Hamlet by William Shakespeare Essay

Submitted By bkeanub
Words: 1288
Pages: 6

It is evident that in writing “Hamlet”, Shakespeare, to some extent, adopted the dramatic tradition of Revenge tragedy. Revenge implies the wronged individual taking the law into his own hands in order to satisfy an inner passion though in civilized society, this function of punishing the wrong doer is entrusted to the government or the state. The motive of revenge is a primitive emotion to be found in natural man, though it is a dangerous emotion. Revenge proved a popular theme for dramatists for it enabled them to depicthuman passions, render rhetorical speeches, and present violent action. The dramatic valueof these fighters was great in the secular theatre. Early dramatists are as well as early audiences considered vengeance to be a pious duty laid on the next of kin; it was wild justice, but for drama to be satisfactory and successful.The old law claimed an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, vengeance demanded boththe eyes, a jaw full of teeth, and above all, the victim should go straight to hell there toremain in everlasting torment. A perfect revenge required, therefore, a great artistry. Thetheme of earlier tragedies of revenge was the punishment of an evil doer through some onewho had suffered because of him.Revenge tragedy is especially associated with the name of Seneca, an ancient Romandramatist. All the ten tragedies written by him deal with incidents taken from Greek mythology. But, instead of exercising the restraint of classical Greek tragedy, Senecaproduced the tragic effect by horrifying incidents, bloody actions and ranting speeches. Therevenge theme was very popular during the Elizabethan age. The revenge theme deals withexciting plots which arouse the people’s emotional excitement. Such plots are found in therevenge tragedy, and they have an immediate appeal for the audience. Hence Shakespeare,in his play “Hamlet” adopted the dramatic tradition of the revenge tragedy. During theElizabethan era, the Greek and Latin classics were of much interest. Kyd’s “The SpanishTragedy” and Shakespeare’s own “Titus Andronicus” are the best examples of thedramatic use of this revenge theme in the early Elizabethan age.The chief features of the revenge tragedy are the following:1. It deals with crime, usually murder, with varying motives.2. The duty of vengeance is laid on the next of kin or near relative.3. Invariably, a ghost is involved, generally the ghost of the dead, which reveals the crimecommitted and lays upon the hero the duty of avenging the murder.4. The duty is accepted as something sacred.5. There is much blood- shed and crude physical horrors and when the murder is avenged,the avenger and all others closely concerned perish together in one gory ruin.6. The language is generally astounding and bombastic.Hamlet, no doubt confirms to the tradition of revenge play in the light of these points.Hamlet is enjoined by his father’s ghost with the duty of avenging his father’s death. Whenit finds him inactive, it appears again to whet his action and exhort to a speedy revenge, asit says:“Do not forget. This visitationIs but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.”He considers the entrusted work of the ghost as something sacred but he also thinks aboutthe action required of him. Hence he avenges the murder at the cost of his own life as wellas the lives of many others. Thus revenge becomes the central theme of “Hamlet” and thesupernatural element is fully exploited.The theme of revenge is extended beyond the main character. There are other revengesalso. Fortinbras wants to take revenge on Denmark, for the losses sustained by his father ina duel with Hamlet’s father. Laertes too seeks to avenge his father’s death and the insanityof his loving sister Ophelia. He succeeds in punishing the murderer at the cost of his ownlife. Hamlet wants to take revenge against Claudius, the murderer of his father, theusurper of his rights to the throne and the seducer of his mother. He too avenges the death

2 of his father at