“To be or not to be, that is the question, whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them” (Shakespeare, 3.1.56). Is it better to live or die, better to endure suffering or fight against it and is life meant to be this difficult? These are some, among many, philosophical ideas in which Hamlet faces during William Shakespeare’s 1601 play Hamlet. Hamlet was written in an Elizabethan world view, a transitional time in politics and beliefs. Many of the characters in the text shape the audiences understanding of the context, the political instability and religious divides of the time in which it was written. The cultural values are expressed through the passion of Ophelia and the comical characteristics of Hamlet. The four main themes were women and freedom, politics, externally and internally, the chain of being and the four humours and the beliefs that came with them. The last theme is maybe the most important, Revenge, cultural values in the 1600’s where that god forbid revenge but medieval times believed in an ‘eye for an eye’ and the Renaissance humanism world believed it was up to god to punish offenders not oneself. This is where Hamlet is faced with divide in whether or not to avenge his father or leave it to god.
Revenge is about getting even with someone who has done you wrong. Hamlet is a tragedy play, it begins with the murder of Hamlet’s father and the vengeance is up to the next of kin, Hamlet. He becomes the revenger, avenging his father’s death. In the text there are four revenge stories, Hamlet avenging his father’s death, Laertes getting revenge on Hamlet for Polonius’s death, Fortinbras wants revenge on Denmark for his father’s death and Pyrrhus’s vengeance for Achillies is talked about by the actors. Hamlet shows the