How is revenge portrayed in The Tragedy of Hamlet?which characters are more involved in revenge, other than Hamlet and Laertes? Any differences among those other charcters on how they handle revenge?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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  • In Hamlet, the Ghost demands of Hamlet spiritual revenge so that he can go from Purgatory to Heaven.  This is also indirect revenge, or revenge by proxy: using another to obtain revenge.
  • The Ghost's form of revenge is very Old Testament ("eye for an eye"), while Hamlet (raised as Christian to "turn the other cheek") has problems enacting revenge because of fear of going to Hell.
  • The Ghost demands revenge only against the male murderer, not the female incestuous and adulterous wife.  Thus, revenge is a masculine enterprise.
  • Before the play began, King Hamlet took revenge on Old Fortinbras.  As a result, Young Fortinbras wants to take political and personal revenge on King Hamlet.
  • In the Player's first speech, he delivers a story of Pyrrhus' revenge against Priam, who killed his father.
  • Hamlet attempts to take physical revenge on Claudius and emotional/verbal revenge against women (Gertrude and Ophelia) for being unfaithful to men.
  • Hamlet takes artistic revenge by subjecting the court and Claudius to a re-enacting of the murder in his production of The Mousetrap.
  • Hamlet refuses to take revenge when Claudius is at prayer: thus physical and spiritual revenge are connected.  One must kill and send a soul to hell for it to be complete.
  • Claudius attempts to sentence Hamlet to death in England, a form of revenge by exile and execution.
  • Hamlet takes revenge on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern for betraying him.  He has them executed in England.
  • The duel between Hamlet and Laertes, in which Claudius poisons the foil and the wine, are attempts at revenge against Hamlet.
  • Laertes takes personal revenge against Hamlet for killing his father.
  • All forms of revenge backfire: all Danish avengers are killed.  Only Fortinbras remains, and he is left with an empty feeling.

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