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

"Hamlet is so much more than a traditional revenge tragedy"

Extracts from this document...


"Hamlet is so much more than a traditional revenge tragedy" Although Shakespeare wrote Hamlet closely following the conventions of a traditional revenge tragedy, he goes far beyond this form in his development of Hamlet's character. Shakespeare's exploration of Hamlet's complex thoughts and emotions is perhaps more the focus of the play rather than that of revenge, thus in Hamlet Shakespeare greatly develops and enhances the form of the traditional revenge tragedy. The main source of Hamlet is Saxo Grammaticus' Historiae Danicae, a folk tale that has a similar plot to Hamlet; however, Shakespeare greatly transforms this story of revenge when creating Hamlet. Shakespeare also draws upon contemporary revenge tragedies, in particular Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, which exemplifies the main traditions of the Elizabethan revenge tragedy, which was developed by Kyd from the tragedies of the Roman writer Seneca. When comparing 'The Spanish Tragedy' and Hamlet, we can clearly see how Shakespeare has gone far further than the conventional revenge tragedy. Kyd's transformation of Senecan traditions of revenge tragedy in The Spanish Tragedy, provided the main principles for the popular Elizabethan Revenge Tragedy, and thus gave Shakespeare the basic model for Hamlet. ...read more.


The king's ghost states that '[during] the day [he is] confined to fast in fires...till [his] foul crimes...are burnt and purged away,' which suggests that he is in purgatory. However, this is a Catholic rather than a Protestant belief, and thus a Protestant Elizabethan audience would have believed that the ghost was from hell. Therefore, the Elizabethans may have seen the king's ghost as an evil spirit leading Hamlet to his doom. Therefore, this shows that Hamlet is distracted by many other worries from his pursuit of revenge, and again suggests how the focus of Hamlet is not revenge, but rather Hamlet's inner turmoil, which indicates Shakespeare's departure from 'the formulaic restrictions of the revenge tragedy.'1 In the characters of Laertes and Fortinbras, Shakespeare presents examples of more traditional revenge tragedy heroes, who seek revenge without any delay. Fortinbras can be easily compared to Hamlet, as his father has been murdered and his uncle is now king. However, unlike Hamlet, 'young Fortinbras of innaproved mettle hot and full' immediately mobilises an army 'to recover [his father's lost land]' and thereby avenge his death. After the murder of his father Polonius, Laertes, 'with impetuous haste' storms the castle and proclaims that '[he will] be revenged most thoroughly for [his] father.' ...read more.


However, Shakespeare skilfully manages to construct the last scene so that revenge is fittingly achieved. This again shows that Shakespeare's main concern in Hamlet is the exploration of the prince's mind, rather than that of revenge. It is this examination of human nature, which perhaps makes Hamlet so popular and relevant today. Through Hamlet 'Shakespeare challenged the expectations of his contemporary audiences,'2 by going beyond the confines of the popular revenge tragedy genre at the time. In Hamlet he shows the complex human emotions that arise as a result of grief, and also takes a new stance on the 'burden of the call to revenge,'3 by showing how Hamlet is hindered by his overwhelming feelings about the corruption in Denmark, such as the 'incestuous' marriage of his mother to Claudius. Therefore, although very much adhering to the conventions of the traditional revenge tragedy, Shakespeare goes beyond this in Hamlet, through his focus on human nature, rather than that of revenge. 1 A. Bailey, Tragedy, Revenge and Revenge Tragedy in Hamlet 2 A. Bailey, Tragedy, Revenge and Revenge Tragedy in Hamlet 3 A. Bailey, Tragedy, Revenge and Revenge Tragedy in Hamlet Thulasi Naveenan 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE 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 GCSE Hamlet essays

  1. Ophelia Essay

    This scene is a good example of both these ideas. Ophelia is portrayed as the most innocent and honest character in the play, but later in the play we see a side of Ophelia that is different in a sense which makes the other characters and the audience question her innocence and naivety.

  2. Why does Hamlet delay his revenge?

    Hamlet is constantly looking at eschatology. He has the opportunity to kill Claudius while at prayer, but holds back. His character, as the renaissance man, a thinker, means that he is aware that by killing Claudius at prayer he runs the risk of sending Claudius, not to hell, but to heaven.

  1. Why does Hamlet delay his revenge?

    This is shown by his less ambiguous speech and the use of prose. Hamlet's plot for revenge begins when he returns from England. Although Hamlet adopted his 'antic disposition' by Act II to supposedly divert attention despite the fact

  2. Hamlet Coursework: Is Hamlet alone responsible for Ophelias death? - WJEC English Lit. ...

    In Act 3 Scene 2, we see Hamlet's actions towards Ophelia change completely. Yet again he is verbally abusing her, but this time it is more subtle and more public, which is completely in contrast to the previous scene. For example, we see him insinuate that all she thinks about

  1. Compare the opening sections of Kenneth Branagh's and Franco Zeffirelli's film versions of Hamlet.

    Violin music starts softly and Gertrude sobs violently over the coffin once more then turns to Polionusis' arms. This seems to me as a very over-exaggerated and extravagant gesture and you begin to wonder how much of her grief is real and how much is play-acting.

  2. Why does Hamlet delay in the revenge of his father's death?

    When Claudius came to watch the play, he stormed out in rage. The 'play within the play' is a clever dramatic device by Shakespeare. It attracts the audience, also; the audience would feel sympathy for the position Hamlet is in. Hamlet knew at that point that the King was guilty.

  1. Hamlet: How does Shakespeare build up to the climax in the final scene?

    The play changes tone, and becomes far more dangerous than before. Now Hamlet can commit murder, the audience want to know when his next murder will be. Hamlet later becomes so disgraceful that in Act 5 Scene 1 he says he would fight Laertes at his sister's funeral ("I will fight with him upon this theme")

  2. Comparing Hamlet with Fortinbras

    He devises a plan in which he pretends to be mad in attempt to find out all he can about his uncle's deceitfulness. This plan is fairly unsuccessful so when a group of actors arrives at Elsinore Hamlet formulates a new plan.

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