Specialisation: Hamlet

Navigating Vengeance: The Intricate Threads of Shakespeare’s Hamlet


Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet,” arguably his most important work, is usually interpreted as a strange revenge tragedy. The play’s protagonist spends most of the narrative planning retaliation but needs to figure it out. Polonius, Laertes, Ophelia, Gertrude, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern are among the play’s most important characters who perish due to Hamlet’s inability to get retribution for his father’s death. Hamlet struggles with reluctance and his inability to assassinate Claudius, who killed his father, for the duration of the play. Hamlet murders Claudius, but he passes very soon after because Laertes has already struck him with a poisoned foil, so it is too late for him to feel any satisfaction from the murder. Look more closely at Hamlet’s concern with getting even. Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” portrays vengeance as an act of will rather than a tragedy, even though different characters have different motivations for revenge.

Shakespeare unfolds the theme of revenge through the personal vendettas of Laertes, Fortinbras, and Hamlet. While all three share a common motive — avenging their fathers’ deaths — their approaches diverge significantly. As the play continues, the three sons use a different strategy to quench their need for vengeance. Continue reading as we analyze how Meaning and meaninglessness coexist; our preference for one over the other is based on our characteristics. Meaning and meaninglessness may be discovered, like solutions to other philosophical puzzles. “I dearly wish that meaning would triumph and win the war.” Prince Hamlet receives an appearance from the late King of Denmark. It turns out that the person who appeared to the queen before her tragic death was Claudius, the brother of the King and legitimate heir. Following the guidance of the spirit of his deceased father, Hamlet intends to murder Claudius (Kumar & Gajender 2018).

Hamlet grapples with the apparition’s authenticity, torn between believing it is his father or a deceptive spirit. Despite his father’s instructions to avenge his death, Hamlet deviates from the directive, opting instead to confirm Claudius’s guilt. Resorting to an unconventional approach, he stages a play to elicit a reaction from Claudius, aiming to expose the truth. On the other hand, Laertes swears vengeance when Hamlet unintentionally kills his father. The stakes escalate as Ophelia, Laertes’ sister, succumbs to madness over their father’s death. Fueled by these tragedies, Laertes, with Claudius’s collaboration, devises a sinister plot to poison Hamlet, seeking a lethal outlet for his deep-seated resentment. In contrast, Fortinbras seeks revenge for his father, the former King of Norway, who fell in a failed challenge against King Hamlet. Driven by a political agenda to reclaim territories lost during his father’s demise, Fortinbras meticulously plans an invasion of Denmark, assembling a formidable army (Haque and Farhana 68).

Psychological material abounds in the motivations and mental processes underlying Hamlet’s revenge plot. Even though he is furious about his father’s passing, he questions whether it is right to kill Claudius. He is determined to exact revenge for his father’s passing, but the idea of doing so causes him nightmares. “Be whether a spirit of health or goblin doomed,” Hamlet asks his father’s ghost when he faces it in this uncertain moment. He has to think about the possibility that Satan is using the ghost, even though it might be his biological father. He was having a real internal fight, deciding which direction to take (Urquhart and Alan 71). According to Sigmund Freud’s analysis of the play, Hamlet’s remorse over his father’s passing is the reason behind his hesitation to kill Claudius. Freud uses Hamlet and his mother, Gertrude, in various ways as examples of the Oedipus complex. Hamlet’s close relationship with his mother explains why he hesitates to carry out his plans to kill Claudius. Hamlet feels reluctant to kill him because of the possible harm Claudius’s plans could cause to Hamlet and Gertrude’s relationship. Despite first appearing undecided, he ultimately chooses to move through with the plan toward the play’s conclusion (Rose and Mark 33).

His inexperience and psychological anguish partly fuel Hamlet’s desire to exact revenge on his father. Hamlet’s mental state suffers as a result of his youthful appearance and his pervasive sense of helplessness. Hamlet is so filled with guilt after his father’s death that he contemplates suicide. He cries out in agony, feeling so solid that he wishes it would melt, thaw, and dissolve into dew (Lines 133 and 134 of Scene Two, Act Two). Hamlet’s close friend Horatio confronts him about his intentions to end his life. “What happens, Lord, if you get the want to flood?” On the other hand, Act One, Scene Four, Lines 77–81, describes the dreadful pinnacle of the rock that beetles over his base into the water and assumes any other horrible that would rob you of your right to reason. These two excerpts highlight Hamlet’s pessimistic view of the world and his increasing wish to take his own life (Abdulrazzaq and Mhaibes 32).

Regarding his mother’s engagement to Claudius, Hamlet says, “Like Niobe, all tears—why she, O God, a beast that seeks discourse of reason Would have mourned longer!” She is “married with my uncle, my father’s brother, however no extra like my father than I am to Hercules” (Act 1, Sc. 2, Lines 153-a hundred and fifty-five). This citation demonstrates Hamlet’s distaste for Claudius, who changed into his mother’s husband and King. Hamlet’s robust dating with his mother and distaste for his marriage gasoline his resentment of Claudius and his scheme. Knowing the reality of the homicide handiest reinforced his dedication to performing his plan since he had in no way proven any compassion or recognition for his uncle (Nabi and Asmat 122).

Even Hamlet’s religious convictions played a role in his vindictive actions; he almost killed his uncle Hamlet when he saw Claudius praying. Unlike what Hamlet thought, Claudius’s confession would have allowed him to enter paradise guilt-free. Hamlet believes that his uncle will kill him for committing a transgression once more, sending him to hell. There are religious implications to Hamlet’s wrath. When evaluating Laertes’ fury, it is important to consider his mental state.

