Hamlet: Revenge or Scruples?

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Hamlet: Revenge or Scruples?

Andrew Brian

"'Vengeance is mine,' sayith the Lord". What does this mean? I believe what the Christians meant it to mean is that we, as humans, have no right to seek revenge, that only "the Lord" has the right to decide when to take revenge. We say this, but do we follow it? No, I think not. We all try to take revenge into our own hands, in one form or another.

Revenge is one strong theme that holds throughout "Hamlet". We see Prince Hamlet try to execute a kind of private vengeance, an eye for an eye, which is completely opposite of the Christian teachings. Hamlet is a man who believes in heaven and hell and who feels that a man who challenges divine ordinance will ultimately face judgment. We might look at the ghost of the late king Hamlet as the part of us that wants to take vengeance into our own minds. Like the little voice in our heads that tells us to do something, when in our hearts we know it is wrong.

When Horatio, Barnardo, and Marcellus tell Hamlet of their sighting of the ghost, Hamlet agrees to join them that night and see if he can observe the ghost firsthand and possibly speak with it. That night when Horatio, Marcellus, and Hamlet sight the ghost, it beckons Hamlet to leave the other two and speak to it in privacy. Hamlet follows, despite the protests of the others, who fear it may be an evil spirit, disguising as King Hamlet in order to gain their trust. Horatio suggests that it may lead him astray and then "assume some other horrible form / Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason / And draw you into madness..." (I, iv, 80-82). Hamlet insists on listening to the message of the ghost. Although he does not state it, perhaps Hamlet subconsciously considers that Horatio is right, that the ghost is indeed a false messenger sent to trouble him.

Hamlet does not kill Claudius immediately following his encounter with the ghost because he is unsure of the ghost's accusations of Claudius and does...