Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hamlet, and Revenge

Many a high school essay has been written on the subject of revenge in Hamlet.   The boy spends the entire play waffling on the subject, and even at the end of the play it's questionable whether he avenged his dad at all.

Has much been written on Hamlet's revenge of his mother's death?  She's poisoned, and he springs into action instantly, going so far as to kill the king right in front of everybody.

What's that say about his relationship to his parents?  He is the good son.  He does the right thing, as far as the revenge thing goes.  He's just motivated to do it for his mom, but not his dad. 

I"m just saying.


Anonymous said...

I disagree. He is motivated to avenge both of their deaths equally. The difference is that the public does not know for sure that Claudius killed Hamlet Senior, and Hamlet's "proof" was given to him by a ghost. He had to be much more careful of how he went about killing the present king, considering the incredibly odd explanation he would have been able to give to people who already thought he was a little mental. His mother's murder, on the other hand, was quite public. There was not really any question of whether or not the king did it, especially with Laertes there to explain the whole thing. Also, Hamlet's mother was murdered by the same guy that killed his father, so he was, in essence, killing two birds with one stone (no pun intended), and I doubt anyone was going to question him. And, of course, once you get a bloodbath rolling, what's the point of stopping short of killing eveyone you want. He knew he was on his way out anyway. There's nothing to lose.

Duane said...

He had an entire play to avenge his father, and did nothing. He even sent up the elaborate Mousetrap to catch the conscience of the king, it was a success, and yet still, he did nothing. He had his blade drawn ready to do him in, and chose to let him live, rather than send him to heaven.

Yet all it takes is saying, quote, "The king's to blame" for Hamlet to say, "Oh, well then, cool, now I'll kill him?" If there was ever a concern of "I have no proof before I go and kill the king", then I'm not sure Laertes accusation would be enough to stand up in court.

Let me ask it another way. If Hamlet's mother had not died, how would the final scene have gone? Would Hamlet have learned of his own poisoning, and would that have been enough to spur him on to kill the king? I don't think so. I think it was his mother's death that finally gave him the motivation to act rather than think. Something made him snap and say "No thinking anymore. Time for action." Perhaps you're right, perhaps it was the piling on of several things (not only did Claudius kill your dad, but he poisoned your mom and guess what, you're next), but I still think that Mom was what started it all. Who knows, if he had not run to his mother's side then perhaps Laertes would have died with his secret and Claudius' crimes would have gone unpunished.

Anonymous said...

The play itself explains Hamlet's delay. In act 3 scene 3 where Hamlet is debating whether or not to kill Claudius whilst he is 'praying' he decides that his revenge won't be complete without a public confession. the fact that he knows his uncle is guilty isn't enough for him - he wants the whole court to know of his uncle's treason. And so it takes him so long to gain his vengeance simply because he is waiting for the perfect moment (perfectionists...)

Duane said...

I don't think that gets to the real point, though. By the time the duel with Laertes comes up, there's no reason to believe that Hamlet is ever planning to avenge his father's death. If there was some clue in his acceptance where he turns to Horatio and says "Once I'm back in the same room as Claudius I can have my revenge", I might agree with you. I find it more than coincidence that Hamlet only finally acted after his mom died.
Laertes and Fortinbras both acted immediately when their own fathers died.

Anonymous said...

Horatio: Why, what a king is this!

Hamlet: Does it not, think thee, stand me now upon--/
He that hath kill'd my king, and whor'd my mother;/Popp'd in between th' election and my hopes;/Thrown out his angle for my proper life, /And with such coz'nage- is't not perfect conscience/To quit him with this arm? And is't not to be damn'd /To let this canker of our nature come/
In further evil?

Horatio: It must be shortly known to him from England /What is the issue of the business there.

Hamlet. It will be short; ***the interim is mine***,/***And a man's life is no more than to say 'one.'***