Revenge is an evident theme in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet.

Hamlet is the main character seeking revenge in the play.

  • o Hamlet is seeking revenge on Claudius because he kills his father, King Hamlet.
    • The ghost of King Hamlet tells Hamlet to get revenge on Claudius for killing him.
      • § “Revenge his foul and most unnatural  … murder most foul, as in the best it is,/ but this most foul, strange and unnatural” (1.5.25-28).
    • Hamlet agrees and says he is eager to do so, and will do it fast.
      • § “Haste me to know’t, that I,/ with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love,/ May sweep to my revenge” (1.5.29-31).
      • o Hamlet is also seeking revenge on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
        • Hamlet seeks revenge on this ‘friends’ because he feels that they betrayed him since they are to behead him, as instructed by the King in the letter they are given. Hamlet finds this letter, and kills them instead. He later tells Horatio about this when he meets him in person.
          • “…To mine own room again, making so bold (My fears forgetting manners) to unseal/ Their grand commission, where I found, Horatio—/ O royal knavery!—an exact command,/ Larded with many several sorts of reasons/ Importing Denmark’s health, and England’s too, /With—ho!—such bugs and goblins in my life/ That, on the supervise (no leisure bated, No, not to stay the grinding of the ax)/ My head should be struck off” (5.2.16-24).

Laertes is seeking revenge on his father’s murderer.

  • o Laertes is seeking revenge on Hamlet because he kills his father, Polonius.
    • Laertes finds out that his father is dead and he promises to seek revenge for his father’s death.
      • § “Let come what comes; /only I’ll be revenged most thoroughly for my father” (4.5.132-133).
    • Laertes says he would prove he is his father’s son by cutting Hamlet’s throat in church.
      • § “To cut his throat i’ the church” (4.7.127).

Claudius seeks revenge on Hamlet.

  • o Claudius sends Hamlet to England when he murders Polonius.
    • Claudius admits in his soliloquy that Hamlet is like a ‘burning fever in his brain’, adding that he needs to be cured quickly. Claudius also adds that he will never be happy unless Hamlet is dead.
      • § “By letters congruing to that effect, /The present death of Hamlet. Do it, England; /For like the hectic in my blood he rages, /And thou must cure me: till I know ’tis done, /Howe’er my haps, my joys were ne’er begun” (4.4.65-68).
  • o Claudius helps Laertes plan Hamlet’s murder.
    • Claudius tells Laertes that Hamlet is coming back from England, and he also says that ‘no murderer shall seek refuge under a church and that revenge has no boundaries.
      • § Hamlet comes back: what would you undertake, / To show yourself your father’s son in deed/ More than in words? … No place, indeed, should murder sanctuarize; / Revenge should have no bounds” (4.7.124-127).

Fortinbras seeking revenge on King Hamlet

  • o Fortinbras is seeking revenge on King Hamlet and Denmark because King Hamlet killed King Fortinbras during battle.
    • Horatio explains that King Fortinbras was killed by King Hamlet, and now Prince Fortinbras is planning to attach Denmark in order to gain the land his father was fighting for and to harm whoever is in his path.
      • § “Now, sir, young Fortinbras,/ Of unimproved mettle hot and full,/ Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there/ Sharked up a list of lawless resolutes,/ For food and diet, to some enterprise/ That hath a stomach in ’t, /which is no other—/ As it doth well appear unto our state—/ But to recover of us, by strong hand/ And terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands/ So by his father lost” (1.1.95-104).

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