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Vengeance in Shakespeare’s Hamlet – The Theme of Revenge

The Theme of Revenge in Hamlet

In Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet, the thoughts of revenge are introduced early in the play. At the end of the first act, Hamlet meets the ghost of his deceased father. He is brought to see him by Horatio and Marcellus, who saw the ghost “yesternight” (Shakespeare 1.2.190). During this exchange of words between the Ghost and Hamlet, the Ghost tells Hamlet, “[s]o art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear.” (Shakespeare 1.5.5). He is telling Hamlet to listen closely to what he has to say. Then he tells Hamlet to “[r]evenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (Shakespeare 1.5.23). When Hamlet finds out that it was his Uncle Claudius who murdered his father, Hamlet plots against him to avenge his father’s death.

“And this man was called upon to kill. It is almost as if Jesus had been asked to play the role of Napoleon…”(Bloom 12). In Hazelton Spencer’s opinion, revenge is “Hamlet’s sacred duty” and must be accepted by the reader as such (Bloom 13). Hamlet has been given the task by his father to avenge his death, however he so chooses. Most readers, critics, and commentators agree in thinking that it was Hamlet’s duty to kill and that he really delayed in doing so (Bloom 12). Harold Goddard says that, “[h]is delay…was a weakness and disaster, entailing, as it did, many unintended deaths, including his own” (Bloom 12).

Some also said that he delayed in killing his uncle so the play would be five-acts (Bloom 20). He did not murder his father’s assassin because the play would have ended to quickly. Some critics, in a sense, partially agree. Edward E. Foster points out that “if Hamlet were simply to proceed to act out the role that has been thrust upon him, the play would be just another…

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…n become another character in the play. Hamlet shows the true genius of Shakespeare.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. Modern Critical Interpretations Of Hamlet. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.

Carlyle, (First Name not found). The Home Book of Quotations. Binghamton, NC: Vail Balloon Press, 1967.

Charney, Maurice. All of Shakespeare. New York, NY. Columbia University Press. 1993.

Evans, Gareth Lloyd. The Upstart Crow-An Intro. to Shakespeare’s Plays. London, England: J.M. Dent

The Dichotomy of Sight in Oedipus at Colonus

The Dichotomy of Sight in Oedipus at Colonus

A simple process formed the backbone of most Greek philosophy. The ancients thought that by combining two equally valid but opposite ideas, the thesis and the antithesis, a new, higher truth could be achieved. That truth is called the synthesis. This tactic of integrating two seemingly opposite halves into a greater whole was a tremendous advance in human logic. This practice is illustrated throughout Oedipus at Colonus in regard to Sophocles’ portrayal of vision, sight, and the eye. In Colonus, there are many and varied descriptions of the aspects of the eye, whether the eye be human or divine. To Sophocles, the eye must have been a synthesis, both physical and spiritual, yet something apart from both.

In Colonus, the blind see and the seeing are blinded. Perfect irony. A prime example of the blind seeing is Oedipus, the “tragic hero.” Though physically blinded, he discerns things that others ignore. By relying on the aid of Antigone, he learns compassion and humility. “Friend, my daughter’s eyes serve for my own.” (83) While some men are able to view the outside world, their own pride blinds them to the reality of what they are seeing. But through the horrible blindness that Oedipus endures, he is finally able to let go of his arrogance and rely on others, an image that recalls Tiresias and his wisdom. “Stranger: ‘What service can a blind man render him?’ Oedipus: ‘All I say will be clear-sighted indeed.’” (86). But all humans endure an intangible blindness, to a greater or lesser degree.

Human emotion often clouds the judgment. When Polyneices came praying for mercy, Antigone reported to Oedipus, “And no man is with him, father; but his eyes Swollen w…

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… human sight for many days. This is a serious play, and its purpose is to teach and inform. The dichotomy of sight is the contrast of disparate elements: the physical and mental, the divine and human. Sophocles is trying to make a statement through his extensive examination of the basis of sight. He is calling the Greeks to a higher standard, calling them back to their roots, evoking images and themes of the Odyssey and the other epics. This play’s main focus has to be sight and divine irony, and its message in the end is that a person can look beneath the surface, for all people are dichotomies in a sense. We are the combination of the mundane and the unworldly; each is a part of us, and yet we are neither.

Works Cited

Sophocles. The Oedipus Cycle. Trans. Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Harvest/HBJ-Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1939.

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