Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Hamlet book cover
Start Your Free Trial

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

Expert Answers info

Colin Cavendish-Jones, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Professor, Lawyer

bookM.A. from Oxford University

bookPh.D. from St. Andrews University


calendarEducator since 2019

write2,273 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Francis Bacon, Shakespeare's contemporary, wrote that revenge is a kind of wild justice. This was not an expression of approbation, since Bacon, a lawyer who rose to be Lord Chancellor, goes on to say that justice should be left in the hands of the law, rather than being the subject of private vendettas.

What is one to do, however, when dealing with those whose power places them above the law, as that of Claudius clearly does? There is not a single line in Hamlet which might be interpreted as meaning that Claudius could be held to account under the law for his murder. Indeed, Claudius states it as a general rule that those who profit from their crimes tend not to be called to account for them:

In the corrupted currents of this world
Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice,
And oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law:

In Hamlet , therefore, revenge is not merely a kind of wild justice. It is the only kind of justice available in this world. Claudius worries about his immortal...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 766 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now



check Approved by eNotes Editorial

mrs-campbell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write2,159 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Arts

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

ashcat eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write19 answers

starTop subjects are Literature and History



























check Approved by eNotes Editorial


zumba96 | Student

For revenge, it could allude to how revenge can distort someones mind and result in them becoming crazy themselves. For example, Hamlet's inner guilt was tormenting him that he did nothing for his father and felt sad that his inaction is the cause of him being useless. Hamlet tries many different approaches to find the killer of his father and even then he takes a long time to act upon it, he acts crazy and pushes others away from him. His inner turmoil leads to the deterioration of his mind. The same goes for justice, he goes such intense lengths to find out who is the killer and then takes forever to act upon justice, and when he finally does it is the end of the play. A theme could be how inaction to either or these, or over analyzing this leads to the deterioration of the mind.