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

To what extent is Hamlet a Revenge

Extracts from this document...


To what extent is Hamlet a Revenge Tragedy? In what ways does it help to consider it as such and what do we miss by considering it only as a Revenge Tragedy? Revenge Tragedy was a genre which lasted from 1590 until 1615. The genre appealed to the Elizabethan audience's desire for blood and violence without emotional depth. Revenge tragedies originated in the writings of the Roman Seneca (4BC-AD65) whose plays heavily influenced Elizabethan dramatists. Seneca's tragedies, using stories derived from mythology emphasised bloody action, horrific incidents and ranting speeches. The devices Seneca used in his tragedies were later imitated by Elizabethan playwrights. These included the five act structure, the appearance of ghosts, the one-line exchange known as stichomythia and Seneca's use of long rhetorical speeches. English revenge tragedies written in the Elizabethan era began with 'The Spanish Tragedy' written by Thomas Kyd, in which a father, Hieronomo, avenges a son. The father delays the revenge in passionate outbursts near to madness. According to the accepted characteristics, revenge tragedies should have included ghosts or supernatural beings, violence, sex, bloodthirsty revenge for family honour and bloody carnage. Most revenge tragedies end in a bloodbath killing off all the main characters apart from the loyal best friend. ...read more.


This delay of action is a typical convention of Revenge Tragedy, where the main character is prevented from going through with the revenge. The method of revenge is often intricate and devious, usually involving poison. However, in 'Hamlet', Claudius, (the criminal) is responsible for planning and scheming and using poison, whereas Hamlet fails to follow any particular scheme. However, he begins a battle of wits with Claudius by feigning madness, his "antic disposition." This is a plan to remain close to Claudius, in order to avenge his father's death more easily. The tactic has a disadvantage in that it draws attention to himself. Typical revengers usually lack access to the criminal, who is the head of a royal court which consequently has been corrupted. They face various obstacles, which prevent them from carrying out their revenge. Hamlet as a man and revenger shifts from external vengeance to an internal one; there are no physical obstacles in his way. He has clear access to Claudius; however, he is endlessly faced with the conflicts in his mind. The Elizabethan audience would relate to concepts, which reflected upon historical events, taking place at the time. ...read more.


The irony of this is that Claudius felt so trapped in this shame, he is unable to 'make assay' and pray. He has to ask his 'stubborn knees' to bend as he is so deep in his guilt. Another example of Christian teachings in the play is the idea of King Hamlet in purgatory. He tells Hamlet to 'revenge his foul and most unnatural murder'. The appearance of a ghost is a common device to get the revenger to go through with the deed. The revenger usually had a very close relationship with the audience through soliloquies and asides. The ghost describes to Hamlet the process by which the poison murdered him which also parallels what is happening to Denmark. The ghost explains to Hamlet the effects of the poison: 'and in the porches of my ears did pour the leprous distilment" Shakespeare uses many images of disease throughout 'Hamlet.' This imagery is an ominous sign that revenge is going to occur later in the play. The images of disease can also be perceived as 'something is rotten in the state of Denmark.' Francisco exclaims that he is 'sick at heart', giving the play an inauspicious beginning and a clue to the remainder of the story. There are also many visual references to death in the play, which can be expected in all revenge tragedies. ...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 then forces Claudius to drink from the poisoned chalice and hamlet and Laertes then resolve their differences. Before his death, Hamlet begs Horatio to 'tell [his] story' which he does to young Fortinbras, prince of Norway, who also seeks to avenge his fathers death (who Hamlet's father had killed during a war)

  2. Marked by a teacher

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

    3 star(s)

    He also cares about his son, Leartes, but as he is in France for most of the play, we don't see this affection as much as we see his affection towards Ophelia. Polonius isn't in the play very much as he is killed in Act 3, Scene 4 of Hamlet.

  1. Comparing the revengers Fortinbras, Laertes and Hamlet.

    This scene makes Hamlet's personality clear to the reader. He is shown against another Prince who is the exact opposite of him in the same situation. Hamlet is not an impulsive character, if he had been he would have committed murder straight away, but this would have meant there would have been no play to speak of.

  2. A consideration of the extent to which, in Hamlet's soliloquies, Hamlet is presented by ...

    Hamlet considers the moral ambiguity of Fortinbras's action, but more than anything else he is impressed by the forcefulness of it, and that forcefulness becomes a kind of ideal toward which Hamlet decides at last to strive. "My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!"

  1. Discussing Hamlets desire for vengeance.

    These images typically convey a sense of powerful disgust with the wholesale corruption and deception of the world, especially of Denmark, represented by Claudius, as well as with sexuality, mainly related to Gertrude's. In addition, Hamlet's vocabulary, characterised by short colloquial words, suggests a mood of exhaustion, contempt, disgust, and overall unpleasantness (Johnston, I., 2001: 25).

  2. To what extent is 'Hamlet' principally a revenge tragedy?

    Hamlet's anger is further expressed with a stream of monosyllables, in which he claims 'I have cause and will and strength and means to do't' (4.4.44). This sums up the crux of his self-anger and frustration at being incapable of becoming a typical avenger, and Shakespeare's manipulation of language in using 26 consecutive monosyllables serves to highlight this.

  1. 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.

  2. Criticism on Hamlet

    Abuses me to damn me." See Sir Thomas Brown: "I believe - that those apparitions and ghosts of departed persons are not the wandering souls of men, but the unquiet walks of devils, prompting and suggesting us unto mischief, blood and villainy, instilling and stealing into our hearts, that the blessed spirits are not at

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