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Theme of Revenge in Hamlet

The purpose of this research is to examine the way the theme of revenge is portrayed in Hamlet, with reference to both Shakespeare's original text and the film version of the play produced in 1990 starring Mel Gibson in the title role. The plan of the research will be to set forth the pattern of ideas relative to the theme of revenge in the original text, and then to discuss the means by which the theme emerges in the work, with a view toward showing the manner in which the theme of destiny impinges on the principal action of revenge.

The theme of revenge that dominates Hamlet is set forth when the Ghost appears to Hamlet and tells him of murder most foul, obliging him to "Swear" to undertake the revenge. In the text, the successive apparitions are an aspect of and consistent with the apprehension experienced by the guardsmen of the first scene and, more generally, with the vague feelings of unease accompanying the fact that "something is rotten in the state of Denmark" (I.iv.90). In the film, these feelings are conveyed not by actors' lines but rather by the camera's ominous movement across the scenes of Gertrude's abject grief at the elder Hamlet's funeral and again across the stark scenery of Elsinore in contrast to what turns out to be the celebration of the wedding. Drake refers to the film's Elsinore as "a visually rugged, majestic and uncompromising dominion, aptly more English than Danish, and matched by the toughness of its inhabitants. The climate seems right for murderous plots and counterplots" (Drake 8).

In both versions, however, the scene in which Hamlet follows the Ghost through the castle to hear its story sets up all the problems of the play. Revenge is the paramount concern of the play, and it reaches cosmic dimensions almost from the moment it is mentioned. It is an aspect of Destiny because it impinges on Hamlet's troubled consciousness yet pushes him beyond consciousness to active revenge: "O all you host of...

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Theme of Revenge in Hamlet. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 13:17, May 22, 2024, from