Shakespeare explores the complex nature of revenge in the tragedy, Hamlet. Discuss with reference to the differences between the three sons whose duty it is to avenge their fathers’ untimely deaths....

Shakespeare explores the complex nature of revenge in the tragedy, Hamlet.

Discuss with reference to the differences between the three sons whose duty it is to avenge their fathers’ untimely deaths.  (Hamlet, Laertes, Fortinbras)

This is an essay question that I have for English, but I'm not sure how to approach it.  That and I don't really understand the question too clearly.

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I would agree with the other answer that characterizes the three sons seeking revenge as, somewhat as in the children's story of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," too brash (hard) in the case of Laertes, too thoughtful (soft) in the case of Hamlet, and "just right" in the case of Fortinbras. As in Macbeth, after a period of corruption and turmoil brought on by regicide, in Hamlet, the rightful leader in the form of Fortinbras gains the throne, leaving the audience reassured that despite the pile of dead bodies on the stage, the world is a safe place in which order triumphs over chaos.

Hamlet is famous for problematizing and interiorizing the revenge play, which was normally an audience-pleasing, fast paced, violent, and bloody genre similar to an action film today. Typically, as in today's actions films, the good guys fought the bad guys. The bad guys violated moral norms, and the good guys sought revenge. Nobody thought much about the nature of revenge itself, as they typically don't in today's action movies. It would be odd, for example, to imagine a Jason Bourne or Rambo-like character stopping in the middle of the movie action to articulate a long contemplation on the nature of revenge, whether or not he is doing the right thing, and its implications for the afterlife while contemplating suicide.

Shakespeare, being Shakespeare, does, however, dwell on the nature of revenge, and uses Hamlet as his mouthpiece to explore its nuances and raise questions about its value. Hamlet really...

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