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Revenge and Vengeance in Shakespeare’s Hamlet – Vengeance in Hamlet

Vengeance in Hamlet

With Outline Time and time again, we as a complex society have recognized in many pieces of great literature the idea of man and revenge. Throughout history, the idea of vengeance has destroyed large communities, populations and entire civilizations. The problem with man and revenge is that one may be side-tracted of why or whom he is avenging. This similar idea is conveyed in the theme of Shakespear’s Hamlet , “Vengeance can confuse a man’s mind and soul to the point where he may not be sure of whom he is really avenging.” Shakespear uses foils in this play to allow us readers to understand Hamlet as a man and why and whom he is really avenging.

A foil is “minor character in a literary work who by the similarities and differences in what he or she does (as compared to a more important character), or by simply being there for another character to talk to, helps the audience understand a more important character.” Laertes and the ghost are foils for Hamlet in this play which help us readers understand his character and his actions. During the play, Hamlet ignores his father’s (ghost) warning about his mother, pretends to be crazy, betrays Ophelia, and delays the vengeance of his father’s murder. What was the cause of these actions? Why did Hamlet delay his duty of vengeance? Through the insight of the ghost and Laertes, one may be able to come to his/her own conclusions.

Laertes was a stable-minded student who was Polonius’s son and Ophelia’s brother. He was a strong-willed young man whom studied over seas, was protective of Ophelia, loved his family, and kept his loyalty to King Hamlet and then to King Claudius. Hamlet and Laertes had never been friends, for Hamlet was of a higher social class. In one aspect, Laertes respected their differences and in another, it made him leary of and curious about Hamlet and his ways. Also, hamlet had feelings for Ophelia for which Laertes despised and warranted off. Although Hamlet and Laertes differ, Laertes acts as a stable foil for Hamlet whom makes sound decisions and acts on his words instead of just speaking.

Laertes allows us readers to explore how Hamlet should have acted instead of how he did: Inactive, in a state of delay, and full of words.

Hamlet’s Wit

Hamlet’s Wit

We remember Shakespeare’s characters largely because of their enormously complex personalities. Hamlet, with his inner conflicts, indecision, wit, and passive-aggressive behavior, is one of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters. Yet so much attention has been given to Hamlet’s inner conflict-whether or not he should kill his uncle-that a large piece of his personality is easy to overlook. Hamlet’s wit strikes out at the audience in several different scenes throughout the play and not only gives the reader greater insight into Hamlet’s deepest feelings, but greater insight into the play itself.

In Hamlet’s first few lines of the play he expresses his deepest feelings through his wit. Hamlet’s sarcastic conversation with Claudius and Gertrude lets the reader know that he is extremely unpleased with the relationship between his uncle and mother. Specifically, when Claudius refers to Hamlet as his “son,” Hamlet uses the word “sun” in such a way that Claudius can also interpret the word “sun” as the word “son,” which would imply that Hamlet was glad to be the newly adopted son of Claudius. Hamlet is obviously being sarcastic, because Hamlet resents Claudius for marrying his mother and referring to him as his “son”(1.2.62-67). Hamlet has barely spoken his first few lines of the play and Shakespeare is already showing the witty side of Hamlet’s personality. This speaks for how important Hamlet’s wit is to the understanding of Hamlet’s character. Shakespeare uses Hamlet’s sarcastic remarks to portray Hamlet as cunning and to foreshadow how Hamlet will most likely deal with any problems that may arise later in the play.

Hamlet, while conversing with other characters, reveal…

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…scover that Hamlet is not so much riddled with indecisiveness as he is playing out his well-contrived strategy for capturing his revenge.

Works Cited

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Lectures and Notes on Shakspere and Other English Poets. London : George Bell and Sons, 1904. p. 342-368.

Gordon, Edward J. Introduction to Tragedy. Rochelle Park, NJ: Hayden Book Co., Inc., 1973.

—. “Psychoanalytic Criticism and Hamlet.” Wofford. 241-251.

Jorgensen, Paul A. “Hamlet.” William Shakespeare: the Tragedies. Boston: Twayne Publ., 1985. N. pag.

Levin, Harry. General Introduction. The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. T. J. B. Spencer. New York: Penguin, 1996.

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