What do you think is the importance of Shakespeare’s presentation of the theme revenge in Hamlet for the audiences then and now?
Well, we can begin by acknowledging that Hamlet is a revenge play. It is also important to consider the audience today and how they felt about revenge. The story is based upon the need to revenge a murder in the family. In a typical revenge plot, there are no authorities to appeal to, either because the original criminal is too powerful (e. g. , has become King) or those in a position to act don’t know about or believe in the criminality of the original villain. Hence, the central character has to act on his own, if any justice is to occur.
However, although it seems like Hamlet follows the traditional revenge plot at first after a short period of time the audience will realise that there is something that differentiates Hamlet from other conventional Elizabethan plays of the same plot and theme. Today’s audience may understand why Hamlet is resulting to revenge but may not consider it to be the right thing to do. The Elizabethan audience who would have first paid to view this play would have been very used to the format of revenge plays; they were exceedingly popular during the 16th and early 17th centuries.
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There were also two views in the time of Shakespeare. One view is the protestant and the other is catholic view. Today’s audience would think that the idea of ghost even existing is absurd, let alone the Ghost actually asking to seek revenge for his death. Also it’s a bit clichi??. At the time I think the reason why Shakespeare chooses to use the ghost to represent the theme revenge it because of the affect is has on the audience. It has totally left them not knowing what to believe The importance of revenge is emphasized by the fact of there being four revengers.
The amount of revenge wanted in the play is astounding. Revenge is wanted on so many people and because of this many people die. The first avenger is the Ghost, who doesn’t just introduce the theme revenge but also wants revenge on Claudius. Hamlet wants revenge on Claudius, but in trying to kill Claudius he accidentally stabs Polonius in one of his own mad rages. The audience at this point are very shocked by Hamlets act; however some may feel that Polonius deserves to die, as he wasn’t meant to be hearing in their conversations. Laertes wants revenge on Hamlet for killing his father.
Although it seems like Hamlet follows the traditional revenge plot at first after a short period of time the audience will realise that there is something that differentiates Hamlet from other conventional Elizabethan plays of the same plot and theme. Overall the importance of Shakespeare’s presentation of the theme revenge in Hamlet for the audience is to confuse the audience on whether the Ghost is good or bad. As a result leaving the audience wanting to watch more of the play, as they want to know all the answers to the questions that are arising in there minds on the Ghost.
At the same time the audience are shocked by the concept of the Ghost being in the play. Ghost introduces this theme for a number of reasons. The main reason is to seek revenge on the new king. “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder”. This show that Hamlet’s father died in a disgraceful way, by getting poisoned. A further factor is how the idea of revenge affects Hamlet and how his reaction to it might affect how Shakespeare’s audience might respond to him. “The time is out of joint. O, cursed spite”. Her Hamlet is saying that time is not on his side. It also makes the audience fell sympathetic towards him, as he has been alienated.
The idea of revenge has a very negative affect on Hamlet and also makes him seem less attractive to his audiences. “Contagion o this world. Now could I drink hot blood. This suggests there is a change in Hamlet from the beginning of the play. This doesn’t gain sympathy from the audience. In fact it shocks the audience and is also very sack-o-religious. When Hamlet’s father appeared as a Ghost and told Hamlet to avenge his death he had no choice but to do just that. The whole play within a play, doesn’t just make the play more interesting but also brings forward the truth, not to everybody but to Hamlet.
I’ll have grounds more relative than this. The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King”. After he found out the Ghost wasn’t lying, and that it really was his dad he set to work. The whole play is basically is about Hamlet wanting to get revenge on Claudius, and to keep the play going along Shakespeare kept on holding off the murder and it only happens right at the end of the play. We the audience, along with Hamlet, are introduced to the concept of revenge in the last scene of Act One, after the presentation of the characters to be victims of Hamlet’s revenge later on.
These characters and their peaceful, although uneasy, atmosphere contrasts with the chaos and havoc formed by this single task set upon the “heart of Denmark”, the Prince Hamlet. In this scene, the angry Ghost of Hamlet’s father, who has been doomed to walk the worldly empire for the rest of perpetuity, provides enlarged thirst for vengeance to “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” into the vulnerable weak shell of his mourning son. Hamlet is compelled to satisfy this plea for his love, loyalty and honour towards his father, idolizing him in earlier scenes as a Greek god “Hyperion”, thus deciding to let “the thoughts of love… weep to my revenge. ” He decides then to dedicate his life to revenge and “wipe away all trivial fond records” in order for “thy commandment all alone shall live”. However he is still reluctant to avenge so at the end of the scene he concludes that “the time is out of joint” due to the disruption of the natural order caused by Claudius’ regicide thus by punishing Claudius, he is cleansing the kingdom of Denmark. He amends the task set by the Ghost to this noble “purging of evil” quest by committing regicide, appointing himself with the role of providence to justify his actions.
