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Revenge and Justice in "Hamlet"In "Hamlet", what could Shakespeare be saying...

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lizziesed | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 3, 2009 at 8:55 AM via web

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Revenge and Justice in "Hamlet"

In "Hamlet", what could Shakespeare be saying about revenge and justice?


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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 6, 2009 at 9:35 AM (Answer #2)

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Well, consider the price that was paid in order for Hamlet to exact his revenge:  Ophelia shunned, gone mad, then dying; good friends manipulated then murdered; Polonius mocked then murdered; Laertes driven to murder and violence; and a mother reprimanded and killed.

In "Hamlet", the concept of revenge was much more noble and simple then the enacting of it.  If you are to exact revenge, at least be more efficient about it, for pete's sake!  But Hamlet wasn't-Shakespeare didn't write it that way, when he could have.  He could have written a nice, tidy, quick revenge tale, but didn't.  That alone might hint at Shakespeare's underlying message:  revenge is a messy, unfortunate undertaking whose price might not be worth paying.

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ashcat | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted January 6, 2009 at 9:35 AM (Answer #3)

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It seems that Shakespeare is making a commentary on how one's sense of justice can easily become a warped and corrupted ideal when revenge is the motivator.

At the beginning of the play, Hamlet is presented as a normal, albeit bitter, young man. Upon hearing of his uncle's treachery, Hamlet initially seeks out justice for his father's murder, determined to catch Claudius in a confession and expose him. However, Hamlet's original intentions of serving justice become lost, first when he decides to play the 'anitic disposition', then when he sets up the play 'The Mousetrap', arranging the execution of his school friends, and finally when he forces Claudius to drink from the poisoned goblet.

Initially, Hamlet had people around him to serve and protect. These supporting characters offered Hamlet a reason to enact justice as he would be protecting them by ridding the kingdom of a tyrant. However, due to Hamlet's consumption with revenge, all of his loved ones die until he is left with nothing by the play's end. Realizing that his vengeful actions have, in some way or another, caused the deaths of those he loved, Hamlet's death is somewhat suitable, but certainly not satisfying. The reader does not finish the play with a feeling that justice has been served. Instead, we are left with a stark, bloody conclusion to what the seeds of revenge can sow.

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