The Concept of Revenge in 'Hamlet' by Shakespeare

Venom of Revenge in 'Hamlet'

Essay, 2021

4 Pages, Grade: 4.00 (very good)



Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s important revenge tragedy plays believing to have been written between 1599 and 1601. The play points out flaming with revenge after the King has been murdered by his brother and claims the throne. The concept of revenge is the driving force throughout the play. Not only Hamlet but also Laertes and Fortinbras want to revenge. This study intends to analyze not only the concept of revenge , how universal and motivating isthis feeling but also how justifiable is it through the lens of the characters in Hamlet.


The feeling of revenge is a tempest that evokes people. The sail of revenge fills with this tempest; and if this tempest is very strong, it destroys the sails. While it is both a feeling of humanitarian, at the same time it places people into bizarre and dangerous activities. As long ashuman beings exist under the sun, revenge becomes a piece of human behavior; from Greek tragedy to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Also, this psychological feeling is a primitive justice in the absence of norms and laws. However, in the process of evolution, the feeling of revenge serves a beneficial purpose; such that this expectation gives people pleasure. Yet, this pleasure is temporary. Revenge that gives good feelings in that moment, later pushes people to a worse situation than previous one. Hence, with the search of pleasure, the feeling of revenge gives, people move forward without any thought what this feeling results in at the end. In addition, revenge is a universal feeling. Shakespeare, in his works, gives place common values and situations that are shared independently from time and place of humanity. Hence, his works open up an opportunity to the people, no matter to what age or society they belong, to find something from themselves. Shortly, his plays and poems have qualification of being universal; like, Shakespeare’s masterpiece, Hamlet and the characters in it.

Hamlet’s revenge

After the apparition of Hamlet’s father who says that his murderer is his brother Claudius, Hamlet is determined to get his father’s revenge, to kill his uncle. This is the climax of the play. There is an unfinished feeling of revenge throughout the play. However, Hamlet’saction of revenge is futile due to his indecision: ‘To be, or not to be, that is the question: whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them’(Shakespeare, 2005,3.1,p.669).

When he decides to put the revenge into an action, he delays any action at the end which reveals his inability to take action and this irresoluteness shows his conscience side, however; at the end, it brings his and the other characters’ death. Though Hamlet gets the opportunity of killing Claudius, he hesitates several times; for example, when he draws his sword, Hamlet thinks that Claudius will go to heaven if he is killed while praying: ‘Now mightI do it pat, now a is praying, and now I’ll do’t and so a goes to heaven, and so am I revenged. That would be scanned.. .’(Shakespeare,2005,3.2,p.675). If Hamlet killed his uncle while he was praying, Claudius would go to the heaven and this would be a grace and a gift for him rather than revenge. Also, Hamlet mentions about catching Claudius napping while he is in aposition of unworthy to God’s mercy and grace. Taking revenge is already the action Hamlet wants to do, but the ghost is the element that triggers him. The only reason Hamlet’s intention to revenge may be the throne struggle. Yet, Claudius succeeded the throne by breaking the ruleof chain of being, even though it was Hamlet’s right to claim it after his father’s death. At the beginning, Hamlet undertakes an aim which is mission-related. However, it is clear that this mission is not given by his father’s ghost. People’s ambition, self-seeking, hypocrisy, their meaningless existence and depravation of Denmark are not the things that the ghost teaches Hamlet, rather he has already been aware of the vulgarity. The ghost solely gives the first acceleration. Hamlet begins to deal with his own problems. Yet, he crushes under this dirty world and struggles to cure himself.

Laertes’ revenge

Laertes’ revenge begins when he learns his father Polonius has been killed and searches for the murderer, whom he thinks that he is King Claudius:‘ .Only I’ll be revenged most throughly for my father’(Shakespeare,2005,4.5,p.679).Here, Laertes’ determination about revenge is obvious. However; once he attacks on the King, he is told that it is Hamlet whokills his father. To boost Laertes’ hatred against Hamlet, he later learns his sister’s suicide is because of Hamlet’s rejection. This tragedy also raises Laertes’ feeling of revenge through the end of the play. He chooses the way he takes revenge different from Hamlet; he does not over think, he just acts; that is why he loses easily at the end. Because he is a reckless character, nothing can divert his attention away. Thus, he is able to be influenced and played like a puppet by anyone, especially Claudius.

Fortinbras’ revenge

Fortinbras is the Prince of Norway. Showing a quite similar attitude comparing to Laertes, he is thirsty to act so he has gathered an army to conquer Denmark. However, like Hamlet, he, too, does not get the throne, so he desires to claim another kingdom for himself because he is paralyzed with the thought of not to be crowned. ‘He shows no respect, no care about thousands of people in his army. He wants to win honor with his sword, sacrificing thousands of lives. Obviously, Fortinbras is not thinking about his afterlife-his lives in presenttime with his only desire-to gain victory at any costs’(Reed,2019).Hence, it can be clearly seen that his only aim is to triumph over his enemies.

To conclude, three characters in Hamlet burst into taking revenge. However, Hamlet and Laertes die at the end. It may be because of the fact that it is God's job to revenge: ‘Dearlybeloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay'(Bible, Romans 12:19).Although these three characters have common aim which is to revenge their fathers' deaths, all choose different ways to act showing different tempers. Indeed, these characters' attitudes cannot be justified. If Hamlet and Laertes did not act their revenge greedily, they would be alive and Hamlet may have been crowned, thanks to Christian beliefs and God's mercy.


Excerpt out of 4 pages


The Concept of Revenge in 'Hamlet' by Shakespeare
Venom of Revenge in 'Hamlet'
Shakespeare II
4.00 (very good)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
concept, revenge, hamlet, shakespeare, venom
Quote paper
Bachelor Öykü Özat (Author), 2021, The Concept of Revenge in 'Hamlet' by Shakespeare, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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