Essay about Vengeance in Shakespeare’s Hamlet – The Theme of Revenge

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 death.

“And this man was called upon to kill. It is almost as if Jesus had been asked to play the role of Napoleon…”(Bloom 12). In Hazelton Spencer’s opinion, revenge is “Hamlet’s sacred duty” and must be accepted by the reader as such (Bloom 13). Hamlet has been given the task by his father to avenge his death, however he so chooses. Most readers, critics, and commentators agree in thinking that it was Hamlet’s duty to kill and that he really delayed in doing so (Bloom 12). Harold Goddard says that, “[h]is delay…was a weakness and disaster, entailing, as it did, many unintended deaths, including his own” (Bloom 12).

Some also said that he delayed in killing his uncle so the play would be five-acts (Bloom 20). He did not murder his father’s assassin because the play would have ended to quickly. Some critics, in a sense, partially agree. Edward E. Foster points out that “if Hamlet were simply to proceed to act out the role that has been thrust upon him, the play would be just another…

…n become another character in the play. Hamlet shows the true genius of Shakespeare.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. Modern Critical Interpretations Of Hamlet. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.

Carlyle, (First Name not found). The Home Book of Quotations. Binghamton, NC: Vail Balloon Press, 1967.

Charney, Maurice. All of Shakespeare. New York, NY. Columbia University Press. 1993.

Evans, Gareth Lloyd. The Upstart Crow-An Intro. to Shakespeare’s Plays. London, England: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1982.

Magill, Frank N. Masterplots. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1995.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Garden City, NY: Garden City Books, 1936

Wadsworth, Frank W. “Shakespeare, William.” World Book Encyclopedia. 1987 edition.

Wright, William Aldis. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Cambridge Edition Text. Garden City, NY: Garden City Books, 1936.