The theme of revenge is evidently displayed in the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare.
The play depicts the story of Hamlet, a deceased king whose ghost is found by watchmen and brought to his son prince Hamlet. The ghost speaks to the prince and reveals how king Hamlet was killed by his brother Claudius who has taken over the throne and married the former king’s wife Gertrude who is also the mother to prince Hamlet. The ghost orders Hamlet to exercise revenge on his uncle who executed the beastly act on his brother in a bid to take over power and marry his wife. The prince displays a change in behavior and personality upon hearing this shocking revelation and this has Claudius and Gertrude worried, considering that he vows to avenge the demise of his father. The play brings to life a broad spectrum of themes including revenge, mortality, appearance &reality, corruption, madness, and death. It also employs the use of various literary techniques and elements that the writer has exhibited which include imagery, allusion, comic relief, foreshadowing, suspense, and irony.
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Obsession creeps into Hamlet following the revelation of how his father came to meet his death in the hands of his own brother. The king’s ghost is stumbled upon on a dark night in the outskirts of the castle when Bernard, an officer is headed to relieve a fellow watchman called Francisco of duty for the night. The ghost of the dead king makes an appearance to the men who are skeptical on seeing the immense resemblance visible to the demised king. The specter is dressed in armor that king Hamlet once wore when Denmark waged war against Norway and apart from that, it was enormously identical to the former leader. Horatio is quick to dismiss the notion and possibility of the ghost appearing as he turns to his fellow guards and says “twill does not appear” (Hamlet I.i.29). Despite seeing the ghost, Horatio is quick to dismiss it and says he does not believe in the remotest of possibilities of a ghost appearing (Hamlet I. i.144-146).
Hamlet does consider death in relation to many possible angles. Following the murder of his father, he is driven by the idea to revenge and as the play develops he reflects on the spiritual side of death as has been catapulted by the revelation of the ghost, the physical evidence of death left behind in the form of decaying matter buried in the cemetery. Death is viewed as the protagonist of two major issues, which are the cause of revenge and the resulting aftermath that is left behind by it. As a result of Claudius murdering the king, the prince’s quest for revenge can only be put to rest upon the demise of Claudius. Upon appearing to Hamlet, the spirit claims to be that of his deceased father and asks him to carry out revenge for his death one which it terms as “foul and most unwarranted murder” (Hamlet I.v.25).
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Gertrude sermons Hamlet to her chambers where she is waiting in the company of Polonius as she wants to confront the son for displaying vicious behavior. Hamlet storms in and demands to know why the mother has summoned him to appear before her. Gertrude seeks to know why Hamlet has offended Claudius but he quickly dismisses her claims by citing that it is her who has offended the demised king by marrying the man responsible for his murder. Gertrude is shocked by Hamlet’s show of aggression and crying out upon which time Polonius calls for help from behind the arras. Hamlet learns that there is someone in the chambers and in a quick action he stabs through the arras using his sword with the belief that it might be king Claudius hiding there. Gertrude confronts Hamlet for his actions but Hamlet replies that “Nay, I know not: is it the king” (Hamlet III.iv.24).
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Hamlet upon lifting the arras is disappointed to find out that indeed it is Polonius that he has killed and not the king and as a result of this, his quest for revenge continues. He calls the corpse of the deceased Polonius an ‘intruding fool” (Hamlet III.iv.30). The theme is also brought out in a plot by Claudius and Laertes to deal with the looming threat that is being brought forth by Hamlet. Gertrude reports the incidence that took place between her and Hamlet to the king and informs him that the prince has murdered Polonius in her chambers. This makes the king realize that had he been the one who was behind the arras at the time the incident occurred, then he would have been lying down in a pool of blood dead. He immediately expresses his intentions of having Hamlet deported to England after such a cruel act on one of his trusted servant.
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Shakespeare uses symbolism as a literature technique in the play. The Yorick’s skull that Hamlet found in the King’s graveyard is a symbol of the inevitable and foreseeable future that is death. He is drawn to his quest and urges to carry out revenge for his father’s death by the fascination and consequences that are derived from death (Hamlet V.i.174-175). Comic relief is used in the play as well. It is exhibited clearly when Horatio learns of the ghost’s existence but dismisses it in a rather dramatic fashion (Hamlet I.i.144). The appearance of the dead king’s ghost fuels Hamlet’s decision to seek justice and revenge for the killing of his father.
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In conclusion, William Shakespeare in the play Hamlet gives a detailed use of literature techniques used in bringing out various themes. The play shows how passion for revenge can fuel hate and lead to someone carrying out actions that are unsound as clearly visible when Hamlet is blinded by his drive and ends up killing Polonius in dramatic fashion.
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