HAMLET AS A REVENGE TRAGEDY: DR. HARESHWAR ROY
Shakespeare is the best dramatist of English literature. Hamlet is his most popular play. It is called a Revenge tragedy. When we go through the whole play, it seems that it is a revenge play. Many critics approve it. Revenge is a powerful, natural and dangerous emotion. To satisfy inner urge, an individual takes the law into his own hands. Some times the revenge appears as the source of political and domestic horror. It is a feeling that never sleeps. It appeals to dramatist because it provides a logical framework for the depiction of human passions. It also appealed to Shakespeare and he used it as a major theme in his Hamlet.
The Revenge Tragedy is especially associated with Seneca, an ancient Roman dramatist. Seneca produced the tragic effect by horrifying incidents, bloody actions. This type of tragedy reached in England during Elizabethan period. Kyd opened a new chapter in the history of The Revenge play. Shakespeare also adopted the dramatic tradition of the Revenge tragedy. His Hamlet follows the major convention of Revenge tragedy. The story, from which its material is drawn, has a dominating revenge theme. The exciting plots of this play fulfil the need of the theme of revenge. In a revenge tragedy, the role of the ghost is very important. The ghost urges the avenger to action. In this context Hamlet has clear affinities with this type of tragedy. Here the ghost of the dead king urges the Prince of Denmark to wreak vengeance upon Claudius. He has ascended to the throne by foul means. His guilt is unknown to anybody. Hamlet stages a play to verify the ghost's story. Thus the central theme of Hamlet becomes the revenge. Ultimately the revenge is taken. But in doing so the avenger has to loose his own life too.
Apart from the central theme, Hamlet has all the important characteristics of the Revenge play. Here we have violent, bloody and terrifying scenes. Those scenes create a feeling of terror in the minds of the audience. The appearance of the ghost is one of them. Hamlet murders Polonius before our eyes. This unexpected murder creates panic. Ophelia becomes mad. She drowns and dies. Laertes leaps into her grave. Hamlet also follows him. All these events make it a revenge play. Murder is one of the important features of a revenge play. In Hamlet we find this important feature. Hamlet kills Polonius. At the end of the play there are several deaths on the stage. Firstly, the queen drinks the cup of poisoned wine and dies. Secondly, Hamlet kills Claudius, the king. Then Laertes and Hamlet also die. They die due to the wounds of poisoned rapier. What a horrifying scene it is!
Thus Hamlet is a revenge play. Here we find all the important characteristics of the revenge play. Here we get horrifying incidents, bloody actions and ranting speeches. Here we have the ghost, madness, incest, violence, fighting, bloodshed and murders too. It is said that Hamlet is basically a revenge play, yet it differs from a revenge play. Many critics approve this comment. In the support of this comment many arguments are given. Goggin argues that Hamlet is not to be regarded as tragedy of revenge, but as the tragedy of human soul. He wants to say that Hamlet is a tragedy of humanity. It is the tragedy of human soul also. Goggin is true because Hamlet holds the mirror of life. In that sense every tragedy is the tragedy of human life. But the basic motive of the play is nothing but revenge. It cannot be denied.
About the author: Dr. Hareshwar Roy, Professor of English at Govt. P.G. College, Satna, Madhy Pradesh, obtained his bachelor and master degrees in English from Patna University Patna, Bihar. He completed his Ph.D. from A.P.S. University Rewa, Madhya Pradesh. His ‘The Diasporic Articulation in the Novels of M.G. Vassanji’ is an incisive book that makes an in-depth study of the novels of M.G. Vassanji who is one of the best known literary members of Indian Diaspora. His research papers (more than 40) have been widely published in reputed literary journals. Currently he is teaching English Literature in Govt. Autonomous P.G. College Satna, Madhya Pradesh. He has attended a number of seminars and conferences. His area of interest is the writing of the writers of Indian diaspora.