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

Revenge in Hamlet

In Elizabethan times, a type of play known as a “revenge tragedy” became popular. These plays revolved around, “… the revenge of a father for a son or vice versa, the revenge being directed by the ghost of the murdered man…” (Harmon and Holman #6). Other characteristics include real or pretend insanity, philosophic soliloquies, hesitation on the part of the protagonist, conspiracy, and the use of horror. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet fully satisfies each of these traits, making it an excellent example of a revenge tragedy. Certainly, the most critical theme in the play by far is that of revenge; it fuels the plot and story of Hamlet, reveals the hamartia of the protagonist, and is used successfully to develop some of the main characters.

Anne Barton says, “As a structural and thematic center for tragedy, revenge has much to recommend it,” (Barton 11) and that, “For most Elizabethan dramatists, the attraction of revenge plots lay precisely in their tragic potentiality,” (Barton 14). Shakespeare would undoubtedly agree. There are three rings of revenge at the center of the story of Hamlet. The first is that of Fortinbras Jr. who seeks vengeance against Hamlet Sr. for killing Fortinbras Sr. The second is that of Hamlet Jr. who seeks revenge against Claudius for the murder of Hamlet Sr. And the third is that of Laertes who seeks to avenge the death of his father Polonius at the hand of Hamlet Jr. Without these various plans for revenge, and the need to seek justice within the characters, there would be no story. However, the plot of this tragedy would be incomplete without the protagonist’s hamartia.

This characteristic flaw of tragic heroes is, “… an unwitting, even a necessa…

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…literary accomplishment.

Works Cited

Barton, Anne. Introduction. Hamlet. By Shakespeare, William. Markham: Penguin Books Canada Ltd., 7-53.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. T. J. B. Spencer. Markham: Penguin Books Canada Ltd., 1980.

Frye, Northrop. Handout. “Clue #1: Northrop Frye on Shakespeare”. Writing Assignment #7: The Question of Revenge in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. By Hannusch, Brent. 1999.

Harmon, William, and Holman, C. Hugh. Handout. “Clue #4: Tragedy”. Writing Assignment #7: The Question of Revenge in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. By Hannusch, Brent. 1999.

–. Handout. “Clue #6: Hamartia”. Writing Assignment #7: The Question of Revenge in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. By Hannusch, Brent. 1999.

–. Handout. “Clue #7: Revenge Tragedy”. Writing Assignment #7: The Question of Revenge in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. By Hannusch, Brent. 1999.

A Freudian Reading of The Great Gatsby

A Freudian Reading of The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby is generally regarded as an excellent novel which expresses much more than the superficial plot. The Great Gatsby could be, however, more complex than the average reader might imagine. The Great Gatsby is often interpreted as the corruption of the American Dream. In this framework, the Buchanans are viewed as the example of irresponsibility and degradation, and Gatsby the embodiment of idealism and sentimentality. In this essay, I want to offer another reading of The Great Gatsby in Freudian frame of reference.

I like to begin with the last. On this novel’s last chapter, we confront the mystifying passage:

…gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’

eyes–a fresh, green breast of the new world. its vanished trees, the trees that had made

way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all

human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the

presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood

nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his

capacity for wonder.(227)

Here Fitzgerald’s phrasing is of importance and should not be easily overlooked. The “fresh, green breast of the new world” and the “last and greatest of all human dreams” are two fatal phrases that help launch my Freudian reading of The Great Gatsby.

According to Freud’s theory, in the beginning of sexual development of both boys and girls, the mother is the first desired object, seen as almighty and capable …

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…lusion: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us”(228). Nick and Gatsby retreat from the adult sexuality to the state of infants in which the mother’s breasts are desired. This retreat is expressed most obviously in the last sentence: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”(228).


(1) The question of Nick’s sexuality is discussed in detail and thoroughly in Keath Fraser’s Another Reading of The Great Gatsby.

Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Taiwan: Caves Books, 1989.

Fraser, Keath. “Another Reading of The Great Gatsby.” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Ed. Harold Bloom. NY:

Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 57-70.

Green, Keith, and Jill LeBihan. Critical Theory

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