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Hamlet in Comparison to the Revenge Tragedy Model

  • Date Submitted: 03/08/2012 04:45 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 68.5 
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Robin Eriksson
guseriroa@student.gu.se

Revenge and its role in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

This essay will examine the genre of revenge tragedies and how Shakespeare’s Hamlet follows the model of revenge tragedies written in that era. Revenge plays were very popular during the Jacobean era, the second part of the 16th century, and most of the plays follow a set of common rules. Since Hamlet was written in the Jacobean era (Griswold 55) one might think that the play would follow these set rules. But some argue that Shakespeare reinvented the genre of revenge tragedies and that Hamlet, as a play, challenged some of these traditional rules (Markham a). From here on I will compare how Hamlet, as a revenge tragedy, both follows and differs from the general model. But first I will present the general revenge play model that will work as the structure for this essay.
    The revenge tragedy in the Elizabethan and Jacobean era was strongly influenced by the Senecan model and Hamlet follows the typical elements of this model (Mercer 6). The first thing that takes place in a revenge tragedy is that a villain secretly murders a ruler, without legal justice (Markham b). This is followed by the appearance of the killed ruler’s ghost. The ghost most commonly confronts a relative, usually a son, to seek for revenge (Markham b). Next the hero wants revenge for what has happened (shmoop.com). After this a period of intrigue, disguise, or plotting, starts, in which the evil person and the hero conspire against each other (shmoop.com). This is followed by madness, ether real or fake, and the death count rises (shmoop.com). The play usually ends with a big bloodbath where both the villain and the hero die (shmoop.com).
    As the model suggests Hamlet starts with the murder of a great ruler. In this case it is Hamlet’s father, Old Hamlet, who gets killed. The murderer and villain is Old Hamlet’s own brother, Claudius, whom has taken Old Hamlet’s position as ruler of Denmark after...

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