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Revenge in the Play “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark”


Hamlet is a character used in the play, Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, to depict the theme of revenge. In the play, Claudius and Gertrude kill Hamlet’s father, the king, due to the quest for power. The murder of the king motivates Hamlet to commence his revenge mission. Evidently, the quest for revenge emerges when the ghost appears to Hamlet and informs him about the involvement of the queen and Claudius in the king’s murder. Although Hamlet delays his revenge, he eventually executes it after series of failed attempts. Moreover, the act of his mother to remarry soon after the demise of his father increases Hamlet’s desire for revenge. In the play, Shakespeare demonstrates how some greedy individuals kill to ascend to power and threaten other people in the society (Shakespeare 5). Therefore, the paper argues that Hamlet avenges for the murder of his father using the motivations for revenge, process, and the actual revenge.

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Motivations for Revenge

The main motivator behind Hamlet’s need for revenge is the murder of his father, who was the king of Denmark in the play. The murder makes Hamlet resentful and motivates him to initiate the journey of revenge. Zakharov explains that, “for instance, the Ghost calls for revenge both on Claudius, who has plotted his murder, and on Gertrude, who actually has committed it; Claudius and Gertrude are lovers” (188). As a result, Hamlet commences his journey towards revenge for the death of his father, the king. Although Hamlet plans to act immediately he receives the information from the ghost, he changes his mind later and opts to delay and wait for the appropriate time. Conversely, the delay that looks appropriate for Hamlet leads to death of several other individuals, such as Polonius the father of Ophelia. Imperatively, it is the murder of the king, Hamlet’s father, which sets the course of the play.

Soon after the death of the king, Gertrude the queen remarried to Claudius, who was the uncle of Hamlet. The act of remarrying soon after the death of the king, who was the father of Hamlet, created an impression that they did not bother about sadness and sorrow that Hamlet was going through after the demise of his father. The act of remarrying increased the need to revenge for his father, since, to Hamlet, it looked like no one cared about his sorrow and grief. Hamlet expresses his anger towards the marriage between Claudius and the queen, his mother when he states that, “does it not think’st thee, stand me now upon he had killed my king and whored my mother” (Shakespeare 18). Therefore, it is evident that the marriage between the queen and Claudius angered Hamlet and motivated him to seek for revenge. Since the marriage between the queen and the king’s brother occurred soon after the death of the King an impression of their involvement in the murder of the king developed in the mind of Hamlet and thus, the need to revenge.

Another fact that motivated revenge from Hamlet was the quick enthronement of Claudius, the king’s brother. Just after the murder of the king, Claudius took over the throne as the new king. By ascending to the throne, Claudius compounded his involvement in the king’s murder due to greed for power. The king’s murder and quick ascension to throne are some of the factors that made Hamlet, the prince; develop feelings of revenge towards Claudius and his mother Gertrude. Evidently, the ghost also played an integral part in promoting the theme of revenge towards the new king, Claudius. Shakespeare asserts that, “the other ghost that assumed my father’s shape; both cried ‘revenge!’” (7). Moreover, the new king, Claudius planned to kill the prince, who was the sole heir to the throne. The plan to kill Hamlet, the prince, substantiated the feelings of revenge that Hamlet held and successfully executed towards the end of the play.

Process of revenge

Soon after the murder of the king, Hamlet’s father, the ghost appears and informs him on the murder and the involvement of the queen and Claudius. After receiving the information, Hamlet decides to execute his revenge immediately, but changes his mind afterwards opting to undertake his revenge at the time that deems appropriate to him. The first step that Hamlet took in the quest to revenge the murder of his father was acting and behaving like a disturbed individual. Koumakpai highlights that after receiving the information, “Hamlet started a battle of wits with Claudius by acting mad and calling it his ‘antic disposition’, although the whole thing was a ploy to get closer to Claudius to be able to avenge his father’s death more easily” (72). Evidently, the unique character employed by Hamlet was to facilitate easy access to the king and the queen to undertake his revenge effectively.

The first step that Hamlet undertakes, which involves acting in a weird manner is unsuccessful. Therefore, Hamlet starts the second step that focuses on confirming that indeed the ghost that appeared to him delivered the right information about the murder of the king. To execute the second step effectively, Hamlet initiated a ‘Mousetrap play’ that made Claudius leave the court out of anger. When Claudius leaves the court, Hamlet confirms that indeed he is guilty of the murder as explained by the ghost. Due to the knowledge that Hamlet had concerning king’s murder, the king and the queen planned to assassinate him. Claudius used Laertes to assassinate Hamlet in an attempt to conceal the truth about the murder and terminate his quest for revenge (Pupavac 21). The king’s plan to kill Hamlet heightens when Hamlet accidentally kills Polonius.

The Actual Revenge

The third stage, which is the ultimate execution of revenge, delays since Hamlet goes into exile after the murder of Polonius. When Polonius dies and Hamlet goes into exile, Hamlet’s lover, Ophelia becomes mad and eventually drowns and dies (Shakespeare 17). Hamlet successfully returns from exile and continues with his mission of revenge. Laertes dies because of the poison in the sword intended to kill Hamlet, while Gertrude, the queen, accidentally drinks the wine that the king poisoned. The king poisoned the wine so that Hamlet could drink in the event that he succeeds. Unfortunately, Hamlet snatches the poisoned sword from Laertes and kills him. Eventually, Hamlet pierces the king using the poisoned sword and orders him to drink the poisoned wine. In this view, Hamlet manages to succeffuly avenge the death of his father by killing Claudius and Gertrude. The events that take place reveals the ultimate mission set by the play and highlights the theme of revenge.

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Hamlet is the main character, who highlights theme of revenge in the play. Since the play commences with murder of the king, who is the father of Hamlet, the theme of revenge is evident as the ghost inspires the prince to avenge. Although the revenge delays and causes the death and suffering of innocent individuals like Polonius and Ophelia, Hamlet eventually to complete his revenge mission towards the end of the play. Therefore, the theme of revenge is evident from the actions that Hamlet undertakes in the play.

Works Cited

Koumakpai, Taofiki. “Revenge Tragedy in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Titus Andronicus.” Sciences Sociales et Humaines 7.1 (2006): 71-78. Print.

Pupavac, Vanessa. “Hamlet, the State of Emotion, and the International Crisis of Meaning.” Mental Health Review Journal 13.1 (2008): 14-26. Print.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. London: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.

Zakharov, Nikolay. “Hamlet on the Post-Soviet Stage.” Global Shakespeare Journal 1.2 (2014): 179-192. Print.

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