How does the concept of death as both cause and consequence apply to Hamlet and Laertes' quests for vengeance?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It could almost always be argued that someone is blinded by revenge when they endeavor to kill someone, even under the circumstances of (arguably) just cause. In Hamlet's case, he wants to kill Claudius because his father's ghost alleges that Claudius poisoned him. Hamlet's staged play depicting these events confirms this suspicion. Now, even if it is acknowledged that Hamlet is indeed justified in his attempt at avenging his father's death, perhaps the best argument for the fact he might be blinded by revenge is when, given the opportunity, he doesn't in fact kill Claudius, for fear that he will not go to hell. Hamlet states:

Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;And now I'll do't. And so he goes to heaven;
And so am I revenged. That would be scann'd:
A villain kills my father; and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven. (3.3.1)

It can be said here that Hamlet is obsessed with revenge rather than justified, because he wants Claudius not only to die, but to suffer in hell (rather than heaven).

This of course leads to Hamlet's accidental murder of Polonius, which infuriates Laertes. Laertes is hell-bent on revenge, as evidenced in his following speech:

To hell, allegiance! Vows, to the blackest devil!
Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit!
I dare damnation. To this point I stand,
That both the worlds I give to negligence,
Let come what comes, only I'll be revenged
Most thoroughly for my father.
(4.5.148-154)

While both are probably justified for their revenge (as losing one's parent to an untimely death is as worse a fate as one can imagine), both are obsessed with revenge in their own way. Hamlet needs Claudius' death to be perfectly times, and Laertes is himself very hot-tempered and resolves to kill Hamlet as quickly as possible.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial