In both Merchant of Venice and The Tempest, Shakespeare proposes ideas of justice and mercy that hold true in both plays. In order to see if the actions taken were just and/or merciful, definitions of these words must be set up. If we were to assume that Shakespeare’s definition of mercy was what Portia espoused in act four, scene one, specifically lines 205 – 206, the definition of mercy must be viewed in a biblical sense. Thus, in order to judge if something is merciful, one must look to see if it fulfills the qualifications of mercy in the New Testament. However, the idea of justice is quite different, for my definition of justice, I will turn to Charles Mill’s definition, for, in the plays it applies the most. Mill’s espoused that justice for the Europeans meant “just us,” implying different standards for white Christians that for any other race or religion. Now that we have firm definitions on what mercy and justice are in the context of Shakespeare’s time, it is possible to see how each of these played a role in these …
Revenge and Vengeance in Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Speculation about whether the Shakespearean drama Hamlet satisfies the requirements of an Elizabethan revenge tragedy is discussed in this paper, with considerable critical commentary.
Richard A. Lanham in “Superposed Plays” comments on the lesser revenge tragedy within the greater revenge tragedy of Hamlet:
Now there is no doubt about how to read the Laertes play: straight revenge tragedy, to be taken – as I’ve tried to imply in my summary – without solemnity. We are to enjoy the rants as rants. When we get tears instead of a rant, as with the Laertes instance cited earlier, an apology for our disappointment does not come amiss. We are not to be caught up in Laertes’ vigorous feeling any more than in Ophelia’s bawdy punning. We savor it. (88-89)
Howard Felperin sees in Hamlet a return to the once-extinct revenge play (Felperin 105). Although defunct for awhile, the revenge tragedy resurrected prior to the date of Hamlet’s composition.
The prince has a possible motive for revenge from the very outset: he is dejected by the “o’erhasty marriage” of his mother to his uncle. Hamlet’s first soliloquy sees the expression of his negative feelings and their growth in intensity; it emphasizes the corruption of the world and the frailty of women – an obvious reference to his mother’s hasty and incestuous marriage:
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on: and yet, within a month—
Let me not think on’t–Frailty, thy name is woman!—(1.2)
Based on the meeting of the hero and Horatio, A.C. Bradley in Shakespearean Tragedy presents convincing evidence of the depth of the hero’s melancholy. It is potent enough to perform revenge: …
… middle of paper …
…ves of Eloquence: Literary Rhetoric in the Renaissance. N.p.: Yale University Press, 1976.
Levin, Harry. General Introduction. The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974.
Mack, Maynard. “The World of Hamlet.” Yale Review. vol. 41 (1952) p. 502-23. Rpt. in Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Criticism. Rev. ed. Ed. Leonard F. Dean. New York: Oxford University P., 1967.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. http://www.chemicool.com/Shakespeare/hamlet/full.html No line nos.
Wright, Louis B. and Virginia A. LaMar. “Hamlet: A Man Who Thinks Before He Acts.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Ed. Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar. N. p.: Pocket Books, 1958.