Revenge in Hamlet
Throughout history, revenge has stood out as a primal human instinct that has fueled terrible deeds. Though, it often leads one to perform criminal acts, Howard argues that it is a necessary component in the functioning of society. He points out that revenge is a threat that acts as a disincentive to undeserved violence. Revenge is an emotion that has not only consumed many, it has been simplified that in all fairness one turn deserves another. However, Shakespeare's Hamlet questions the effectiveness of revenge as a deterrent, as it is an emotion that consumes Hamlet, Fortinbras and Laertes and leads to the deaths of all, but one of them.
Claudius did not conceive that Hamlet would at some point want to exert revenge for his father's demise. Interestingly, this fact did not deter him from later murdering King Hamlet and marrying his wife. Hamlet, though determined, is unable to avenge his father's death and it is this delay that drives the plot forward and leads to the deaths of Ophelia, Rosencratz, Polonius, Gertrude, Laertes and Guildenstern. Fortinbras is consumed by revenge and journeys for several days in order to exert his vengeance for his father's murder and he succeeds in triumphing Denmark. As well, Laertes connives to kill Hamlet in order to avenge the death of Polonius, his father. William Shakespeare relies on the reaction of Hamlet, Fortinbras and Laertes to investigate the theme of revenge in Hamlet.
The death of Hamlet's father and his reaction thereafter epitomizes the theme of revenge. Hamlet does not have a desire to exert vengeance on Claudius, and Shakespeare creates a situation that obligates Hamlet to carry out the revenge for his father. His vacillation between self-rage, doubt and self-pity are seen to exacerbate his situation, and reinforces the theme of revenge. Laertes' reaction to the death of his father is premised on grief and illogical anger, and uses revenge to give him closure. Fortinbras' reaction to the death of his father exemplifies the theme of revenge. His only desire is to recover the lost territory when his father died; his revenge is driven by honor and belief that restoration of the territory will give Norway the honor it once has before the war.
Shakespeare depends on the reactions of Hamlet, Fortinbras and Laertes to interrogate the theme of revenge. Their rage has taken different forms and collectively reveals the intricacy and diversity of human feelings in bringing the theme of revenge into life.