death is to regain the land that was lost from Denmark. Hamlet is the custodian at present. The idea of revenge is so persistent in Fortinbras' mind this makes Hamlet a victim of revenge.

Laertes at a point in the play informs the King of his plan to seek revenge for his father's death. He says come what may; he must thoroughly revenge for his father. This was only the start of how he plots to avenge his father's death. He even goes as far as explaining to the King just how far he is willing to go to avenge his father's death, "I'll cut his throat even in church" ("Revenge Themes In Hamlet - 1026 Words | Study Guides And Book Summaries"). Laertes says he can kill the man responsible for his father's death even in church. God plays a huge role in their lives and stating he'd kill a man in church is committing a grave sin let alone the crime of committing murder.

The King conspires with Laertes to convince Hamlet to a challenging fencing match. He plots to kill Hamlet during this match. As if that is not enough a cup full of poison is prepared for Hamlet at the King's command. This was if Laertes' plan to plant a sword through Hamlet's heart fails. Their plan eventually works, but as a consequence, it led to their deaths too. This further depicts the theme of vengeance in the play. Prince Fortinbras is caught in the middle of the rivalry between Hamlet and Laertes. His father is also killed by Hamlet in his quest for revenge.

Hamlet procrastinated on his revenge mission until he was sure of his father's murderer. This eventually led to his untimely death. Laertes, on the other hand, was so fast to react to the news of his father's murder and returned right away from Paris. Hamlet compares himself to Laertes and Fortinbras and is quoted calling Fortinbras as a prince whose tender and delicate. The difference between them is stated by Shakespeare ("Revenge Themes In Hamlet - 1026 Words | Study Guides And Book Summaries"). Due to Hamlet's delay, he finally meets his ultimate end. Laertes' vengeance scheme is another initial development of the revenge theme. Notably, it led to the death of Hamlet.

Indeed, Hamlet's plot to avenge his father's death takes center stage for the whole play. Through it, we apparently learn about Hamlet's character. Taking revenge would not cool matters because his uncle is not entirely the cause of his quandary ("Hamlet And Revenge"). He could not merely 'set it right' by murdering Claudius who was only a victim of a barbaric regime. Hamlet's revenge is delayed by his indecisiveness to act waiting until his hand is forced to kill Claudius. Shakespeare, in the end, ensures that Hamlet's plan to avenge his father is completed.


In conclusion, the author Shakespeare in the play Hamlet manages to bring out apparently the theme of revenge which led to death in each of these cases. Everyone feels the need to avenge something that might have happened in the past. In Hamlet's case, revenge to him will bring out an anticipated result that would be satisfying. It is with pleasure that he finally manages to achieve his desired goal. Ultimately, Fortinbras, Laertes, and Hamlet had something in common. Their quest for revenge led to their death. They were so blinded by the joy of seeking vengeance for their father's murderers which led them to another's path causing trouble for the other. It is quite evident that revenge is a back and forth event that never ends.

Works Cited

"SCENE II. A Room Of State In The Castle." Accessed 14th April 2018.

"Hamlet And Revenge." Accessed 14th April 2018.

"Hamlet: Major Themes | Critical Essays | CliffsNotes." Accessed 14th April 2018.

"Revenge Themes In Hamlet - 1026 Words | Study Guides And Book Summaries." Accessed 14th April 2018.

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