The Theme of Hamlet: Revenge

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Mahatma Gandhi once said “an eye for an eye makes the world blind.” This quote quite simply means revenge, or getting even, makes losers of us all; obviously condemning revenge. In Hamlet, William Shakespeare portrays this topic in a similar way, indicating strong disapproval of vengeance. This play opens with Hamlet discovering that the death of his father (and King) was done by his uncle who remarried the Queen (Hamlet’s mother) and took the crown of Denmark. Hamlet wants revenge, but first needs proof that it was definitely Claudius. In finding proof, Hamlet angers Laertes who ends up seeking revenge on Hamlet while Fortinbras is seeking revenge on all of Denmark. Eventually, Claudius and Laertes formulate a plan to kill Hamlet, but all three, and more, end up dead leaving Fortinbras with the crown of Denmark. This plot, from beginning to end, was carried by revenge from mainly Fortinbras, Laertes, and of course, Hamlet. The play has a dismal ending and as it revolved around revenge, one can deduce that the theme was condemning revenge, specifically that the revenge will most likely result in bad situations and unfortunate circumstances. The genre of Hamlet, while obviously a tragedy, is often specified further as a revenge tragedy. Revenge, according to the University of California, Santa Cruz, is a “cancer of the mind and soul,” and this Shakespearean play supports this. A tragedy is defined as when “a character undergoes suffrage or downfall” (Goldey). In Hamlet, this suffrage and downfall is caused by revenge. Revenge tragedies that were “extremely popular in the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre” require the “completion of an act of violence in response to an original affront” (Stott). With this being said, the main plot of this play is Hamlet trying to complete the act of killing Claudius in response to Claudius’ original act of killing King Hamlet. Additionally, we know this play ends in a “blood bath” (Barnaby) and we know from Andrew Stott that...
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