Hamlet and revenge





Hamlet - Revenge

In Hamlet, Shakespeare uses revenge as a major theme present throughout the work. Revenge plays a crucial role in the development of Fortinbras, Prince of Norway, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, and Laertes, son of Polonius. All three men seek revenge for the murder of their fathers. Revenge can be interpreted as a separate character in Hamlet. Revenge is set to overcome anyone who seeks it. Initially, after each of the murders, every son had a definite course of action to obtain vengeance. Or in Hamlet’s case the choice was to seek no vengeance. As the play unfolds, each young man approaches the desire for revenge and chooses a different path towards gaining it based on the guidance of another character in the play. Fortinbras’ good decisions and self-control, as well as, Hamlet and Laertes’ bad decisions can be attributed to the outside guidance they receive.
Fortinbras, son of the slain King of Norway, is the first to seek revenge. Although King Hamlet, the now deceased King of Denmark, held sole responsibility for the death of King Fortinbras, young Prince Fortinbras seeks vengeance toward the entire country of Denmark. Horatio, a friend of Hamlet’s, said, “As it doth well appear unto our state, but to recover of us by strong hand and terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands so by his father lost…” (I.i.101-104). By this, Horatio is saying Fortinbras plans to forcefully regain the land King Hamlet took from King Fortinbras. Fortunately, King Claudius, the new King of Denmark, intervenes and sends two courtiers, Cornelius and Voltemand, to Norway in hopes of convincing the new King of Norway, Fortinbras’ uncle, to prevent the attack. Upon hearing the message, Fortinbras’ uncle vetoes Fortinbras’ plan to wage war on Denmark. However, he encourages Fortinbras “to employ his anger, against the Polack” in order to vent his rage (II.ii.74-75). After taking the advice of his uncle, Fortinbras additionally “makes vow before his uncle never more to have th’ assay of arms against your majesty,” (II.ii.70-71). This intervention could be what saves Fortinbras’ life. With the counseling of his uncle, Fortinbras is able to put aside his longing to settle the score for his father’s murder. In the end, he is greatly rewarded.
Because of his persistent doubt of whether Claudius did, in fact, kill his father Hamlet defers making plans to act out his revenge. Hamlet is the hardest of the three sons to be influenced to act vengefully. Although deeply sorrowed by his father’s death, he did not consider payback as an option until he meets with the ghost of his father. The ghost tells Hamlet King Claudius, his own brother, murdered him. The ghost then tells Hamlet “to revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (I.v.25). Although murder was an acceptable form of revenge in Hamlet’s time he is uncertain about killing Claudius. However, upon his father’s command, Hamlet reluctantly swears to retaliate against Claudius. Hamlet does this not because he wants to, but because his father makes it clear that it is his duty as a son. Hamlet promises to prove his love and duty by killing Claudius.
Hamlet, unlike Fortinbras and Laertes, did not follow what his advisor told him without questioning why he should take the advice. As time passes, Hamlet still has not acted out the revenge he promised his father. Out of disgust for his irreverence for his father he says, “why, what an ass am I! This is most brave, that I, the son of a dear father murdered, prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, must like a whore, unpack my heart with words and fall a-cursing like a very drab” (II.ii.594-598). This statement prompts one to believe Hamlet has been convinced by his father’s words to act, but does not want to do so hastily. Hamlet questions the validity of his revenge by devising a plan to provide evidence of King Claudius’ guilt. Hamlet took advantage of his position at the local theater by instructing his actors to perform a play, which reenacts a murder similar to his father’s. Then based on Claudius’ response to the play, Hamlet could conclude his guilt or innocence. Hamlet says, “I’ll have these