Revenge In Hamlet
Shakespeare’s play Hamlet presents a variety of topics, and the psychoanalytical portrayal of the protagonist’s inner turmoil reveals issues such as feelings after the loss of a family member and revenge that caused Hamlet’s final “insanity”. The profound analysis of Shakespeare’s tragedy includes revenge, the patriarchal structure of society, corruption, contradictions between the heroes, as well as the underlying significance of Hamlet’s personal struggles.
Revenge in Hamlet
The leading character Hamlet is dissatisfied with the second marriage of his mother, Queen Gertrude, and his uncle Claudius soon after the death of his father. The ghost of King Hamlet comes to Hamlet and discloses the secret of his death to him. The man begins to seek the truth and contemplate revenge for his father’s death. We see Hamlet’s indecision and procrastination, but he realizes that the truth must prevail. Hamlet continuously questions his own actions and experiences a constant internal struggle with his own feelings. His moral state causes Claudius and Gertrude to worry. Hamlet also confesses his love for Ophelia, which changes throughout the plot, leading to the question whether he indeed cherishes her. His mask of insanity enables him to discover the truth about the deaths of Claudius and King Hamlet. The quest for the truth leads to the deaths of many of the main characters in the play, including Claudius, Gertrude, Hamlet, Ophelia, Polonius, Laertes and Hamlet himself.
The character’s reflections on whether he should take revenge or not are repeated throughout the play. He wrestles with his internal feelings and conducts most of the play contemplating his future plans rather than plotting retaliation. The theme of revenge through the personality of Hamlet is emphasized through his desire to avenge his father’s murderer and Laertes’ intentions to avenge Hamlet. “It has a ghost who demands revenge for a murder and a hero who promises to achieve it, pretend to be mad, indulges in philosophic soliloquies, and does not succeed in this purpose till the end of five acts. (Bell 31)” The Hamlet’s desire for revenge is not rational: it is bound by his rage and grudge against Claudius and apparently devoid of common sense. Thanks to Hamlet’s remorse, revenge is not carried out and is postponed until the end of the five acts. Bell says, “It is Laertes’ drive to avenge the death of his father Polonius, which takes the action to its finish. (Bell 32)” Laertes arrives back in Denmark to take charge of Polonius’ death, but he is swift and aggressive. Unable to behave reasonably, Laertes succumbs to Claudius’ manipulations and enters into a duel with Hamlet. Claudius takes advantage of Laertes’ ambition to avenge his father’s death and his cruelty to Hamlet in order to force him to kill Hamlet.
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In the play “Hamlet” the border between insanity and common sense is very unclear. For instance, the manifestation of the signs of madness in Hamlet and Ophelia is radically different. Hamlet’s craziness is presented as a mask, while Ophelia’s final madness is absolutely real. Hamlet’s madness was faked in order to discover the incontrovertible facts about his father’s murder. On the other side, Ophelia’s insanity is the consequence of loss in the form of her father’s death, her mother’s mistreatment and Hamlet’s lack of love.
The personality of Ophelia portrays both sorrow and insanity in the story. She is revealed as vulnerable and incapable of gaining a sense of identity. The woman suffers moral pain from the loss of masculine authority in her life, which provokes her inner turmoil that ultimately causes her madness. The loss of Polonius causes her to lose a vital piece of herself and is shocked by a sorrow from which she never revives. Laertes and Polonius caution and instruct Ophelia that her affections for Hamlet are easily exploited, and she should not fully entrust her love to him. Nevertheless, she gains some hope and perceives Hamlet’s madness as a sign of tremendous love. Neglecting all advice, Ophelia comes even closer to madness because of sexual and love disappointment in Hamlet. Hamlet’s indecision in his feelings for Ophelia greatly increases her insanity. She is abandoned with a broken heart after Hamlet disregards his love for her, hoping instead to avenge his father.
Gluttony and desire for power will eventually lead to the downfall of Denmark. “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” is an outline of the destruction of the social order of Denmark under the rule of King Claudius. The craving for power drives Claudius to murder his own brother. An abnormal crowning becomes the cause of the poisoning of Denmark. Claudius not only seizes the throne by unjust means, he also looks for support from others to ensure his royal seat in Denmark. “Claudius sends a series of substitutes to uphold his part of the duel. We have Hamlet against Polonius, Hamlet against Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet against Ophelia, and Hamlet against Gertrude. (Foreman 73)”