The Destructive Effects of Revenge in William Shakespeares Hamlet

Published: 2021-06-25
820 words
3 pages
7 min to read
George Washington University
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is the act of responding to an action from another person in a manner that is usually harmful to the recipient. Revenge directed to a second person could come in a direct or an indirect form. It could also be verbal on non-verbal depending on the intension of the avenger. In contemporary settings, revenge happens in international politics, organizations, businesses, and tribal conflicts. For instance, one party in communal crashes may revenge directly by attacking a rival community members and killing them. In the above case, an indirect form of revenge may be closing a trade route or scorching grazing fields. These are some of the examples that literature explores. In Shakespeares Hamlet, the theme of revenge comes out as the central idea that the playwright wanted to convey. The background of the play sets the stage for revenge and notifies the reader of the past events that result in the instigation of the first revenge attempt. The desire for revenge in the play kicks off a vicious stream of events that turn tragic in the end. Death is the most tragic outcome of revenge in Hamlet, although family divisions, the fall of a kingdom, and unwarranted collateral damage also result from the revenge that is sparked by the appearance of dead kings ghost

The topic under discussion is limited to revenge in the play. Therefore, I will concentrate on the instances of revenge in the play and the characters engaged in the same. Concerning characters, the discussion will explore how each actor is injected into the revenge trail and how they fit in sequence of vengeful acts in the play. In the beginning of the play, the reader notes that the castle guards become the first people to discover that King Hamlet was maliciously assassinated by his brother. Therefore, this paper will explain the role of the guards in the revenge trail. Finally, the paper will discuss the negative impacts of revenge to the plot and characters which include death in the royal family, collateral damage, the fall of Elsinore Kingdom in Denmark, and its takeover by neighbors.

The play opens with King Hamlets ghost appearance to the two guards manning the castle. The guards decipher that the ghost resembles the late King Hamlet. King Hamlets ghost reveals that Claudius planned for his assassination to occupy the throne. The guards break the news to Prince Hamlet. Prince Hamlet contemplates revenge but accidentally kills Polonius instead of King Claudius. The king banishes Hamlet to England to be killed. However, Hamlet returns halfway to Denmark and engages in duet with Laertes, who wishes to revenge for the death of his sister and father. While planning to kill Hamlet, Claudius prepares a goblet laced with poison so that he can give him to drink. Ironically, Queen Gertrude drinks from a goblet and dies. Laertes is killed by Hamlet using a poisoned blade. Claudius also dies from a blade that was laced with a poison. Finally, Hamlet dies due to an injury inflicted by the same blade

The play shows that death is the most tragic outcome of revenge. As Hamlet seeks to revenge the death of his father, he kills Polonius in the process after mistaking him for King Claudius. On learning about her fathers death, Ophelia plunges into depression and commits suicide. Laertes while seeking to revenge his father and sister fights with Hamlet and gets killed in the process. Hamlet and Claudius are the main characters that die as a direct consequence of revenge.

The break up and disintegration of the families in the play come as a result of revenge. When Polonius gets killed by Hamlet, Laertes and Ophelia are left fatherless. The effect of this disaster is the death of these two characters, which could have been prevented if they had a father figure to comfort them in the time of crisis. Claudius becomes a widower for a short time before he succumbs to a vice of his own making. Gertrude does not witness the triumph of her son over Claudius and Laertes since she dies before the two do.

The playwright exaggerates the tragedy in his work. While he attempts to prove that all the deaths were a direct consequence of revenge or the desire to seek revenge, the reader can easily discern that most of the deaths are accidental and collateral to Claudius belligerence. In other words, according to Shakespeare, death in the play was not a direct consequence of revenge but rather an accident from the attempted revenge.

From the play, a vengeful character can directly or indirectly cause multiple deaths and the breakdown of families divided over the desire to revenge historical injustices. Revenge in Hamlet sparks a chain of events that could be prevented if Hamlet did not seek revenge for his fathers death in the first place. Instead of revenge, it is prudent to try forgiveness since it is not costly to do so.

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