This is a common step for avengers to take, as they feel as though they have been wronged and take it upon them to punish justly. He feels alone being the only one that knows Claudius, instead of being punished for his murder, gets a new wife, and becomes King; what he doesn’t realise is that he has unknowingly he has “tainted” his mind and let his “soul contrive” by analysing the situation so much, entangling himself in a gutter of pent-up anger that converts his “secondary” revenge into “primary” or personal vengeance.
From this point on, the theme of revenge consumes the central character and hijacks the play in human form. The fact that a Ghost is the one to introduce the theme of revenge, gives a big shock to the audience of the time. It also confuses them, as they do not know what to think of the Ghost. Is the Ghost good or is he evil? This question arises in their minds. Again as stated early there are split views in Shakespeare’s time. This doesn’t just create drama but also builds the tension right from the start of the play. This always separates Hamlet from other typical Elizabethan plays at that time.
Here there is an ambivalent effect of Hamlet on the audience, as it doesn’t just shock and horror them but also make the audience fell sympathetic towards him. The next factor is how the idea of revenge affects Hamlet. After Hamlets encounter with the Ghost, Hamlet had been totally shattered and doesn’t know what to do. It was like being hit by a bombshell. In Act 1 Scene 5, just after the Ghost had told Hamlet the truth, Hamlet decides, “To put an antic disposition on”. This shows Hamlet has found away of behaving mad and yet make nobody suspicious of him.
This is quite ironic as Hamlet becomes mad for some time because all he can think about is revenge. He also uses the play within the play to bring out the King’s guilty conscience. This plan actual comes successful. Hamlet was on the verge of madness and kept on slipping in and out of episodes where he could not contain himself. “Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive against thy mother aught”. Here the audiences feel sympathetic towards Hamlet as he ahs been put in an impossible position. In the most of them play we see Hamlet as an avenger. “Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven, as hell, whereto it goes.
My mother stays”. This shows that Hamlet has become corrupt as an avenger. As Hamlet was looking for revenge on Claudius for the murder of his father, he turned completely mad with rage sometimes; especially when he had chance after chance to avenge his father’s death. When he hears someone spying on him and his mother’s conversation, he loses control and thought it was the king. In this crazy scene Hamlet pulls out his sword and kills whoever is behind the curtains without seeing who it was. I feel that Hamlet has no regret for what he has done, as he keeps calling Polonius a “wretched, rash, intruding fool” when he realizes who it is.
He even turns it into a means to try getting into his mums mind and seeing if she was in on the murder. The final factor of the comparison between Hamlet and Laertes as avengers even though both of them have had their fathers murdered, their reaction to this is different compared to each other. Here Shakespeare brings out the differences and complexity of Hamlet’s character by juxtaposing it with Laertes. Laertes who has his father murdered by Hamlet the prince acts on emotion, and plots a revenge for killing Hamlet with Claudius.
Laertes’ revenge also fits his character, judging by his father and sister, their family would seem “silly” and emotional, and no reason involved in judging things at all, and therefore needs no other push than hearing about Hamlet killing his father that makes him goes for it. Hamlet though, seems too reasonable, almost passionless. Personally I would consider him as the opposite from Laertes. He seems to have more passion towards his mother’s new marriage than the death of his father, and as the Ghost brings up the revenge for his death, Hamlet does not decide to kill Claudius, he decides to stall.
This also seems kind of odd, if he would really love his father, he would want to revenge his murder, if he wanted to revenge his murder, he would do it, even knowingly that the punishment for killing the King is also death, this is very odd especially after hearing him talk about suicide and how he didn’t necessarily care if he died. The theme revenge is being developed throughout the play, Hamlet’s desire for revenge, Laertes desire for revenge.
These 2 characters lost their father and wanted to seek revenge, but these 2 characters have very different personality, Laertes is brave and tends to act before he thinks. Hamlet however is in the middle; he has the personality of Laertes but also is witty, he seldom acts before thinking. Hamlet’s wit could be seen throughout the play, from setting up the mousetrap to escaping Claudius’ evil ploys. His foolishness can be seen when he stabs Polonius and his strength when he won Laertes in the fencing match. All these 3 characters have their mind set to revenge for their late father.