• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Examine how Shakespeare explores the theme of revenge in Hamlet and what the responses of a modern and Elizabethan audience might be to the play.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Will Higgins Examine how Shakespeare explores the theme of revenge in Hamlet and what the responses of a modern and Elizabethan audience might be to the play "revenge - n. 1 retaliation for an offence or injury. 2 an act of retaliation. 3 the desire for this; a vindictive feeling. v. 1 inflict retaliation for an offence. 2 inflict retaliation on behalf of a person. 3 take vengeance." Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare is a play that very closely follows the dramatic conventions of revenge in Elizabethan theatre. All revenge tragedies originally stemmed from the Greeks, who wrote and performed the first plays. After the Greeks came Seneca who was very influential to all Elizabethan tragedy writers. Seneca, who was Roman, set all of the ideas and the norms for all revenge playwrights in the Renaissance era including William Shakespeare. There were certain stylistic and different strategically thought out devices that Shakespeare learned and used from Seneca's great tragedies. The five act structure, the appearance of some kind of ghost (Hamlet's father), the one line exchanges known as stichomythia, and the use of long rhetorical speeches (Hamlet's soliloquies). Revenge fascinates many humans. This classical idea appeals to people's primal urges and instincts. ...read more.

Middle

The heads of each of these families are all slaughtered within the play. In the time in which this play is set, avenging the murder of a father was part of one's honour, and was a duty which had to be carried out. In this parallelism Fortinbras comes out on top, as both Laertes and Hamlet die. What is interesting is that Fortinbras was the only one out of the trio not to carry out, or attempt to carry out revenge. Here, Shakespeare has subtly demonstrated that revenge does not always lead to success and can equally lead to ones downfall. So, although trying to get the audience to understand that revenge is heroic and noble in one case, he shows that on the other hand revenge can lead to ones ruin. Yet the most important and significant quest for vengeance within the play is that of Hamlet. Old King hamlet was killed by his brother, Claudius, (who then went on to marry his wife): "O my offence is rank, it smells to heaven; It hath the primal eldest curse upon't, A brother's murder." ...read more.

Conclusion

He keeps slashing away at her metaphorically with his language. The scene conveys to the audience that Hamlet's attitude to revenge is extremely potent but at the same time suggesting that the only reason for this is because of his pent up sexual desire for his mother. This is an interesting way in which Shakespeare explores revenge as this sub-plot regarding the Oedipus complex proliferates the main plot. This way of exploring revenge is extremely subtle, as the fact that Hamlet has these inappropriate sexual desires for his mother is not clear for all the audience to see. In conclusion, revenge was the driving force behind Hamlet's actions, it eventually led to the downfall of the main character, which leads us to question whether Shakespeare was giving a message about revenge and its consequences, and condemning it in Elizabethan society. However, in the diverse society that we live in today, there are many views on a number of things. Therefore the response of a modern day audience would be more varied as people now have had their views expanded on Hamlet and the topic of revenge. Many scholars and critics have written about the idea of revenge in the play, this would influence people's views on the subject, along with their own moral standpoints. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Hamlet section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Hamlet essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Hamlet - It's hard to define what revenge actually is.

    3 star(s)

    His killer is Hamlet but it was accidental as he thought it was the king. Polonius was watching Queen Gertrude to give her protection and this shows that he cares about her too. In my opinion, the King should have been protecting her but that just questions his love for her again.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Explore how Shakespeare examines the theme of revenge in Hamlet.

    3 star(s)

    Another aspect in revenge tragedy is the isolation of the protagonist from the other characters and his place in society as a prince, like hamlet himself, his abnormally strange actions and outburst of soliloquies often appears as if he is going through a period of insanity as viewed by the other characters and the audience.

  1. Discuss Hamlet's attitude to death and the afterlife, giving indications to how both contemporary ...

    Hamlet is discussing his mother's soul; he is trying to save her soul from Claudius. 'O, throw away the worser part of it, And live the purer with the other half. ('It' being his mother's heart). Both of these quotations show that Hamlet is really concerned about his mother's soul,

  2. Scene by Scene - Hamlet.

    When the players arrive, Hamlet drops the pretense of madness, and greets old friends. One actor repeats a bombastic speech on the fall of Troy, overacting with tears in his eyes. Hamlet asks Polonius to treat the actors well. Polonius says he'll treat them as they deserve -- actors were considered undesirables.

  1. What is the significance of the ghost in Hamlet? How would an Elizabethan audience ...

    purpose of the ghost suppose to represent the subconscious mind of the citizen or the inner thoughts of Shakespeare? That is one of the questions that should be kept in the back of the mind of the readers. Upon the entrance of the ghost, Shakespeare tries to convince the audience

  2. Examine how Shakespeare explores the role of women in Hamlet. What might the response ...

    Ophelia. Still better, and worse. Ophelia reacts embarrassed suggesting her innocence and naivety. She parries Hamlet's jokes and is clearly made uncomfortable by his maniac behaviour. However, as Hamlet is comfortable aiming sexual puns at Ophelia, it creates an ambiguous feeling about her virginal innocence.

  1. How does Shakespeare shape the audience's response to Claudius in the play "Hamlet" ?

    There is also a damning testimony which is obviously true as the ghost has appeared three times before. Therefore, at this point, the audience are again sympathising with Hamlet and hate Claudius, as he "has made the royal bed of Denmark a couch for luxury and damned incest."

  2. Explore how Shakespeare examines the theme of revenge in Hamlet.

    The Ghost explicitly asks Hamlet to not involve his mother, in this revenge, as he wants to 'Leave her to heaven'. This shows that even though he wants revenge on Claudius he is still has civilized intentions as he cares deeply for his wife.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work