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

How successful is Hamlet as a play about revenge? Consider both the modern and Elizabethan audience.

Extracts from this document...


How successful is Hamlet as a play about revenge? Consider both the modern and Elizabethan audience. Hamlet as a play about revenge is very successful in the way that it raises many questions about the morality of revenge. Despite the modern day and Elizabethan society having various different beliefs, both types of audience are able to empathise with many of Hamlet's problems. Helen Gardner says, "The Elizabethans thought murder unethical and private revenge sinful." 1 The Elizabethan society was strongly Christian. In their society, God was in highest position, followed by the Monarch, then the other Elizabethan people. This was known as the "Chain of Being". Gardener's statement would certainly be true according to Christian teachings. They believed that a King had been appointed by God, and was therefore the person on Earth closest to God. Any murder is a sin, but murdering a King is a sin of the worst kind and complete blasphemy. This is how many would have viewed Hamlet's revenge. The fact Claudius is King affects opinions concerning him considerably. Claudius himself believes that "There's such divinity doth hedge a king/That treason can but peep to what it would,/Acts little of his will." Ultimately, the fact that Claudius is King will not protect him as he thinks it will. ...read more.


William Hazlitt describes how Hamlet "is not a character marked by strength or sentiment of will or even passion, but by refinement of thought and sentiment." 3 It is true that Hamlet is thoughtful, and is not strong-willed - this is clearly seen when he agonises over carrying out Claudius's murder. Careful thought may not sound disadvantageous but it is not a typically good trait in a King, who must be capable of making instantaneous decisions concerning affairs of the state, and be able to carry them out swiftly. However, this delay in revenge is successful when considering an Elizabethan audience, because it allows them to think more carefully about the consequences of Hamlet's revenge. Hamlet is successful as a play about revenge because it makes us consider Hamlet's true motives for revenge. Hamlet says he will feel no remorse for killing Claudius because "He hath kill'd my king and whor'd my mother,/Popped in between th'election and my hopes." The idea that Hamlet's main reason for killing Claudius is because he took Hamlet's rightful position as King can be dismissed, because this is the only point in the play that he mentions this. One question that can be raised is whether Hamlet is genuinely seeking revenge for his father's sake. ...read more.


When he says "I'll be revenged/Most thoroughly for my father," he does mean to carry it out. Laertes acts rashly in comparison to Hamlet, yet his circumstance is ultimately the same as Hamlet's at the end- his revenge successful, but he dies. Fortinbras acts upon his revenge quickly, but with thought, as he decides to "suppress /His further gait herein, in that the levies,/The lists, and full proportions are all made/Out of his subject". Ultimately, he is the most successful out of the three because he gains Denmark- his aim, as well as Hamlet's respect. Because their situations are so different it is difficult to draw any conclusions about whether Shakespeare was attempting to portray a particular moral about revenge. Shakespeare may well have been suggesting that there is no "right" answer. This is what partly makes the play so successful as one about revenge - it does not choose for the reader what is morally correct and what is not, but allows us to make up our own mind. 1 Gardner, Helen. "Hamlet and the Tragedy of Revenge" 1967 2 Hattaway, Michael. "An introduction to the variety of Criticism - Hamlet" 1987 3 Hazlitt, William. "Characters of Shakespeare's Plays" 1817 4 Carson, Eric. 5 Freud, Sigmund "The Interpretation of Dreams" 1914 6 Hanmer, Sir Thomas. "Some Remarks on the Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark" 1736 7 Ed Friedlander, "Enjoying Hamlet by William Shakespeare" 8 Catherine Belsey. ""The Subject of Tragedy" 1985 ...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. Why does Hamlet delay in the revenge of his father's death?

    The fact that his mother has remarried to King Claudius further intensifies his already melancholic disposition. His mother's remarriage is an abomination in Hamlet's eyes. This is because the marriage was soon after his father's death. At this point Hamlet starts having serious doubts about killing the king.

  2. Mighty opposites; Hamlet and Claudius.

    play and also because he has been given more soliloquies, he seems much more real to us than Claudius does and of course because he doesn't have the villain, cruel character like Claudius. Hamlet's obsessive nature is shown through his speech in his first soliloquy when he talks about his mother's marriage with disgust and disbelief.

  1. Why does Hamlet delay his revenge?

    He compares himself to the actors, saying that "Had [the player] the motive.... he would drown the stage with tears". Throughout Hamlets hesitancy to avenge his father Hamlet's Christian values and concerns are manifest, he speaks of the ghosts "commandment" and asks his mother to "confess yourself to heaven, repent".

  2. Hamlet is torn between his conscience which tells him that murderous retribution is morally ...

    [Act 3 Scene 2 - 68 - 74], He tests the credibility of the ghost's exposition before he can justly take the life of his uncle.

  1. What is the dramatic importance of corruption and disease in Hamlet?

    The ghost enters and is in a state of purgatory, he can not go to heaven unless his sins have been repented for. Horatio continues to give an account of the spirits which play parts in Rome's history 'Neptune's empire' - the sea.

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

    ('Romans 12:19'), therefore the acts of revenge in Hamlet and Hieronimo would have been disapproved of by an Elizabethan audience. However, in Sir Francis Bacon's contemporary essay 'Of Revenge,' he writes that 'the most tolerable sort of revenge is for those wrongs which there is no law to remedy,' which is true in both Hamlet and The Spanish Tragedy.

  1. Select two soliloquies from Hamlet and analyse their significance to the play as a ...

    He is blaming fate and not Claudius for the death of his father. Hamlet begins to describe the enormity of his problems, "take arms against a sea of troubles". Shakespeare uses the extended metaphor of the sea in this soliloquy.

  2. Evaluate the effectiveness of scene 1 in Hamlet, as an opening to the play

    Also the word "again" suggests that the Ghost has been there before and therefore, begins to unfold the storyline. In Elizabethan times the Ghost would have played an even more significant part in the play as England was going through religious changes at the time that Hamlet would have been performed.

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