Up to date, Hamlet remains a mystery to many people. In the play, Shakespeare has connected many themes to bring out the final story, which has remained a source of great interest for scholars. Although there are many themes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, revenge plays a significant role. In the play, there are several characters who are determined to revenge the wrongs that they feel have been committed against them. However, each character goes about their revenge mission in his or her own way. In the play, some characters rely on the advice of their friends to determine the best way of revenge while others go about it on their own. On another level, some characters exert their revenge instantly while others defer their revenge to a time that they deem appropriate. Despite these variations in the method of execution, revenge still becomes one of the most dominant themes in the play.

(Shakespeare Navigators) From the time the play opens, both Hamlet and Laertes seek retribution on each other for their father’s deaths. On one hand, Hamlet places the blame on Laertes for being the king’s accomplice in opposing his father to become the next king. On the other hand, Laertes has proof that Hamlet killed his father without intending to do so but out of anger. Additionally, Laertes holds Hamlet responsible for treating her sister in a bad manner thus leading her to commit suicide.

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The drama and action that surround both Hamlet and Laertes only serves to increase the level of resentment against each other. Even though this resentment is based on different things, the result is the two exerting revenge on each other. All throughout the play, Laertes intentions to carry out revenge against Hamlet is evident in his speech.

Soon after learning of the death of his father, Laertes claims that “Conscience and grace to the profoundest pit! I dare damnation. To this point I stand, that both the words I give to negligence, let come what comes; only I’ll be revenged most thoroughly for my father.”(Shakespeare 75) Laertes utters these words just a few moments after the king and queen notify him of his father’s death. At this point, all that Laertes expresses is surprise for the madness that leads to the death of his father. At this point, the audience is able to see just how much Laertes is angered by this act. Actually, Laertes is not only angry but also determined to exert revenge against whoever was responsible for the death and this is clear to the audience. (Shakespeare 76) Later on, Hamlet defends himself before Laertes by claiming that he was not responsible for the murder of his father but instead blames the madness inside him for the act.

The most difficult part in this scene is that Hamlet and Laertes are best friends and no one wants to show distaste for the other. However, both men are consumed by a deep sated hatred for each other that they do not want to expose. When Hamlet tries to apologize, Laertes tells him “I am satisfied in nature, whose motive in this cause should stir me most to my revenge. But in my terms of honor I stand aloof, and will no reconcilement Till by some mastels of know honor I have a voice and precedent of peace. To keep my name ungored.”(Shakespeare 97) In this passage, Laertes is trying to pretend that he is not angered by his fathers murder but he is instead looking for an opportunity to carry out revenge but still keep his reputation untarnished. Apart from the death of his father, Laertes is also angered by the relationship that Hamlet has with Ophelia.

This fact can be seen after Ophelia’s stage performance where she talks of a dead lover. After she leaves the room, Laertes tells the king “And I so have I a noble father lost, A sister into desp’rate terms, Whose worth, if praises may go back again, Stood challenger on mount of all the age For her perfection, but my revenge will come.” (Shakespeare 79) In this passage, Laertes is speaking of how he feels of his departed father and insane sister. According to critics, Laertes character is considered shallow and immature since he seems to think the worst of any situation. This can best be demonstrated when he tells Ophelia not to trust the love that Hamlet has for her and in the rhetorical manner in which he exaggerates his sisters insanity. All this is done in a bid to paint Hamlet in bad light and to make the people lose faith in him. This is one way for Laertes of seeking revenge. (Rozakis 182) Apart from the “mental revenge,” Laertes gets to a point where he decides to carry out physical revenge on Hamlet.

With the assistance of the king, Laertes challenges Hamlet into a fencing duel with the intention of killing him. The king provides Laertes with a sharp sword that has been dipped in poison to ensure that any small cut kills Hamlet. This is what happens and Laertes succeeds in killing Hamlet thus exerting his revenge.

Just like Laertes, Hamlet is also on a revenge mission for his father whose death was plotted by the king. The king knows this and that is why he tries to come up with ideas to ensure that Hamlet does not get to carry out his revenge. Now on his deathbed, we are left with the impression that Hamlet will not get a chance to avenge his father but this is not the case. Just before he dies, Hamlet forces the king to drink a poisoned drink, which was actually meant for Hamlet in the event that the sword failed to kill him. Hamlet does this to also avenge his mother who mistakenly took the king’s poisoned drink. At the end, both Laertes and Hamlet are able to revenge on each other and against other people whom they had grudges.

Revenge therefore becomes a dominant theme in the play. (Shakespeare Navigators)


The theme of revenge forms a centre stage in Hamlet. In fact, the progression of the play is based on people trying to look out for the best possible means to carry out revenge. From the start of the play, Hamlet has a hunch about the king’s role in the death of his late father. He then embarks on a mission to look for evidence in order to avenge his father. In the process, he kills Laertes father who in turn begins looking for an opportunity to carry out revenge on Hamlet.

On top of this, Laertes wants to revenge the insanity and subsequent death of his sister, which he blames on Hamlet. At the end of the play, both Laertes and Hamlet get their revenge but they lose their lives in the process.

Works Cited

Rozakis, Laurie. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Shakespeare. Penguin, 1999.

181-192. Print. Shakespeare, William.

Hamlet. Classic Books Company, 2001. 1-120. Print. Shakespeare Navigators.

Revenge, n.d. Web. Nov 13, 2010.


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