Shakespeare first uses the theme of revenge to create a constant conflict between Claudius and Hamlet. In the beginning of the story Hamlet is visited by a ghost, presumably his deceased father. The ghost of Hamlet’s father says to Hamlet regarding Claudius, “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (Shakespeare, I, V, 25). This moment was the first time Hamlet is introduced to the revenge plot between himself and Claudius. But in order to make sure that the ghost was really telling the truth Hamlet wants to make the king admit to the murder. To do this Hamlet calls up the players and has them perform the murder of Hamlet’s father by Claudius. Shakespeare wanted this play to be exaggerated version of what really happened so that the play would inspire a stronger reaction in Claudius (Bell 311). Although Claudius never verbally admits to the crime, Hamlet says that just by his reaction to the play Hamlet knows Claudius is guilty, ” O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound” (Shakespeare III, II, 281-282). After confirming his uncle’s guilt with Horatio, Hamlet now knows that he must resume his plot for revenge. Hamlets burning desire to revenge his father is the primary driving force behind the play.
Hamlet’s revenge is not the only force that pushes the play along, Laertes action against Hamlet also propels the story to completion. Without the secondary revenge plot the main plot would not be completed (Bell 312). Laertes takes on the role as the effective revenger as he actually acts on his revenge. Upon the learning of his fathers death, Laertes hurries back to Elsinore and demands the king tell him what happened. Claudius explains that it was Hamlets fault and offers up a plan. Laertes goes wild and swears he will have his revenge; ” Only I’ll be revenged. Most thoroughly for my father” (Shakespeare, IV, V, 133-134). He eagerly agrees to Claudius’ plan to murder Hamlet. The two of them plan to stage a fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes, except Laertes will be weilding a sword with a poisoned tip. Along with this Claudius has a back up plan just in case the sword fails. He will poison a cup of wine and give it to Hamlet after the match. Although this plan succeeds, it costs each of them their lives, which plays along with the main theme of revenge.
Hamlet and Laertes are at two opposites when it comes to revenge,however, Prince Fortinbras is in the middle. When Hamlet Sr. kills King Fortinbras, Prince Fortinbras thinks logically. Instead of the extreme haste of Laertes or the constant procrastination by Hamlet, Prince Fortinbras reacts accordingly. He calmly forms a plan to avenge his father’s death and take back the lands that Hamlet Sr. claims. Fortinbras brings up and army and marches to Denmark. Fortinbras tells Claudius that he is only marching through Denmark and has no intentions to attack when in reality he has come to reclaim his land. Upon his arrival the carnage at Elsinore
has just occured. It is not surprising that Fortinbras is the only one of the three brothers to survive in Hamlet. Shakespeare uses the character of Fortinbras to explain how dissecting a situation and thinking about it rationally will come up with a better result.
All three sons were put in similar positions, and they all had chances to achieve the ideal end result. Hamlet, who acted slowly, and with too much contemplation ended up dying. Laertes, who acted quickly, and with too much uncontrolled anger, also ends up dying. The lone survivor, Fortinbras, is the middle ground between the two. Fortinbras makes decisive action but still allows time to contemplate. Shakespeare ingeniously weaves hints about the human condition into his plays. In Hamlet he highlights the aspect of human nature that gives humans the impulse to exact revenge on their rivals.
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