Revenge: a Wild Justice
Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition Instructor Charles M. Deford 18 January 2013
In a society, revenge can often be manipulated in a way to create order and justice where rule of law is weak. Similar
situations arise when characters from the play Hamlet do the same in the midst of the royal court. In the Shakespearean
play, “Hamlet”, revenge is sought in a place where morals were weak, thus resulting in tragic repercussions instead of justice. Throughout the play, multiple characters experience loss in a way that leads to a desire for revenge, causing the innocent to suffer. In Hamlets pursuit of revenge, Ophelia is affected
very deeply in the process after her father Polonius is killed. “Oh, this is the poison of grief” (4.5 49). Many can see the
very apparent transformation within Ophelia because of the grief she is dealing with. Hamlets’ desire to enact revenge on
Claudius killed Polonius because he accidentally mistook him for Claudius. The grief of losing her father overcomes Ophelia, and
the “poison” of it changes her so that she literally becomes “mad” with grief. start when he Horatio becomes an innocent victim from the the ghost of Old Hamlet. Horatio
becomes a person of confidence to Hamlet who informs him of any plans made, allowing him to get full understanding of every tragic event. ”If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart/ Absent
thee from felicity a while,/ And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain/ To tell my story” (5.2 43-46). After seeing all
the destruction and havoc, Horatio pleads to Hamlet to allow him
to end his life as he cannot take any more of the tragedy.
his dismay, Hamlet uses Horatio’s love for him to guilt him into living and telling his story as it truly was. Hamlet knows the
pain Horatio is in and asks him to endure the pain for a while and stay in this harsh world. Horatio agrees, but he knows he
will have to carry the horrific memories for as long as he lives. as well. Not only do the innocent suffer in consequence, but die Polonius, Gertrude, and Ophelia’s life came to an end The innocent became victims and lives were
because of revenge.
tragically lost in the pursuit for revenge. The deaths that occurred in the process also became “casual slaughters”. After the death of Polonius, Hamlet shows no
remorse for his actions by making jokes about the whereabouts of Polonius’s body when Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and Claudius
question him about it.
Hamlet eventually gives in to admitting
where the body is at, noting that the smell of the body would lead them anyways. “He will stay till ye come” (4.1 39), Hamlet
jokes that there is no rush to recover the body as it will stay where it is until it is retrieved. another human being, Hamlet By joking about the death of to lack any remorse or
sympathy for human life. his mother “Indeed this
Right after the death he also tells counselor/Is now most still, most
secret, and most grave/ Who was in life a foolish prating knave” (3.4 219-221), as if Polonius’s death was justified because of
his foolish and talkative nature. shows a futile attempt to keep
In act 5.2, Claudius also Gertrude from drinking the
poisoned tea “Gertrude, do not drink” (5.2 286). after she disregards his command,
was a very nonchalant one Not
because he deliberately allowed his wife to poison herself.
much thought was given by Claudius on the fact that his wife’s death was soon a reality, other than “it was too late”. Later,
when Gertrude is dying from the poison, causing her to collapse unto the floor, Claudius claims “She swoons to see them bleed” (5.2 304). Claudius attempted to cover up his tracks from
everyone in the court by deceiving everyone into thinking that blood drawn from the scuffle made the queen faint, and that she would indeed be alright. The way these...
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