I need specific examples and quotes of how Shakespeare's  Hamlet is a play about revenge—from the critical perspective of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Lectures and Notes on Shakspere and Other English Poets, regarding Hamlet (and other of Shakespeare's dramas), Coleridge addresses a variety of aspects of the play, including Hamlet's action and inaction. He speaks of Hamlet in dealing with the Ghost (in the context of that time), his relationship with Ophelia and others, and his desire to take action against his uncle, Claudius. Since the play is about Old Hamlet’s murder, and the Ghost has exacted Hamlet’s promise to avenge his death, clearly the play is a revenge play as Hamlet goes about gathering proof to justify his murder of Claudius.

‘Now could I drink hot blood,

And do such business as the bitter day

Would quake to look on.’

The utmost at which Hamlet arrives, is a disposition, a mood, to do something:- but what to do, is still left undecided, while every word he utters tends to betray his disguise. Yet observe how perfectly equal to any call of the moment is Hamlet, let it only not be for the future.

Coleridge notes Hamlet’s intention to act—his fury, which exposes his plans. He recognizes that Hamlet wants to act now, and not pushing it to to some other time beyond this moment. Hamlet wants revenge.

Coleridge also notes Hamlet’s expression of his intent to kill Claudius while his uncle is alone—ironically while the King is praying…for this would take all sin from Claudius’ shoulders and send him to heaven—while Old Hamlet’s murder sent him to his reckoning in the thick of his sinfulness—with no opportunity for absolution.

‘Now might I do it, pat, now he is praying:

And now I'll do it:- And so he goes to heaven:

And so am I revenged?...

Coleridge's commentary of this section is Hamlet's...

…marks of reluctance and procrastination…Of such importance is it to understand the germ of the character. But the interval taken by Hamlet's speech is truly awful! And then -

‘My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:

Words without thoughts, never to heaven go,’ –

O what a lesson concerning the essential difference between wishing and willing, and the folly of all motive-mongering, while the individual self remains!

The last quote reflects Claudius’ wishes for forgiveness in the midst of his inability to ask for redemption—with another irony, Hamlet refrains from taking the older man’s life because he wishes not to send the King to his “reward” in heaven. “Words without thoughts, never to heaven go” reflects Hamlet’s issues as well…Thinking of something without true intent—without action—is no more helpful to Hamlet in avenging his father’s death than in Claudius’ desire for atonement—there is only the wish in both cases—not the fulfillment of the wish.

For Hamlet, the wish is to kill Claudius. Coleridge recognizes Hamlet’s failure to exact his revenge, which indicates his recognition that the play’s plot is direction completely at that intent. Coleridge is aware of Hamlet's desire for revenge, as well as his inability to carry out his plan. Hamlet does not fear dying, but lacks the resolve he needs...he is, as Lady Macbeth might say, "infirm of purpose" (Macbeth - II.ii.67).

About Hamlet's revenge, Coloeridge also wrote:

...we see a great, an almost enormous, intellectual activity, and a proportionate aversion to real action consequent upon it.

Coleridge takes time to discuss Hamlet's desire to fulfill his purpose—that purpose is the murder of Claudius to avenge his father's murder.

Sources:

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