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The History Of Revenge English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1962 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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William Shakespeare’s masterpiece, Hamlet, is the story about the Prince of Denmark’s struggle for revenge against his murderous uncle, who is now the new King of Denmark. Hamlet is completely blind with revenge and has even been considered mad. Hamlet’s fall into insanity is a result of many different, tragic reasons. Throughout the entire play Hamlet seems to keep to himself, with a lack of any true companionship. Almost everyone seems to be against him throughout the play. They distrust Hamlet, and he doesn’t fully trust anyone; which will ultimately lead to his downfall. Hamlet has a tragic flaw that may lead him to disaster. Hamlet has a tendency to over think everything he does. With every thought and process he goes through he must have a reason of doing it the way he does. If not done to his liking, he will not attempt the task. Hamlet is portrayed as intelligent. This is shown through Hamlet’s use of his obviously superior mind and knowledge to deceive most everyone in the kingdom. He is clearly more intelligent than any other character in the play and to us; but his intelligence does get him into a great deal of trouble though. He is always out to prove himself. He cannot take anyone’s word for granted. Hamlet is meant to seem more psychotic and delusional the further into the play we get. Shakespeare meant for this. Without seeming crazy, Hamlet wouldn’t have the opportunity of revenging his father’s death. Hamlet’s madness is the very means for his revenge.

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Hamlet seems to be an outsider throughout the play. The first time that this is seen is through Hamlet’s uncertainty and even disgust of his uncle and mothers wedding. In Shakespeare’s time it was considered acceptable, even though they were not blood relatives. Hamlet shows his dislike by saying “A little more than kin, and less than kind” (I, ii). This shows that he has an early dislike to his uncle, which will later help Hamlet with achieving his revenge. The next time that this distance from others is seen in Hamlet is when Ophelia is talking with Laertes and later Polonius. They both tell her that Hamlet and her cannot and will not be together, it is not possible because of the difference in class. This is confirmed when Laertes tells her, “Perhaps he loves you now… but you must fear, His greatness weighted, his will is not his own…” (I, iii). He tells her not to trust Hamlet’s false love, for he is a subject of the kingdom, and must marry royalty and do what the state requests of him. Polonius furthers this claim by adding “Ay, springes to catch woodcocks… You must not take for fire,” (I, iii). In this he basically tells her that she is senseless, and should not believe Hamlets words or his vows. By the end of the speech he even tells her to stay away from Hamlet, basically so she will not look unwise, therefore he will not look like the fool. Hamlet’s trust further decreases when he encounters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, whom were sent to him by the King. He knows that these “friends” are acting under the kings will, and gets them to spill the beans. The conversation that starts “Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thank,” and ends “My lord we were sent for,” (II, ii, 283 – 306) shows the suspicion building even more. Hamlet now knows that he cannot trust these men anymore both because they lied to him, and were sent by the man Hamlet despises, as spies. The same event happened to Ophelia as well. She was sent by Polonius, the King and the Queen so that they could prove Hamlets madness is for the love of Ophelia. Hamlet senses this, and loses all trust in Ophelia as he has done with many others. Throughout the conversation that goes “Ha, ha. Are you honest? Are you fair?” (III, i) Hamlet discovers the king’s plot and acts as if he were crazy, and not in love with Ophelia. He is acting in this scene because later in act five he admits to caring for Ophelia. “I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my sum,” (V, i). There are only two people that trust Hamlet; they would be the Queen and Horatio. Horatio is Hamlets only true companion. He knows of the betrayal the king committed against Hamlet’s father, and has not caused any trouble for Hamlet. Gertrude is the only other person whom trusts Hamlet; however her trust is questionable. Hamlet kills Polonius, and then gets into an argument with his mother. From here he asks her to tell Claudius that he is in fact crazy. “I am essentially not in madness, but mad in craft” (III, iv,). Hamlet is telling her that he is in fact not insane, but doing what he is doing for a purpose. All of these examples are proof that it is a false madness that Hamlet has fallen into. He is using this madness to get closer to what he wants, his revenge. Hamlet has yet another problem throughout the play that both prevents and helps Hamlet in obtain his goal; which is, he over thinks everything.

