Revenge In Two Literary Works Essay

1693 words - 7 pages

Revenge as a theme is cleverly built upon throughout Hamlet; with it being the driving force behind three of the key characters in the play. Revenge is a frighteningly vicious emotion, which causes people to act blindly and without reason. In Poe’s, “The Cask of Amontillado”, Montresor enacts revenge for reasons unknown. Hamlet in contrast, has all the motive in the world to complete his task; yet he constantly hesitates. The text reveals that the need for revenge creates a stranglehold on the genuine emotions, thoughts, and actions of three characters: Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Laertes; son of Polonius, and Fortinbras; Prince of Norway. This hold makes the characters act beyond their standard ethical positions and makes them helpless to their plots of revenge. The sadness of losing a loved one makes the characters participate in acts they wouldn't normally carry out. The language Shakespeare presents suggests that the characters will do whatever it takes to avenge, immorally, without a sense of rationale; thus effecting their true morality. The real question is, why?
As we see in both stories, revenge is not an easy task to complete. Hamlet encountered many obstacles on the way to enacting his revenge. Hamlet reveals that promising the act of vengeance to oneself, or to the actual victim itself, creates an amplified need to carry out their plans. Hamlet, who swore to his father's ghost that he will kill Claudius for revenge, states:
“Prompted by my revenge by heaven and hell, must like a whore unpack my heart with words, And fall a-cursing like a very drab, A scullion. Fie upon't, foh! About, my brains!” (2, ii, 525-9).
This proclamation by the crazed Prince Hamlet suggests that the promise he’s made to his father is eating at his conscience, and he has to carry out the task whatever the cost. The key which Hamlet fails to realize that “it is to this vengeance without bounds, vengeance by total destruction, that the Prince at a crucial point commits himself” (Skulsky 79). He is obstructed from his genuine rational moral view and if he were morally coherent, he would have seen that taking such drastic action removes himself from his genuine thoughts.
In “The Cask”, the perspective we are given on the story is limited; which allows for an open interpretation of what his true motives for revenge are. As Baraban states “Montresor elaborates a sophisticated philosophy of revenge: "I must not only punish, but punish with impunity” (48) presenting the reader with a vibrant view of what he intends to do. The question one begs is, for what reason? Most readers would finish this story and assert that mentally, Montresor is insane. As Baraban states, “Poe's intriguing silence about the nature of the insult that made Montresor murder Fortunato has given rise to explanations of Montresor's deed through insanity. Richard M. Fletcher, for example, maintains that Montresor's actions are irrational and that therefore he is mad.” (50) Montresor states at...

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