Why is 'Hamlet' seen as such a unique play even though it is part of the English revenge tradition in drama?

Authors Avatar

Keiran Mustafa 10M                                                                             November 2005


Why is ‘Hamlet’ seen as such a unique play even though it is part of the English revenge tradition in drama?

(Literary Tradition)


Hamlet is arguably one of the greatest plays of all time and it is said that Hamlet is performed around the world every 5-10 minutes.

Initially, Hamlet comes across as a typical revenge play of the Elizabethan times but when looked at in more detail Hamlet is a unique play even though it was part of the English tradition in drama.

The Elizabethan audience understood the conventions of revenge tragedy at least as well as we today grasp the complicated rules of spy fiction. Once Hamlet raised the suspicion that he knew that Claudius is a murderer he is in danger of not only being killed by the tyrant but of being damned himself, ‘Burned by God in hell!’ Hamlet decides not to kill Claudius (Act 3 Scene 3) and by failing to kill Claudius, Hamlet comes off the revenge treadmill and becomes hunted rather than the hunter.

Hamlet is seen as a revenge play but it has more than revenge, there are themes and messages running through it all. Hamlet and his fathers’ relationship is very important in the play. His brother Claudius; who was having an affair with the Queen; killed King Hamlet when the King was asleep by putting rat poison in his ear. As a result of the King being killed Claudius was crowned king of Denmark. Hamlet was irate that the Queen could love King Hamlet’s brother so soon after her husband was murdered.

In the opening scene (Act 1 Scene 1) Francisco, Horatio, Barnardo and Marcellus are all sentries and where all on watch. Barnardo claims that he has seen a ghost and so does Marcellus. Barnardo and Marcellus are determined to persuade Horatio that they have seen a ghost so they sit him down and tell him their story and then the ghost appears before all of them. The ghost looks like the old Hamlet, the father of Hamlet and is in armour, and when Horatio tries to speak to the ghost it disappears. All three of them have ideas about it and they come to the conclusion that it was a sign of some disaster for Denmark, just as they came to the conclusion the ghost reappeared, Horatio again tried speaking to it but again the ghost disappeared. The three sentries decided that young Hamlet should be told of this ghost, as he looks like Hamlet’s father the deceased old Hamlet.

In the next scene it’s the King Claudius and his court celebrating his marriage to the Queen. The King starts off by saying "But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son,”

The King reminds us that before he was King, Hamlet was his nephew but now that he’s King he calls Hamlet his son, this is clever because he is reminding everyone that he’s King and that everything that the old King had belongs to him including Hamlet. However Hamlet does not like the King calling him ‘son’, as in line 67 Hamlets says ‘Not so, my lord, I am too much in the sun.’ This shows that Hamlet does not like the new King. As the quotation shows, Claudius is not young Hamlet’s real father and Hamlet is angry with Claudius calling him son. After the speeches in this scene everyone except Hamlet leaves.

Join now!

In Act 1 Scene 2 Hamlet speaks his first soliloquy. In this soliloquy Hamlet’s thoughts dwell on pain and suicide. An example of when he talks about suicide is in line 132 where he wishes God didn’t have a rule against suicide.

‘His canon ’gainst self-slaughter. O God! O God!’

This soliloquy shows that Hamlet is livid about his mother’s marriage to the new King, Claudius. After this soliloquy Horatio, Marcellus and Barnardo enter and tell Hamlet about their sighting of his father, and how they think it was Hamlet’s father. In Act 1 Scene 4 Hamlet ...

This is a preview of the whole essay