In the play of Hamlet, Shakespeare sets up three plots of revenge which involve three characters, each determined to avenge their deceased loved ones. Revenge is essentially a recurring element in the play and can be noted as an important theme. Revenge is often lead by uncontrolled emotions, affecting an individual’s thoughts and feelings differently and provoking the individual to act without a reason. The play helps us question the justifiability and benefits of revenge through the story’s individual characters.
King Hamlet appears as a ghost and informs Hamlet that he was murdered in his sleep by Claudius. He tells his son that while he was sleeping, Claudius poured poison into his ear. Hamlet is shocked by the ghosts words. The ghost asks Hamlet to “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder. ” (I. 5. 25) Prince Hamlet vow’s to avenge his father’s death, and promises not hurt his mother even though he blame’s her for re-marrying to his uncle right after his father’s death.
Since the revenge was requested, and not Prince Hamlet’s own decision, we could question if Hamlet would consider avenging his father, even if he wasn’t told to. We are aware that Hamlet is depressed about his father’s death, his mother re-marrying, and the lack of mourning the kingdom is doing for the death of the King, but he does not commit suicide even though he considers it at one point. Hamlet’s loneliness, feelings of anger, and sorrow would certainly compel him to avenge his father’s death by killing Claudius. A villain kills my father, and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven. ” (III. 3. 77)Hamlet doesn’t immediately avenge his father’s death, he goes through a phase where he contemplates and delays when he should commit the act of killing Claudius. Fortinbras is another character in the play who feels the need to avenge his father’s death by reclaiming the land his father lost to King Hamlet. Both Prince Hamlet and Prince Fortinbras have uncles who have taken their deceased fathers rightful spot at King while the Princes plot a way to avenge their fathers.
Fortinbras builds an army to take back the territories they lost while also attacking Denmark, making him a problem for Denmark. “… Now, sir, young Fortinbras, of unimproved mettle hot and full, hath in the skirts of Norway here and there sharked up a list of lawless resolutes, for food and diet, to some enterprise that hath a stomach in’t; which is no other 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; and this, I take it, is the main motive of our preparations… (I. 1. 95) This particular quote helps us perceive how fast Fortinbras acts towards avenging his father. He takes action without delay, as apposed to Hamlet who suspends his opportunities. While discussing with his mother, Hamlet suspects that there is a spy in the room. “How now? A rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead! ” (III. 4. 23) Assuming that it is Claudius, Hamlet draws his sword and strikes at the curtain where curious Polonius is eaves dropping. Receiving the news of his father’s death, Laertes is vow’s to avenge his father. How came he dead? I’ll not be juggled with: to hell, allegiance! vows, to the blackest devil! Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit! I dare damnation. To this point I stand, that both the worlds I give to negligence, let come what comes; only I’ll be revenged most thoroughly for my father. ” Laertes responds swiftly, his words full of venom. Just like Fortinbras, Laertes acts immediately; surging into the castle, prepared to punish the person responsible for his father’s death. (IV. 5. 35) Claudius is able to manipulate Laertes and Hamlet in a duel, claiming that “Revenge should have no bounds” (IV. 7. 128) and promising that Hamlet would be poisoned to death. At this point of the play, all three sons are committed to avenging their father’s deaths. Laertes is also notified that Ophelia has drowned, further upsetting him, and worsening the current situation. The three significant characters: Hamlet, Fortinbras, and Laertes each have their own ways of seeking vengeance, for their father’s deaths and obtaining their desires.
Fortinbras uses revenge as an excuse to send in his army to take back the territories his father lost to King Hamlet, which justifies that he wants some sort of control. Hamlet and Laertes know that their father’s have been wronged. Hamlet suffers from depression, and the kingdom does not know the true reason behind his father’s death, so he is determined to reveal truth and overturn his uncle. Laertes is enraged about his father and sister’s unnecessary death, blaming Hamlet for the cause of it. The play can be viewed as a tragic story with multiple deaths mainly provoked by members of their own family and kingdom.
They are forced to duel, and fight to the death to honor their father’s soul, rather then to resolve the situation in a civilized way. The motif: revenge is recurring because the characters of the play feel the need avenge their fathers, they are driven mad by it, as it takes control of their mind. Their eyes are filled with hatred, distrust and despair as they who were once friends, battle to the death. What they achieve at the end is a worthless effort, because it resulted in additional unnecessary deaths, that are not justifiable.