Hamlet: Revenge or Scruples?

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Andrew Brian’Vengeance is mine,’ sayith the Lord. What does this mean? I believewhat the Christians meant it to mean is that we, as humans, have no right toseek revenge, that only the Lord has the right to decide when to take revenge.

We say this, but do we follow it? No, I think not. We all try to take revengeinto our own hands, in one form or another.

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Revenge is one strong theme that holds throughout Hamlet. We seePrince Hamlet try to execute a kind of private vengeance, an eye for an eye,which is completely opposite of the Christian teachings. Hamlet is a man whobelieves in heaven and hell and who feels that a man who challenges divineordinance will ultimately face judgment. We might look at the ghost of the lateking Hamlet as the part of us that wants to take vengeance into our own minds.

Like the little voice in our heads that tells us to do something, when in ourhearts we know it is wrong.

When Horatio, Barnardo, and Marcellus tell Hamlet of their sighting ofthe ghost, Hamlet agrees to join them that night and see if he can observe theghost firsthand and possibly speak with it. That night when Horatio, Marcellus,and Hamlet sight the ghost, it beckons Hamlet to leave the other two and speakto it in privacy. Hamlet follows, despite the protests of the others, who fearit may be an evil spirit, disguising as King Hamlet in order to gain their trust.

Horatio suggests that it may lead him astray and then “assume some otherhorrible form / Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason / And draw youinto madness…” (I, iv, 80-82). Hamlet insists on listening to the message ofthe ghost. Although he does not state it, perhaps Hamlet subconsciouslyconsiders that Horatio is right, that the ghost is indeed a false messenger sentto trouble him.

Hamlet does not kill Claudius immediately following his encounter withthe ghost because he is unsure of the ghost’s accusations of Claudius and doesnot want to murder him without proper motive. Hamlet would suffer in the eyes ofthe people if he were to murder Claudius, the reigning king, and claim hismotive was the words of a ghost. Hamlet already disapproves of Claudius due tohis marriage to Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, so soon after the death of her firsthusband, King Hamlet. Prince Hamlet feels that the widow did not sufficientlymourn and that the marriage is incestuous due to the relation between the latehusband and the new groom. The timing of the marriage causes Hamlet to suspectthat Claudius and Gertrude had an affair during her marriage with King Hamlet.

Despite this, most Danes see nothing wrong with the marriage and express nosuspicions about King Hamlet’s death. Because he must expose Claudius’s murderof King Hamlet in order to legitimize his own murder of Claudius, Hamlet can notimmediately kill Claudius and explain his motive later, once he is guilty ofmurder. He must first find proof that Claudius did in fact do wrong that broughtabout his father’s death.

Some of Hamlet’s opportunities for killing King Claudius are poorlytimed, most notably following Claudius’s expression of alarm after watching anenactment of the murder of Gonzago. This is a time when Claudius’s image hasbeen tarnished and the people may be suspicious of him in connection to thedeath of King Hamlet. However, when Hamlet goes to the royal chambers toconfront him, but finds Claudius kneeling in prayer.

Now might I do it, now he is a-praying, And now I’ll do t. And so he goes to heaven, And so am I revenged. That would be scanned: A villain kills my father, and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send To heaven.

Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge.

He took my father grossly, full of bread, With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May; And how his audit stands who knows save heaven.

But in our circumstance and course of thought Tis heavy with him. And am I then revenged To take him in the purging of his soul, When he is fit and seasoned for his passage? No.

Up sword, and know thou a more horrid hent.

(III, iii, 77-93)Hamlet decides that if he were to kill Claudius during prayer, Claudiuswould be sent to heaven, which would not be the proper revenge he seeks, soinstead, Hamlet decides to wait and take his life at a time he is in sin. Hamlethesitates and analyses the situation of each assassination opportunity in alikewise manner. Instead of simply acting on an opportunity he considers eachconsequence of the timing and circumstances; each time he decides, “The time isout of joint” (I, v, 210).

After promising his father’s ghost that he will gain revenge on Claudiusfor the “foul and most unnatural murder” (I, v, 31), Hamlet lets opportunitiesto murder Claudius pass by, waiting for a time when all will realize he is rightin the act so that Claudius will die in shame. He hesitates because he is unsurethe ghost was indeed his father’s ghost, he can not be sure that Claudius didmurder King Hamlet, and because there are times when Claudius’s soul and/orpublic image would benefit from Hamlet’s deed, thus he would not die a villain’sshameful death. In the end Hamlet does accomplish this goal of revenge andClaudius is known to be the villain, but due to the delay in the murder, bothHamlet and his mother, Queen Gertrude, also join the two kings among the realmof the deceased.

I believe that humans have a craving for revenge and this unquenchablethirst is depicted in Hamlet. But I do not feel that anyway, man or god, hasthe right to take revenge. I believe that this is one wall that Humanity mustclimb before it is to reach the next plain of evolution. We need to look pastwhat others do and try to show them why it is wrong and how they not only hurtothers, but themselves as well. When we become one as the human race, then weshall be able to move out of the rut we have been in for centuries. How weapproach other people determines how quickly we evolve, how quickly our lifequestions are answered. You must be completely open as are the people who bringyou messages. They will help you by opening you up. And they will fill youwith warmth and energy. (The Celestine Prophecy) I do not remember seeingHamlet trying to understand his step-father, nor did he try to help him see whathe had done wrong. No, he only saw anger and hatred. He let this hatred eathim inside and control his actions. So I see Hamlet as a reflection of therut that humanity is stuck in. So I now end with this one question; do twowrongs equal a right one? Category: English

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Hamlet: Revenge or Scruples?. (2018, Nov 06). Retrieved from


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