Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What is the role of revenge in Hamlet? How is revenge represented? What is its dramatic function in the play?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One of the best articles for understanding revenge in Hamlet is Rene Girard's "Hamlet's Dull Revenge," which appears in his book A Theater of Envy. This volume also includes a series of insightful essays on A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Girard argues that through Hamlet Shakespeare critiques the notion of revenge. Girard says that Shakespeare was weary of "hackneyed" revenge drama but had to deliver a pile of dead bodies to satisfy his audience. Therefore, he devised a play that both met audience needs and, through the character of Hamlet, questioned the whole idea of killing in revenge.

Hamlet was right to hesitate before rushing out and killing Claudius, Girard argues. It was sensible and ethical of Hamlet to take time, deliberate, and gather evidence before murdering another human being.

Through Hamlet as a brooding prince, Shakespeare shows the conflict between a Christian worldview of faith and the afterlife, along with an emphasis on character qualities, such as mercy, compassion, forgiveness,...

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Dominique Ashworth eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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