Given that Laertes and Hamlet were childhood pals, it is not surprising that they are so similar. Laertes consistently and cognitively held the upper hand. He decided to get retribution because he was no longer loyal to the Danish King. In the end, Hamlet and Laertes yield to their more human natures. They may have used different strategies for retaliation, but they were both mad for justice regarding the deaths of their fathers (Urquhart and Alan 71).

On the other hand, in the big picture, Fortinbras’ retaliation makes strategic sense. After challenging Hamlet’s father to a duel, the father of the former Norwegian King, Fortinbras, lost both his life and a large portion of Norway. Upon reaching adulthood, Prince Fortinbras of Norway declared war on Denmark to exact revenge for his father’s death and reclaim Norway’s territory. Claudius says to Hamlet (Act 1 Sc. 2, Lines 20–23), “A friend with the dream of his benefit, he has not ceased to pester us with a note declaring the surrender of those territories lost by his father, with all bonds of law.” This comment indicates that in contrast to Laertes and Hamlet, Fortinbras’ principal reason for seeking retribution was political. Fortinbras comes out as more formal and rational than Laertes and Hamlet. In order to get Denmark to fulfil his demands, he notified the appropriate authorities and then declared war on them (Ryan & Kiernan 2016).

Three important things delayed Hamlet’s retaliation. To establish Claudius’ guilt, he first puts on a play about the death of Claudius’ father in Act 3, Scene 2. Claudius’s sudden exit from the play confirms Hamlet’s suspicions about his conduct. Unlike Fortinbras and Laertes, who act rashly, Hamlet plots revenge. For instance, in Act 3, Scene 3, Hamlet gets to kill Claudius. He lifts his sword, then holds it back, fearing that Claudius might enter paradise if he dies during prayer. The monarch banishes Hamlet to England to stop him from getting revenge on Claudius, whom he believes is responsible for Polonius’s death. His determination to get revenge only gets stronger while he has gone. At the play’s conclusion, Hamlet kills Claudius, but not because of any plot or scheme on his part; rather, Claudius makes a plan to kill Hamlet that goes awry (Walley and Harold 441).

Hamlet utilizes his father’s two appearances—a source of encouragement and rebuke—to patch things up with his mother. Hamlet is pressured to get revenge on Claudius by his father and himself. In the play, King Hamlet first exhorts Hamlet to become King in order to exact revenge on Claudius for his death. When the ghost of King Hamlet visits Hamlet, he declares that his death was “murder most wicked,” or at best, “the most grotesque, outlandish, and unnatural thing imaginable.” Hamlet has a difficult task because Claudius is not only his mother’s husband but also the King of Denmark. Hamlet is always frustrated with himself because he frequently loses sight of his goal (Boccelli & Bryan 2015).

Those who seek revenge typically commit even more crimes than they did previously. Shakespeare’s Hamlet shows how Hamlet’s hypomania, brought on by his fervent desire for vengeance, leads directly to Hamlet’s demise. As per King Hamlet’s insistence, Hamlet’s fury towards Claudius for killing his mother eventually brings him to ruin. Hamlet’s reckless behavior and emotional issues cause him to develop a mental illness that ultimately brings him to ruin. Like Laertes, Hamlet perishes due to bad decisions and inaction (Act 1 Sc. 2, Lines 20–23).


Laertes, Fortinbras, and Hamlet’s vindictive deeds have many psychological, political, and theological justifications. Hamlet’s irrational psychological motives are seen in his fast decision to kill Claudius and his subsequent reluctance to carry out the murder. These actions demonstrate his desire for revenge. Hamlet, honoring God, decides not to execute Claudius right away after the King admits his mistakes. Although Laertes had a more stable mind than Hamlet, he was ultimately overcome by his human nature. Fortinbras, on the other hand, approaches his retaliation more deliberately and methodically. Although Fortinbras’s motivation was primarily political, the other two were also driven by a desire for revenge for the death of their father.

Works Cited

Abdulrazzaq, Dulfqar Mhaibes. “Revenge theme in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Mahfouz’s The Thief and the Dogs.” Eurasian Journal of English Language and Literature, vol. 2, no.1, 2020, pp. 92-98

Boccelli, Bryan. “Audience Vicarious Desire for Revenge: William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.” Re: Search, The Undergraduate Literary Criticism Journal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign vol. 2, no.1, 2015, pp. 48–57.

Haque, Farhana. “Revenge and Vengeance in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: A Study of Hamlet’s Pursuit and Procrastination Regarding Revenge.” IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science, vol. 21, no. 09, 2016, pp. 55–59.

Kumar, Gajender. “Revenge Motif in the Play Hamlet.” Research Journal of English Language and Literature, vol. 6, no. 1, 2018, pp. 294–295.

Nabi, Asmat. “Hamlet’s to be or not to be.” Journal of Emerging Technologies and Innovative Research, vol. 2, no. 6, 2015, pp. 574–579.

Rose, Mark. “‘Hamlet’ and the Shape of Revenge.” English Literary Renaissance, vol. 1, no. 2, 1971, pp. 132–43.

Ryan, Kiernan. “Hamlet and Revenge.” British Library: Discovering Literature, vol. 15, 2016.

Urquhart, Alan. “Hamlet and revenge tragedy: a reappraisal.” Sydney Studies in English, vol. 22, 1996, pp. 56–84.

Walley, Harold R. “Shakespeare’s Conception of Hamlet.” PMLA, vol. 48, no. 3, 1933, pp. 777– 98. https://doi.org/10.2307/458341