An Analysis of the Theme of Revenge in Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Category: Revenge In Hamlet
Last Updated: 31 Jan 2023
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The Theme of Revenge in Shakespeare's Hamlet The Play Hamlet by William Shakespeare revolves around a constant need for vengeance; all beginning with the murder of Hamlet's father, who is killed before the play ever begins. The type of justice that seems to be prevalent here is and eye for and eye mentality, where killers must be killed. The plot twists and turns as people continually try to manipulate each other as a means to an end. Unfortunately for the characters involved in this complex circle of revenge, they become so caught up in their plans and schemes that they end up on a crash course for disaster. The play ends with the entire royal family of Denmark in ruin.

The play begins with the appearance of Hamlet's deceased father appearing as a ghost. Hamlet speaks to him and learns of his murder at the hands of his own uncle, Claudius, who is now married to his mother. The ghost cannot rest in peace until he has closure from his murder, which would require the murder of his murderer.

Hamlet becomes his tool with which to extract his revenge. Hamlet however does not immediately extract this vengeance on his uncle, but rather waits until he is certain in his own mind that what the ghost has told him is true. In the process of gathering his evidence he kills Polonius, a loyal family servant. He also alerts Claudius to the fact that he knows the truth about how his father died. Claudius, in the interest of preserving his own life, devises a plan where he uses Polonius' son Laertes to kill Hamlet by offering him a chance to avenge the death of his father.

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Throughout this play it seems that Hamlet is quite intelligent. He devises a scheme to find out if what the ghost has told him is true. He feigns madness and seems to act irrationally, all the while carefully watching how the king reacts to him. Finally he has a troupe of traveling actors perform a play for the royal court in which the murder of his father is acted out in detail. When Claudius becomes visibly upset and leaves the play Hamlet can now be certain that he did kill his father. Yet for all his intellectual facility, Hamlet still seems to be only a puppet being masterfully controlled by a ghost. He also allows Claudius a chance to protect himself by tipping him off that he knows the true circumstances behind his father's death.

Laertes is also a seemingly intelligent person who becomes so caught up in the need for revenge that he too is easily manipulated. He is given a chance to avenge the murder of his father by Claudius, which he jumps at. Claudius, however, is not concerned at all about justice for the murder of Polonius, but is fearful now that Hamlet will try to kill him. In a sense he is attempting to avenge his own murder before it can be committed.

The play comes full circle when Hamlet and Laertes duel. This is not meant to be a duel to the death, but Claudius is resolved to kill Hamlet using Laertes. They poison the tip of Laertes sword so that when Hamlet is wounded by it, it will be fatal. As a back-up to this plan Claudius has also poisoned a cup of wine that he will serve to Hamlet.

The plan goes awry when Laertes is unable to wound Hamlet in the course of a fair duel. He strikes Hamlet with a fatal blow between bouts. Then, in the course of dueling. Hamlet ends up with Laertes sword and cuts him. This also proves to be a fatal blow. During the course of the duel Hamlet's mother, Ophelia, drinks the poison that was intended for Hamlet. She is soon dead, with Hamlet and Laertes both dieing. Laertes announces to Hamlet and the court in attendance of the king's role in the duel, and the plot to kill Hamlet. Hamlet then kills Claudius, ending the cycle of death and revenge that had been set in motion by the ghost of his father at the onset of the play.

Through all the twists, turns, and subplots of this play the focus seemed to be on one thing; Hamlet's father getting the revenge of his murder by his brother. His spirit is finally placated by the death of his murderer, as well as his wife who also conspired against him. The throne of Denmark is now rid of the evilness that had consumed it and the country is at a turning point, ready to start a new chapter in its history. From the very beginning to the very end this story is centralized around revenge, the lengths people will go through to get their revenge, and ultimately one ghost's unconquerable desire not to let someone kill him and get away with it.

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An Analysis of the Theme of Revenge in Hamlet by William Shakespeare. (2023, Jan 19). Retrieved from

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