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

In what ways, and how effectively, do you think Shakespeare presents the theme of revenge in Hamlet?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

"In what ways, and how effectively, do you think Shakespeare presents the theme of revenge in Hamlet?" "Hamlet" contains particular elements which categorise it as a revenge tragedy, a popular genre in late 1500's and early 1600's. Revenge tragedies often comprise of certain characters who are appointed to pursue vengeance against a particular person. In addition, there is frequently a central plot, for example Hamlet's revenge on Claudius for his father's death, and minor sub plots; Laertes' revenge on Hamlet and Fortinbras' attempt to regain the lands his father lost. Revenge tragedies often incorporate similar plot lines, which are usually relatively simple, and they regularly contain similar features, such as a ghost, a hesitating revenger, a villain and concepts of madness, all of which are featured in "Hamlet." Although the play is much more complex than a stereotypical revenge tragedy, one of the central themes is revenge, and Shakespeare portrays this through three entirely different characters. The main plot focuses on Hamlet, however there are intricate links to Laertes and Fortinbras. Shakespeare effectively presents the three revenge characters as possessing parallel lives, especially Fortinbras and Hamlet. In using 5 Acts, Shakespeare does more than present the popular genre of revenge tragedy and through the structure of these he effectively uses sub plots, as well as the main plot, in which Hamlet is instructed to take revenge on Claudius. The sub plots, including Laertes' revenge on Hamlet and Fortinbras' revenge, are particularly effective because they allow contrasts between the main revenge characters, and allow the audience to observe each character in a different perspective. ...read more.

Middle

Act 3 iii. It could also be argued that this suggests that he is not a cold - blooded killer. Hamlet also feels he would be letting his father down, "Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge," and so consequently, Hamlet spares his Uncle's life. Hamlet's language during this speech appears particularly passionate. Shakespeare further portrays Hamlet as a major contrast to Laertes, in that Hamlet believes the King must be engaged in a sinful act before he can take revenge, "When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage / Or in th'incestuous pleasure of his bed." Act 3 iii. However, Laertes is presented as a rash revenge hero and states that he would "cut his throat i'th'church!" Act 4 vii. Ironically, Hamlet's soliloquy appears irrelevant, because Claudius' repentence is not sincere, as his last couplet in the scene suggests, "My words fly up, my thoughts remain blow. / Words without thoughts never to heaven go." Act 3 iii. The audience witnesses the king's first, and only, confession during his soliloquy, in which he cannot pray due to his ill conscience and guilt, "A brothers murder. Pray can I not." Act 3 iii. Consequently, it could be argued that Shakespeare wanted to give the audience a psychological insight into Claudius' character and to feel some sympathy towards him, especially in the opening line, "O, my offence is rank. It smells to heaven." (Act 3 iii) In a sense, Shakespeare could be presenting Claudius in this manner to allow the audience to see him from a different perspective, instead of the traditional revenge villain. ...read more.

Conclusion

More importantly it illustrates the greatness of Hamlet in comparison to the relative weakness of Laertes. Fortinbras is rarely mentioned in the play, however, he is briefly outlined by Claudius at the beginning. Shakespeare portrays Fortinbras as the third revenger, thus developing a complex presentation of tragedy in that there are three revengers. Fortinbras is introduced as having a parallel life to Hamlet's and being a minor character compared to Laertes and Hamlet. In the sub plot Fortinbras wishes to take revenge for the lands his father lost in a duel with old King Hamlet, "Now sir, young Fortinbras...so by his father." Act 1 i. It appears that Fortinbras is like his father, a warrior, and this contrasts with Hamlet, who although his own father was also a warrior, has been well educated. When Fortinbras visits Elsinore in the final scene, he discovers he has succeeded to the throne, "But I do prophesy th'election lights on Fortinbras." Act 5 ii, suggesting Hamlet is preparing the future throne of Denmark, and wants Fortinbras to succeed him. It is significantly ironic that Fortinbras gives Hamlet a soldier's funeral, even though he wasn't a warrior. Therefore Shakespeare uses various effective ways to present the theme of revenge throughout "Hamlet." He uses contrasts between characters; Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras and divides each scenario into sub plots, which he effectively incorporates to one in the concluding scenes. Hamlets' soliloquies allow the audience to experience a greater perception of his complex character, particularly as he is the main focus in the theme of revenge. Similarly Shakespeare's language and imagery effectively portrays emotions and allows the characters to reveal aspects of their nature to the audience. ...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 the presentation of revenge in 'Hamlet'.

    4 star(s)

    himself for his inaction, 'makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of'. The problem for Hamlet is that the murder is too close to home, so he is unable to define the boundaries between personal and public.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Explore the way Shakespeare presents the relationships between Hamlet and his Mother, Gertrude, making ...

    4 star(s)

    as rash and bloody as murdering a king and marrying his brother! This suggests that their relationship is bitter at this moment in the play, and that Hamlet is trying to hurt her as best he can. Again, Hamlet is turning the finger of blame from himself to his mother.

  1. 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.

  2. Critical review of 'Hamlet'

    To begin with his victim is unknown to Hamlet. It is possible that Hamlet knew that it was not Claudius as he firsts asks because he had just seen him 'praying' in the chapel. The reason for this action could then be proof for him wanting to justify to himself that it is something he is capable of.

  1. To what extent is 'Hamlet' a revenge tragedy? In what ways does it help ...

    Claudius assumes the role of the serpent and has taken over the peaceful garden of Denmark. The analogy with the devil is clear here. The ghost is the object of much debate in 'Hamlet'. Hamlet cannot be sure until reassured by the play that the ghost is not a form of the devil trying to lure him into hell.

  2. In what ways does Shakespeare create sympathy for Hamlet in the first two acts?

    Shakespeare creates even more sympathy for Hamlet in the audience through the worrying issue of his mother's marriage to Claudius. Hamlet's father died merely two months ago, and Hamlet soliloquizes saying, "ere those shoes were old/ With which she followed my poor father's body/ Like Niobe...married with my uncle" Employing

  1. Compare and Contrast theCharacters Hamlet and Laertes.

    At home my Lord." Ophelia has just lied to Hamlet's face and he knows it; this is where Hamlet loses trust in Ophelia. Laertes' lectures to Ophelia on Hamlet's favour, which caused Hamlets act of madness, proving the brotherly and romantic love they had for her.

  2. Scene by Scene - Hamlet.

    Claudius emphasizes that Fortinbras can't win militarily. Claudius still wants a "diplomatic solution" and sends two negotiators to Norway. Next, Laertes asks permission to return to France. The king calls on Polonius. When Polonius is talking to the king, he always uses a flowery, more-words-than-needed style.

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