by Alyssa Merritt (Circle 1)
Like the other tragedies we have read so far, there is a strong focus on revenge in Hamlet. In Othello, the only person seeking revenge was Iago based on the fact that Othello didn’t make him lieutenant. In Richard III, although they aren’t main characters, Queen Margaret and Lady Anne want revenge on Richard for the death of their husbands. In Julius Caesar, Marc Antony tries to take revenge on those who murdered Caesar. However, in Hamlet there are three main characters who are seeking revenge. First off, Hamlet, Fortinbras, and Laertes all want revenge for the deaths of their fathers. The revenge plot that should be focused on the most is that of Hamlet.
In act 1, the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears and talks Hamlet into taking revenge on Claudius for his death. After the ghost tells Hamlet that Claudius murdered him by poisoning him, Hamlet is eager seek revenge. However, he ends up having a difficult time carrying out the plan. Hamlet is stuck between wanting to take vengeance for his father and an inner struggle to do what is right. In act 2, Hamlet is not sure if this ghost is telling the truth because he could be the devil in disguise, so he devises a plan to make sure Claudius is guilty. Referring to his plan Hamlet states, “The play’s the thing / Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King” (II.ii.627-634). Hamlet plans to watch King Claudius’ reaction to the play, Murder of Gonzago. If he acts uncomfortable during the murder scene then Hamlet knows the ghost is telling the truth. Also in act 2, after watching an actor deliver a speech so convincingly, Hamlet questions why he can’t show more emotion for his father. The actor is able to portray an image so well, without even really knowing the character, yet Hamlet is unable to avenge his father’s death without second guessing himself.
In act 3 Hamlet has the chance to kill Claudius while he is alone in his chamber, but decides not to because he thinks he is praying. In his soliloquy, Hamlet expresses his reasons not to kill him right then, stating that he’d actually be doing him a favor. Instead of sending him to purgatory with his father, he’d be sent to heaven because he is praying. By deciding to postpone killing Claudius, Hamlet causes a lot of trouble for himself and others around him. The first person this affects is Polonius. While talking with his mother Hamlet mistakenly kills Polonius who is hiding behind a curtain. Yet he seems to show no remorse for killing an innocent person, he just drags him away and hides his body. Polonius’ daughter Ophelia is also affected because she becomes so distraught over her father’s death she ends up falling into a brook and drowning. “Till that her garments, heavy with their drink, / Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay / To muddy death.” (IV.v.178-181), this quote depicts Ophelia laying in the water with her dress becoming fully drenched, thus, pulling her into the water, to her death, all while she continued to sing. By describing her death this way it makes it seems as though she wasn’t even aware of what was happening. Ophelia had been so consumed with her song, she didn’t notice or care she was drowning.
With the ending of act 4 it seems as though both Hamlet and Laertes are going to get the revenge they were looking for. Although I have not yet read act 5 I feel certain Hamlet will kill Claudius and Laertes will kill Hamlet.