Revenge in hamlet
In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, the theme of revenge is reoccurring within at least three different characters. First and foremost is Hamlet, secondly there is Laertes and the third character being that of Fortinbras. Each has been wronged in some way or form and seeks retaliation. Upon reading the play, one might infer that Shakespeare’s attitude toward the act of revenge is in fact an unacceptable act for which no good can come.
Furthermore, one might even go as far as to say that Shakespeare was an advocate of karma, in the sense that what goes around comes around. They play centers around the character of Hamlet, whose reason for revenge is sparked by an encounter with the ghost of his father. The ghost tells Hamlet “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder. ” It is by the ghost that Hamlet learns of his uncle’s treachery. Hamlet’s uncle has murdered his father and now soils his mother, standing as an imposter and in the way of Hamlet’s kingship.
At first there is no real plan of revenge on Hamlets part, he pretends to have gone mad, but the arrival of the players afford him the opportunity to prove his uncle’s guilt and take action. However, the actions that Hamlet takes are foolhardy at best and his emotions consume him. In the throes of his pretend madness he alienates the woman he loves, which drives her to her death, and he slays an innocent man. In the end, he may indeed have acquired the revenge he sought after, but at the price of his own life.
It is within Hamlet’s own engagement for vengeance that the play brings about the next character, Laertes, which pursues retribution for the death of his father. Laertes’ plan for revenge is to use poison to kill Hamlet for murdering his father. Here one can see how emotions without rational thought take over the character, very much the same as in Hamlet’s case. This character loses his life too as a result of his quest for settling scores.
In the case of Fortinbras, one is made aware of his circumstance within the first Act of the play as Hamlet’s uncle gives a speech saying “…Now follows that you know young Fortinbras, holding a weak supposal of our worth, Or thinking by out late dear brother’s death Our state to be disjoint and out of frame, Colleagued with this dream of his advantage.
He hath not failed to pester us with message Importing the surrender of those lands Lost by his father, with all bonds of law, To our most valiant brother…” with this one learns of Fortinbras’ plight; his land and birthright to kingship has been taken by King Hamlet. It is with this letter of asking for surrender that Fortinbras sets out to reclaim what should be his, but swayed by his uncle, he instead sets to conquer and claim other lands and buy his time till the right moment. Fortinbras’ plan for revenge is then to gain power and raise the numbers of his force before returning to reclaim the land that King Hamlet had taken.
This being the only character whose thought process is not clouded by emotion, he has reframed from immediate action against those who aggrieved him and when all is said and done, Fortinbras has gained everything while losing nothing. Shakespeare portrays the deed of taking revenge as being paid for at the ultimate price of one’s life. Hamlet and Laertes die for their actions while Fortinbras is eventually rewarded for the lack of his, in the sense that Fortinbras did nothing towards his antagonists.
As in real life, there are some who are ruled by emotion and act irrationally while others have the fortitude to think of the consequences before taking action. Perhaps the old cliche of “two wrongs do not make a right” could have been the moral to this story. I personally can think of a moment where the consequences of my action were indeed not thought of beforehand. When I was younger I was extremely easily frightened and my brother always took advantage of this for his (and his friends) own entertainment. I had decided that enough was enough; that I would scare him and humiliate him far worse than he had ever done to me.
The perfect opportunity opened itself up for me exact my revenge on an evening nearing Halloween. The month had already been especially grueling for me due to his antics and I was more than ready to move forward with my plan. As my brother was getting ready in the bathroom that evening, his friends waited for him in his room, this was my moment to get in his room and hide from him. I quickly told his friends of my plan and they helped me into the closet where I hid myself in his favorite jacket and donned one of the many Halloween masks he had acquired so far that month.
I was small enough not to be detected at first glance and when my brother re-entered his room and opened his closet for an item or two he did not see me. I sat very still; almost afraid to breath and the excitement of what was about to take place felt unbearable. Finally he went for his jacket and out I sprung with a growl, he fell backwards and shrieked like a little girl. His friends laughed as did I, success was mine! My brother ran out of the room in tears and I thought to myself how superior I felt for having accomplished not only the scare of a lifetime but to have him in tears too!
Turns out my brother had wet himself and when he ran out the room it was to inform our parents of the cruel act I had just committed. Though I admit it felt great at that moment when I sprang onto my brother and saw the look on his face, but the punishment my parents enacted on me made that feeling fade fast. I felt horrible for my actions. In the end I apologized to him and after six months of extra chores and no television or phone privileges, my brother went back to his old ways and nothing had changed. Revenge was useless to me and only caused more trouble than it was worth.