Hamlet a play written by William Shakespeare has multiple thematic statements that make most critics regard it as one of the best dramas created. There are many different types of thematic statements in the play; however, I believe that the idea of Hamlet’s revenge being justified or not justified is one of the most important in the tragedy.
The entire play of Hamlet is centered on the decisions, thoughts, and actions that Hamlet takes to act out his revenge. Prince Hamlet was commanded by his father, King Hamlet’s ghost to avenge him. This revenge however was complicated because he had to kill his uncle, Claudius, in order to fulfill what the ghost had wanted. The ideas of revenge constantly plagued Hamlet’s mind because he feels that revenge is unjustifiable and that it is against his will. The ghost however constantly pressures Hamlet by telling him that he must murder Claudius and avenge him because he shares the same name as the king.
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The literary analysis “‘His semblable in his mirror’: Hamlet and the Imitation of Revenge” written by David Scott Kastan, Kastan states many different beliefs about Hamlet and his ideas about Hamlet’s revenge. First, Kastan states that Hamlet is “bound to his father and his father’s cause,” (Kastan 111) because they share the same name. This is important because Kastan later states, “He (Hamlet) would be only the son, sworn to remember and revenge his father,” (Kastan 111), which is the one of the two ideas that I share with Kastan. Hamlet is bounded to his father not only because he is the only son to King Hamlet, but also because he shares his name. This is an important concept that Shakespeare uses in Hamlet because I believe that he tries to use this to say that to prove that Prince Hamlet is the son of King Hamlet, Prince Hamlet has to be the revenger. The ghost only tells him that he is Hamlet’s father after Hamlet willing agrees that he will do what the ghost tells him to do. Hamlet to his father and also later to himself believes that he will only live up to his father’s name by becoming his revenger.
Kastan also believes that he Hamlet did not contain the murderer intent that his father and he thought he had. He states that, “He (Hamlet) is never quite as apt a revenger as either he or the ghost would like,” (Kastan 112). I believe that this has a lot of meaning in explaining the characteristics of Prince Hamlet. Throughout the play Hamlet oscillated between his choices of following the command of the ghost or living on his own free will. Hamlet believed that if he enacted the revenge, it would only restart the cycle of crimes that this murder has. Hamlet also learned that revenge is only a way of imitating others and avenging wrongs with further wrongs. Hamlet struggled with this because he did not want to commit the original crime again and wanted to make a sly and crafty plan in order to trap the king. Hamlet tries to circumvent the idea of murder until he has his meeting with Fortinbras, which made him recognize that his murder intent was needed in order to persuade himself that revenge was the only way to restore his name of himself and his father.
Kastan’s main idea, however, is that he believed that Hamlet’s revenge is not justified. Kastan believes that Hamlet was molded by what the ghost had to say, but in the end of the play, Hamlet chose to kill Claudius, not for revenge, but for himself. Hamlet acted out and killed Claudius in fury because he had made Laertes poison the point of the blade and that he, Claudius, is the only one to blame. Kastan believed that because of this, the act that Hamlet committed was “more reflex than revenge,” (Kastan 118). Hamlet wanted to kill Claudius because Claudius’ hands killed him, just like he did to King Hamlet.
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This big claim by Kastan is the one that I completely disagree with. Hamlet’s revenge not just a reflex, but it was carefully constructed. Hamlet persistently fought with his own mindset so that he can, in the end, kill Claudius for what he had done to his father and later on, also himself. Hamlet also killed Claudius because his poison not only killed his father, but also later killed Laertes, Gertrude, and even Hamlet himself. Hamlet was able to be the revenger for all of their deaths by making Claudius take his own poison, and killing him. Hamlet’s internal conflicts showed that even if Hamlet did not want to kill Claudius and revenge his father’s death, he still had to because he knew he had to take action for the people that could not. This was apparent at the end of the play when everyone around Hamlet and Claudius perishes, and sets the final stage between the protagonist and antagonist of the play. Hamlet’s violent actions were able to revenge all of the fallen deaths that should not have happened, and was able to be justified because in the end, the murderer was killed by his own hands, which showed that the cycle of crimes was now completed, and would not occur again.
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