Revenge is an emotion that everyone will feel at some point in their life because it is natural. The article Payback Time: Why Revenge Tastes So Sweet, by Benedict Carey, explains why humans feel the need for revenge, and how it brings them happiness and a feeling of completeness. According to Carey in his article, “Using brain-wave technology, Dr. Eddie Harmon-Jones… has found that when people are insulted, they show a burst of activity in the left prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that is also active when people prepare to satisfy hunger and some cravings… The expression itself is all pleasure.” In Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, there are several characters that act based on feelings of revenge and the “hunger” that it can make a man feel. Specifically, Hamlet and Laertes who both became lost in their emotions and made impulsive decisions throughout the play. This may have felt good to them at the moment, but in the long run, it is what destroyed them.
To begin this argument about how the desire for revenge shaped the plot of the play Hamlet the first person to look at is the protagonist himself, Prince Hamlet. After Hamlet has already lost his beloved father and his relationship with his mother, uncle, and just about everyone else in the castle out of disgust he loses the love of his life, Ophelia. After Ophelia refuses to answer Hamlet’s letters and talk to him the Hamlet is clearly upset. Hamlet is tricked into confronting Ophelia and Hamlet says, amongst other things, this, “Get thee to a nunnery, go. Farewell. Or, if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them. To a nunnery, go, and quickly too.”(Page. 55) As you can see, Hamlet is very upset and decides to take his revenge on Ophelia for the heartbreak that she has put him through verbally. He attacks her and her ability to be both a wife and a mother because of the “monsters” that Ophelia makes of the men that she is with. Due to the loss of her love life with Hamlet as well as the loss of her father, Polonius, another incident that was sparked by revenge Ophelia will wind up taking her own life in the very end of the play. Clearly, Hamlet due to his emotion acted irrationally and caused the women that he once loved to kill herself. Similar to what Carey said in his article, revenge is a hunger that can never really be fulfilled and will wind up hurting those around you.
Next, after Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, remarries to Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, Hamlet is obviously upset that his mother is willing to betray his father so quickly after his death. Hamlet decides to take his grief for his father and his anger towards the new marriage out on his mother passive aggressively through subtle comments and insults that will ultimately ruin their relationship for almost the entirety of the play. Comments such as when Hamlet asked his mother how she like the play that Hamlet was putting on in the castle, “Madam, how like you this play?” and Gertrude responds, “The lady protests too much, methinks.”, followed by Hamlet insulting his mother, “O, but she’ll keep her word.”(page. 63) As you can see here Hamlet is intentionally insulting his mom about how she did not keep her word when she vowed commitment to Hamlet’s father for the rest of her life. In the end, Hamlet will have nearly ruined his relationship with his mother until her death at the end of the play all out of spite and grief.