December 20th 2012
Analysis of Hamlet
“Revenge is a dish best served cold.” As one of the most popular proverbs, this is one that everyone knows. The proverb suggests that revenge is more satisfying as a considered response enacted when unexpected rather than acting rashly and getting it over quickly. Revenge is a desire that is all consuming in its nature. A person who wants revenge is only focused on that and would not care for any consequences. Between the definition of the proverb and the actual nature of revenge, no work of literature better represents it than the play Hamlet. Both in Shakespeare’s version and Franco Zeffirelli’s film adaption, the theme of revenge is prevalent. This is evident by how Shakespeare reveals the theme, what the play shows about the topic, and how Franco Zeffirelli explores revenge in his version. But as shown in Hamlet revenge is a dangerous theory to live by and it has caused the downfall of many people.
Revenge, is the central theme of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. That is straightforward and readers will notice that by the end of the first act, but the suspense is created in the method Shakespeare uses to reveal the theme. The way Shakespeare uses plot, characterization, and conflict to reveal the theme, is ingenious. The plot shows the readers the theme but it shows it vaguely. The plot reveals that Hamlet, Laertes, and Fortinbras want revenge for the death of their respective fathers. Hamlet`s desire for revenge drives the plot, while Laertes`s desire for revenge ushers the play into its climax, while Fortinbras's desire for revenge brings the play in a full circle. “Now might I do it pat, now he is praying; [a]nd now I’ll do’t: and so he goes to heaven: [a]nd so I am revenged.” (III, III, 74-76). As Hamlet contemplates killing Claudius, to avenge his father, he feel as though he should wait so Claudius would not be able to repent for his sins, which allows the plot to move forward and reveal more of the theme of revenge. Characterization is another tool Shakespeare uses to reveal the theme of revenge. Like the plot, characterization shows the theme, but does it in more depth. The main character Hamlet’s personality, character traits, and actions etc. are all built by his desire to have vengeance for his father’s murder. Laertes is a character who becomes complete, to the audience, by his desire to kill Hamlet. By letting his character be controlled by their desire for revenge Shakespeare shows his readers the all-consuming nature of it. Shakespeare wants his readers to understand how dangerous the idea of revenge is. “To an exploit now ripe in my device, [u]nder the which he shall not choose but fall, [a]nd for his death no wind of blame shall breathe.” (IV, VII, 65-67). Laertes’s blind rage and need for revenge allows Claudius to easily manipulate him, into fighting Hamlet. Shakespeare uses this to show the need for revenge clouds ones judgement and makes a person susceptible to manipulation. Conflict is the final tool Shakespeare uses to reveal the theme of revenge. All major conflicts in the play are driven by the character’s desire for revenge. Like plot and characterization, the conflicts are used to reveal the theme of revenge, but go into more depth about it than the previous two. Shakespeare uses conflicts to show where a person, if he were to follow a path to vengeance, would end up. The two major conflicts in the play, Hamlet vs. Claudius and Laertes vs. Hamlet, are revenge based. Hamlet and Claudius’s conflict essentially moves the play forward and the conflict between Laertes and Hamlet brings the play to a dramatic end. Shakespeare uses both conflicts to show the audience, that those who want revenge will face dangerous consequences. “Mine and my father’s death come not upon thee.” (V, II, 323). Laertes’s desire for revenge makes him poison his sword and ends up dying by getting...