• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4

"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 h**l. 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. Marked by a teacher

    What is the importance of the Soliloquies in Hamlet? Do they show any development ...

    4 star(s)

    of his bed' Act 3-3-89/90 Hamlet believes Claudius will go straight to h**l if he is in such a mental state. Hamlet decides not kill Claudius at this point and gives a validated reason why he chose not to; I believe the audience will feel Hamlet's character has developed as

  2. 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.

  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. ...

    that their interaction is brief which therefore means every single word counts, so is highly important. The speech between the two characters is broken into 2 parts, before the play within a play and during it. This has been done so we can see the reaction Hamlet gets out of

  1. Comparing Hamlet with Fortinbras

    Hamlet however, tends to think too much, and is slow in taking action, and despite the composition of many plans he ends up claiming revenge on his uncle through an act of spontaneity. But I think that the main reason why Fortinbras is more successful is because at the end

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

    Shakespeare uses soliloquies throughout the play to give us an insight into the conflicting conscience of Hamlet; this allows him to assert strong Catholic values and gives him the opportunity to develop people's understanding through religious symbolism. Shakespeare's use of Catholic symbolism and the parallels between the play and England

  1. 'Hamlet is primarily a personal rather than a political tragedy' - To what extent ...

    This arguably shows that he is not hesitant about killing the king due to the welfare of the state, but so that he can carry out the murder perfectly to please his father. Alternatively, it could indicate a personal disinclination to adapt to the role of the revenge hero, as he has shown himself to be a reflective humanist thinker.

  2. Hamlet & Madness

    A third portrayal of the prince's sanity occurs during Hamlet's conversation with his mother after the spirit of Old Hamlet came but revealed itself only to Hamlet. Hamlet talks to his mother in a clear, truthful and rational manner and even offers to Gertrude: "...It is not madness / That I have utter'd.

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