Hamlet Revenge: A Chain Reaction
In the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, the theme of revenge is
repeated numerous times throughout the play and involves a great deal of
characters. Of these characters, eight are dead by the end of the play by
result of murder which was initiated through revenge. Shakespeare uses the
revenge theme to create conflict among many characters.
Shakespeare uses the revenge theme to create conflict between Hamlet and
Claudius. In Act I, scene 5, Hamlet is visited by the ghost who was his
The ghost makes Hamlet aware of his murderous death when he tells
Hamlet of how Claudius had killed him. The ghost says this to Hamlet
regarding Claudius, “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.” This is
where Hamlet is first inrtoduced to the revenge plot between himself and
Claudius. Hamlet wants to insure that the ghost really was his dead father
before he kills Claudius. To do this Hamlet has people act out the death of
his father in front of Claudius and declares him guilty by his reaction to
the play. ” O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound.
Hamlet declares Claudius’ guilt to Horatio and now realizes that he must
continue on with his revenge plot. The conflict between Hamlet and Claudius
is delayed by Hamlet but does eventually occur in the last scene. Hamlet’s
mother has just died, Hamlet has been sliced by Laertes’ poison sword, and
Hamlet has just struck Laertes with a fatal blow when Laertes says that this
was all brought on by Claudius. Hamlet, now realizing that there is no more
time for him to delay his revenge, stabs Claudus and kills him. Revenge was
the motive for the conflict between Hamlet and Claudius.
Shakespeare uses the revenge plot to create conflict between Laertes and
Hamlet by having Laertes avenge his father’s and sister’s death which Hamlet
is responsible for.
After learning of his fathers unnatural death, Hamlet
decides that he can no longer trust anyone, except for Horatio. While acting
out his madness, he visited Ophelia and cut off his ties with her because of
his distrust for everyone. In Act III, when Hamlet talks with his mother, he
notices that he is being spied upon. Thinking that it is the king, Hamlet
mistakingly kills Polonius who was hiding behind a big rug, which for some
medeval reason, was hung on the wall. It is believed Ophelia herself went mad
because of Hamlet’s rude and violent treatment of her and also because Hamlet
killed her father. In Act IV Ophelia’s madness drives her to walk into the
river and drown.
When Laertes arives back from France
he has heard the horrible news and says,
And so have I a noble father lost;
A sister driven into desperate terms,
Whose worth, if praises may go back again,
Stood challenger on mount of all the age
For her perfections: but my revenge will come. (4.7. 25-29)
Laertes is plotting revenge against the murderer of his father and sister,
Hamlet. Claudius asks Laertes, “what would you undertake, To show yourself in
deed your father’s son, More than in words?” Claudius and Laertes come to the
conclusion that they will hold a sword duel between Hamlet and Laertes.
Laertes will have poison on his sword and Claudius will have a glass with
poison in it ready for Hamlet to quench his thirst.
During the duel, Hamlet
is scratched by the poison tipped sword of Laertes. It is now inevitable that
Hamlet will die. Therefore, the conflict between Laertes and Hamlet has
resulted in revenge for Laertes.
Through the revenge theme, Shakespeare creates an interior conflict between
Hamlet and himself. In Hamlet’s first soliloquy, Hamlet displays his
melancholy state of being and his unwillingness to live. ” Or that the
Everlasting had not fix’d His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter!” Hamlet states
that if God was not against suicide then he would take his own life.
Hamlet’s second soliloquy, after the meeting with his father’s ghost, he
beats himself up by saying,”Am I a coward…?”,and,”I am pigeon-liver’d, and
lack gall”. Hamlet wants revenge at this time but he is questioning his