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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.

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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.


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.


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.

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