• 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

    Explore how Shakespeare examines the theme of revenge in Hamlet.

    3 star(s)

    Hamlet is disgusted at the behaviour of both Claudius and his mother, Gertrude and sets out to find the truth. Act III, scene ii and scene iii really start to enact the theme of revenge. A band of players comes to the palace and Hamlet asks them to play The

  2. Marked by a teacher

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

    3 star(s)

    After they realise that it's not King Claudius, Hamlet doesn't feel sorry for what he has don't to Polonius at all. He compares what he had just done to what Gertrude did by marrying to brothers. 'Almost as bad, good mother, as kill a king and marry with his brother'.

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

    that it is real by using Horatio to believing that the ghost is real therefore convince the audience to accept these supernatural ways. "Tush, tush, 'twill not appear," Horatio speaks of the supernatural as though it is just myth and may simply believe that the ghost is unreal.

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

    Laertes decides that he will murder Hamlet, by poisoning the dagger he will be fighting him with. This, he knows, will definitely lead to Hamlets death. Laertes makes a decision and sticks with it, unlike Hamlet who is considered insane around the time he is thinking about killing Claudius.

  1. Scene by Scene - Hamlet.

    Hamlet is well-aware that Polonius has forbidden Ophelia to see him, and he refers obliquely to this. Polonius notes in an aside (a movie director would use a voice-over), "Though this be madness, yet there is method in it" -- another famous line often misquoted.

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

    Jacques Lacan2 described Ophelia as an of Hamlet's male desire. This view could be based on Hamlet's teasing of Ophelia in 'The Mousetrap Scene'. Ophelia. You are keen my lord, you are keen. Hamlet. It would cost you a groaning to take off mine edge. Ophelia. Still better, and worse.

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

    The dramatic impact that this scene has on the play is that it is the first time a supernatural being is shown and gives a viewpoint on the situation in Denmark. The ghost first initiates 'revenge' on Claudius for his 'most unnatural murder' in this scene making it pivotal for the rest of the play.

  2. Criticism on Hamlet

    of Galileo communicated by him to his favourite pupil Torricelli, the ghost-seers were in a state of cold or chilling damp from without, and of anxiety inwardly. It has been with all of them as with Francisco on his guard, - alone, in the depth and silence of the night;

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