Vengeance in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights
Love, betrayal and revenge play leading roles in both Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights.” Both works feature doomed relationships, a ghostly haunting, and death. The court at Elsinore, despite its luxurious setting, almost mirrors the seclusion of the Yorkshire moors of Wuthering Heights — making both settings almost prison like. But, it is not setting that makes both works interesting: it is the search for vengeance by the protagonists. Few stories stir the soul more than that of a lover wronged – seeking vengeance on his foes. The lovers, Heathcliff and Hamlet, differ in their nature. One is a passionate brute, the latter a philosopher-prince; yet, despite their differences and being separated by 300 years, they share the same despair and grievances. Even their lives seem to run on almost parallel courses. Each loses a lover, is betrayed by a loved one, and driven almost mad with fury. Indeed, the “central, unifying action of Hamlet” (Abrahms and Brody 44), and of Wuthering Heights, is “revenge” (44). But, where Heathcliff’s sole impetus is revenge, Hamlet is reluctant to enact it. Hamlet’s circumstances, however, do indeed warrant vengeance.
Hamlet is a bitter tragedy of revenge and deceit. Unbeknownst to Hamlet, his father, the king of Denmark, is murdered by his own brother, Claudius — who then marries the queen and assumes the throne. Hamlet is visited by his father’s ghost, who compels him to enact revenge upon his uncle — but spare his mother. Hamlet finally decides to stage a play in which there is a poisoning scene, meant to stir his uncle into panic. Hamlet’s plan is successful, but he, in a fit of rage, accidentally murders his lover’s father, the chamberlain. His love, Ophelia, goes mad with emotional torment and finally commits suicide. Hamlet flees to England, only to return to the king’s court at Denmark. It is here that Hamlet hears of Ophelia’s death and is torn with grief. Ophelia’s vengeful brother, Laertes, challenges Hamlet to a duel. Hamlet does not realize that Claudius has rigged the duel and has poisoned a cup of wine and the tip of Laertes’ rapier. The queen, Gertrude, drinks the cup of wine and dies. Hamlet, wounded and dying, kills Laertes and the king, finally avenging his father. As he is dying, he requests his friend, Horatio, to tell the people the true story, and to appoint the nephew of the king of Norway as the ruler of Denmark. Hamlet is not unique in its choice of antagonists, as Emily Bronte uses both ghostly apparitions and a calling for vengeance in Wuthering Heights.
Wuthering Heights is spread across two generations. Set in the moors of Yorkshire, nature and the metaphysical world play large roles. The story is told through Mr. Lockwood, who relates Nelly Dean’s narration. Mr. Earnshaw, the father of Catherine and Hindley, brings an orphan to the Heights, naming him Heathcliff. Unable to bear his...