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Revenge And Vengeance In Shakespeare's Hamlet

916 words - 4 pages

Revenge in Hamlet         

Shakespeare's Hamlet is largely coordinated by connections, parallelisms and contrasts between intermingled families.

In the play we see two families who are victims, as well as perpetrators, of revenge. The Polonius family is significant in key scenes and also in the language that the family members use.

The theme of revenge is central to the play and there are four "cases" of revenge - three involving "living" characters: Fortinbras, Laertes and Hamlet, and one which is a Classical legend which was the greatest symbol of secular disaster in the Renaissance world, the story of the destruction of Troy and the revenge of Phyrrus, for the death of his father, Achilles, on Priam, the Trojan King. Hamlet's choice of speech for the Player King, is no accident. The revenge/family motif of the Trojan conflict was well known to the Shakespearean audience.

The two "court" families, one Royal and the other in Royal service, are linked initially by Hamlet's love for Ophelia, but as the play develops, these links become more complex and more sinister, until there is a mortal collision which results in death and multiple tragedy.

There is antagonism between Polonius and Hamlet from the outset, as Hamlet sees himself as a victim of Polonius's support of Claudius as King. This adds to the sense of betrayal which he already feels as a result of his mother's actions. Polonius is keen to preserve his position and also displays a mistrust of Hamlet's intentions towards his daughter, forbidding her to see the prince and later using her as bait to ingratiate himself further to Claudius by proving that Hamlet's madness is the result of love. The exchanges between the two are characterised by a tension only partly concealed by humour and sarcasm on Hamlet's part.

Hamlet is a victim of Laertes, too when he mistakenly murders Polonius and provokes Laertes to seek revenge for his dead father and in Ophelia we see Hamlet become a victim to her representation of womankind in the nunnery scene.

Ironically, though, each member of the Polonius family is also a victim of Hamlet; Polonius literally murdered by the Prince, Laertes also killed accidentally in the duel scene and Ophelia driven to madness by Hamlet's cruelty and the death of her father at her lover's hands.

In the revenge motif, we see Laertes and Hamlet linked as lovers of Ophelia, as revengers of murdered fathers, as accomplished courtiers and swordsmen and in the only honest and complete moment of forgiveness as both pardon one another in the duel scene.

Several of the members of the Polonius family played key roles. Polonius is the supreme servant, subordinate to Claudius...

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