Hamlet’s obsession with perfecting everything to what he wants is a good and a bad thing for him. The first example of Hamlet’s over thinking would be after he talks with the ghost of his father. Hamlet’s father tells him that Claudius is not only the cause of his death, but the one who murdered him. The passage that starts “Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast…” (I, v, 42 – 91) that Claudius kills him. Hamlet, however, has to prove this for himself before he can takes any action. He over thinks the death of his father, even though he already believes it to be true. This is also proof that the ghost is real because others have seen it, so Hamlet is not crazy. Hamlet is again seen over thinking his situation when he goes to Claudius’s closet to get his revenge. Hamlet says “O, this is hire and salary, not revenge,” (III, iii) when he finds Claudius is praying. Hamlet over thinks it because he does not believe that killing Claudius is revenge enough, he must do it after Claudius has committed a sin, so that his soul cannot find its way into heaven. Another instance of Hamlet over thinking occurs during a soliloquy “O, what a rogue and pleasant slave am I…” (II, ii). In this soliloquy he questions himself over and over again. “Am I a coward?” (II, ii, 606) Hamlet is basically putting himself down, saying that he disliking his weakness, and even calls himself a whore to words, for he cannot act. The whole soliloquy is Hamlet doubting that he can actually get revenge. Over thinking and never doing could be a cause for Hamlet to look insane, he is all talk with no action. Hamlet is so obsessed with his revenge; it may look like a crazed madness. However, the madness is part of the plot that he has developed for revenge. This is probably the most intelligent way to go about plotting revenge, for no one takes a crazy man seriously.

Hamlet is the most intelligent individual in the play, and uses this to his advantage as much as possible. Hamlet is witty, and this is first seen when Claudius asks why he is in mourning still, in which Hamlet replies “I am too much in the sun,” (I, ii). It is seen later in the play when he hides the body of Polonius and is asked where the body is buried in which Hamlet replies “At supper, not where he eats, but where he is eaten,” (IV, iii). This shows that he is witty and likes to mess with other people in the play. Hamlet also shows his superior intelligence in other ways. When he is speaking with Polonius Hamlet insults him “you are a fishmonger,” (II, ii). Later in this exchange of “words, words, words,” (II, ii) Hamlet continually insults the old man but Polonius takes these insults as a sign of insanity. Hamlet uses his intelligence to catch and make fun of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern for their ignorance. “You were sent for; and there is a kind of confession in your looks which your modesties have not craft enough to color. I know the good king and queen have sent for you” (II, ii). With this quote he is outright telling them that they are idiots, and that he knows why they are with him. The insult however just flies over their heads. One event that supports Hamlets intelligence would be the idea Hamlet has of getting the players to reenact his father’s death. This not only will prove to Hamlet that Claudius killed his father, but it will also get back at his mother and uncle. The play makes his uncle scared because he knows the Hamlet knows the trust and his mother very upset. At the end of the play when all the others leave Hamlet goes on to plan even more. He believes that his mother knows of Claudius’s betrayal and will try to force it out of her. “I will speak daggers to her, but use none… how my words soever she be shent, to give them seals never, my soul, consent!” (III, ii). He says he will cause her pain, but only with words, so that she may tell what she knows. Hamlet uses his intelligence to mask his plans, and everything he is meaning to do. He has to be smart, or else he would have already been caught, and taken away.

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Hamlet’s intelligence is the key to his plan. It is the whole idea of looking mad, but actually being of a sound mind that gets Hamlet to where he needs to be. If Hamlet was not the smartest person in the play, or of any less intelligent than he was, he probably would have been killed many times before. He caught the tricks of the king, knew of the spying and overcame all of these obstacles to get what he wanted. Hamlet is the most human like character Shakespeare created, and he has very human like characteristics such as the use of intelligence. This is seen in everyday life. For example, people lie, and people catch those lies, such as a child lying to his mother so he will not get into trouble. This is essentially what Hamlet is doing; he catches the lies of Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and the King. Hamlets consciousness of the world in his time and the over thinking of just about everything was both a plus and a minus to Hamlet. If it weren’t for the over thinking he may have had his revenge much sooner, but in a way he did not see fit for his murderous uncle. This over thinking does get his deed done in the fashion Hamlet wants, but it does cause other fatalities, including him own. People over think things every day and over thinking usually lead to problems. One example of this would be like skydiving. You want to do it, but once you get to the door of the plane, you go through all the bad and scary situations of jumping that may cause you to coward out. This usually makes it much harder to force yourself to jump. Hamlet does a bit of this, even called himself a coward, but this mockery to himself is what drives him to want revenge even more. Distrust is common theme in the play, and it plays a major role throughout Hamlet. It seems that no one really trusts each other. Hamlet has little trust in anyone, which could make it easier to follow through with his revenge. He doesn’t really trust anyone, and no one really trusts him, so there is nothing to lose. This is seen in life with friends. If you know or trust someone, you try harder not to hurt their feelings. If you don’t know them then hurting their feelings is not quite as important since you do not have a strong bond with that person. Hamlet uses these advantages he has to create a mad persona of himself, which is believable, to gain his revenge.


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