Revenge has caused the downfall of many a person. Its consuming nature causes one to act recklessly through anger rather than reason. Revenge is an emotion easily rationalised; one turn deserves another. However, this is a very dangerous theory to live by. Throughout Hamlet, revenge is a dominant theme. Fortinbras, Laertes, and Hamlet all seek to avenge the deaths of their fathers. But in so doing, all three rely more on emotion than thought, and take a very big gamble, a gamble which eventually leads to the downfall and death of all but one of them.
King Fortinbras was slain by King Hamlet in a sword battle. This entitled King Hamlet to the land that was possessed by Fortinbras because it was written in a seal’d compact. “…our valiant Hamlet-for so this side of our known world esteem’d him-did slay this Fortinbras.” Young Fortinbras was enraged by his father’s murder and sought revenge against Denmark.
He wanted to reclaim the land that had been lost to Denmark when his father was killed. “…Now sir, young Fortinbras…as it doth well appear unto our state-but to recover of us, by strong hand and terms compulsative, those foresaid lands so by his father lost…” Claudius becomes aware of Fortinbras’ plans, and in an evasive move, sends a message to the new King of Norway, Fortinbras’ uncle. The king forbade Fortinbras to wage an attack against Denmark, and instead suggested he attack the Poles to vent his anger.
Fortinbras agreed to the plan, but had no intentions of following it. Polonius was King Hamlet’s advisor and the father of Ophelia and Laertes, both of whom respected and loved him, despite his arrogant demeanour. Young Hamlet murdered Polonius accidentally, thinking him to be the king eves dropping on a conversation between Hamlet and his mother. “How now! A rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!” Laertes returned home immediately after hearing of his father’s death and confronted the King, accusing him of the murder of his father. Once Claudius told Laertes that Hamlet was responsible for his father’s death, he and Claudius concoct a scheme to kill Hamlet using a poison tipped sword. “…Hamlet, thou art slain…The treacherous instrument is in thy, unbated and envenom’d…” Hamlet does indeed die as a result of wounds inflicted by Laertes, but it is the poisoned tipped sword that causes the demise of Laertes as well.
King Hamlet ruled Denmark and was the father of Hamlet. He had been slain by Claudius, his brother, who had since laid claim to the throne. While Hamlet mourned, he encountered the ghost of his father, who made him aware that his death had in fact been murder, and the guilt laid squarely on the shoulders of Denmark’s new King. “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown.” Astonished, Hamlet swore vengeance for his father’s death. His efforts to prove his uncle’s guilt are hindered by his indecisiveness until he finally kills Claudius, while he himself is dying of poisoned wounds caused him by Laertes in their duel. “The point envenomed too! Then venom, to thy work…Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane, drink off this potion,-is thy union here? Follow my mother.
” This left the Claudius dead, and King Hamlet’s death avenged, but at a grave cost to Hamlet. It is the lack of thought used in exacting their revenge which led to the deaths of both Laertes and Hamlet. The plan Laertes devised with Claudius to kill Hamlet with the poisoned tipped sword would have been successful, had they thought that the sword might be used against them, and panned accordingly. Laertes himself is at fault for his death for believing Claudius’ accusations that Hamlet had murdered his father. If not for his own blind rage, Laertes may have listened to Hamlet’s explanation and apology for the murder of Polonius and could have avioded his early demise. “I am satisfied in nature…to my revenge…I stand aloof…and will no reconcilement…But till that time, I do receive your offer’d love like love, and will not wrong it.
” Instead he chose to fight Hamlet. He and wounds him fatally with the poisoned tipped sword, however, their swords become switched, and Hamlet inflicts the same wounds on with as those that had been inflicted on him. It is by these wounds that Laertes dies. Hamlet’s opportunities to kill his uncle were plentiful. However, his rage over-rided his intelligence and he waited; hoping to catch Claudius at a time he was committing an act of sin to strike him down, forcing him to spend eternity in a world of eternal damnation. “Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;…A villain kills my father; and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven.
” Unfortunately for Hamlet, the only sin Claudius commits is the poisoning of his own nephew. Young Fortinbras was the only character in the play who exacted his revenge without dying. He regains his fathers land, without use of violence, simply because Hamlet, Laertes and Claudius had all killed each other. His patience saved his life; Hamlet and Laertes’ haste had caused their deaths. Hamlet named him new ruler of Denmark before he dies, making him the new King of Denmark. A fitting end to Fortinbras’ intelligent, thought out plan to exact revenge for his father’s death. Revenge can be an invaluable tool to amass success and wealth, or it can be a fatal flaw that guarantees immanent death.
It is a dangerous emotion, which can easily consume, however it can be used to great satisfaction. Perhaps it is these qualities that lead us to allow ourselves to act on its impulses. The lessons learned by both Hamlet and Laertes are something that should be remembered.
Revenge is not to be taken lightly. When acted on this is one emotion that can definitely come back to haunt you.Bibliography: