“An eye for an eye will only make the world blind.” William Shakespeare is known for his phenomenally written works of literature and plays full of either utter comedy or devastating tragedy, specifically during the time period of 1590-1613. One of his most remarkable and famous pieces of work includes the play, Hamlet. He tells a story of an unfortunate Prince from Denmark whose uncle killed his very own father, wed his mother, and took over the royal throne. All throughout, Hamlet puts on a masquerade and pretends to be insane to throw his uncle completely off guard for betraying him. It is Hamlet’s strong desire for vengeance which ultimately results in his passing. Shakespeare’s application of soliloquy, dramatic irony, imagery, and external conflict all enhance his theme throughout the story of Hamlet- revenge and death.
Shakespeare uses the literary devices of soliloquy and dramatic irony in order to develop and reveal the thematic topic of revenge. During his impassioned speech in Act IV, Hamlet finally recognizes the scale of dishonor which has been committed by Claudius. ¨How stand I then that have a father kill´d, a mother stan´d, excitements of my reasons and my blood..¨ (IV, iv). It is this epiphany which spurns him to act upon his desire. ¨O from this time forth , my thoughts to be bloody, or be nothing worth.¨ (IV, iv). It is this point in the play that Hamletś inability to act upon his revenge is reconciled. By comparing soldiers fighting for their country to his own desire to enact justice upon Claudius, Hamlet reaches the conclusion that his stagnation is dishonoring not only himself, but his mother, father, and his country. Hamlet finally feels just in his desire for vengeance and vows from this point forward all his actions will focus on the execution of his revenge. To further expand the thematic topic of revenge, Shakespeare also utilizes dramatic irony. In the middle of Act III, Hamlet mistakenly slaughtered Polonius with a sharpened sword as he was hiding behind a tapestry, yet his only intention was to murder Claudius. “Oh, I’ve been killed!” (III, iv), Hamlet soon after claims, “I thought you were somebody more important. You’ve gotten what you deserve. I guess you found out it’s dangerous to be a busybody.” (III, iv). Hamlet intended to murder Claudius and get his desired revenge, although realizing he killed the wrong man, he continues to feel no guilt. For Hamlet truly believes Polonius deserved every part of his murder from start to finish, by virtue of being so nosy and going against Hamlet and befriending Claudius. Although, committing the unfortunate murder of Polonius, Hamlet has tragically perpetrated the same offense which he was aiming to punish. Hamlet, a son of a father who has been murdered, has himself murdered a father. It is this, in Shakespeare’s use of soliloquy and dramatic irony which enhances the play Hamlet, and aids in Shakespeare’s development of the thematic topic of revenge.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare uses the literary devices of imagery and external conflict to further reveal his thematic topic of death. Toward the end of Act IV, Interrupting Laertes and Claudius, Gertrude abruptly enters informing the two of the just received bad news. “There is a willow that shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream… Did she come of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples… Fell in the weeping brook… clothes spread wide, mermaid-like a while they bore her up.” (IV, vii). This intense and deep description of Ophelia’s tragic and unexpected moments before her death leaves Laertes angered, quick to blame, and shattered at the thought of his sister. “Till that her garments, heavy with their drink, pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay to muddy death.” (IV, viii). Gertrude tells how Ophelia died, almost beautifully. Surrounding her passing among flowers and nature, and creating a mental image in the audience’s’ mind. It is after this point, where the death tolls begin to occur one after the other. Another example of a device Shakespeare utilizes is external conflict. Specifically, Hamlet vs. Claudius and Hamlet vs. Laertes. Throughout most of the play, Hamlet is seeking to murder Claudius, the man who killed his father, took over the royal throne, and then married his wife. Hamlet even has several opportunities throughout the play to murder Claudius, although he chooses to wait until the perfect moment approaches, to ensure a tragic death. In the midst of all the fighting, during scene V Hamlet gets his final wish.“Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damnèd Dane, drink off this potion… Follow my moth.” (V, ii). It is at this point Hamlet receives exactly what he had been hoping for, to kill Claudius, but at quite a hefty cost. At the end of scene V Hamlet and Laertes are fencing in an attempt for Laertes to gain vengeance for Hamlet mistakenly killing Polonius and believing he also had something to do with the death of his sister, Ophelia. As Laertes pricks Hamlet with his poisoned sword, it is known Hamlet is doomed and will eventually die. Soon the men both drop there swords and in an entanglement they get rearranged, and now are holding each other’s. Hamlet soon cuts Laertes with the poisoned sword. “Like a mouse caught in my own trap, Osric… I’ve been killed by my own evil tricks.” (V, ii). At this moment it is prominent that seeking revenge and existing in an external conflict leads to death not only for Hamlet and Laertes, but for everyone.
The overall theme of Hamlet is Revenge and Death, and they tie into one another more than expected. Shakespeare’s main message is that revenge itself is deadly. The death of Hamlet is ultimately caused by only himself, and his failure being his obsession with revenge. By continuously plotting and dragging on the time of Claudius’ death, Hamlet enforces Claudius’ instinct to protect himself once realizing his plan, and he also mistakenly kills Polonius which ultimately triggers Laertes and leads Hamlet to a path of death. It is Shakespeare’s usage of soliloquy, dramatic irony, imagery, and external conflict which all help intensify his themes. Revenge is deadly, leave it in karma’s hands.