Revenge in Hamlet


Hamlet's incaction

Hamlet's personality as a cause of incaction

  • The Sentimental theory: Hamlet is 'without the strength of nerve which goes to constitute a hero...he twists and turns, and tortures himself...and does lose sight of his purpose' - Goethe. 
  • Weakness of will theory: 'In Hamet...we see a great, an almost enormous intellectual activity, and a proportionate aversion to real action consequent upon it." - Coleridge. There is no balance of comemplation & action, intellectual activity takes over.
  • Hamlet 'loses himself in labryinths of thought' - Coleridge. 
  • The conscience theory: ' restrained by conscience from putting the King to death without a trial and without justice' - Ulrichi.
  • 'The trouble with the hero is that he does not believe in his play as much as the critics do...There would be no Hamlet "problem" if the hero really believed what he says. - Girard. 
  • Hamlet: 'O cursed spite, that I was ever born to set it right!'
  • Hamlet: 'Conscience does make cowards of us all ..The native hue of resolution, is sickled o'er with the pale cast of thought.'

Hamlet identifying with Claudius 

  • 'Hamlet assumes, therefore that his mother like himself, percieves no difference between her two husbands.' - Girard.
  • 'Claudius resembles Hamlet in his inability to take a prompt and healthy revenge on his enemies' - Girard. 
  • 'In reality his uncle incorporates the deepest and most buried part of his own personality, so that he cannot kill him without also killing himself.' - Jones.
  • Hamlet - Gertrude: 'But it reserved some quantity of choice, to serve in such a difference'. 

Hamlet's morality as a cause of inaction

  • 'All duties to him are holy...this one too hard...That which is impossible is required of him'. - Goethe.
  • 'Hamlet is charged with the double task of executing judgment and showing mercy' - Masefield. 
  • 'The task set by the dead is a simple one...To the delicate and complex mind so much life is bound up with every act that any violent act involves not only a large personal sacrifice of ideal, but a tearing-up by the roots of half the order of the world'  - Masefield.
  • 'It is a defilement of personal ideals, difficult for a wise mind to justify'  - Masefield. 
  • 'The knowledge that the sword will not reach the real man, since damnation comes from within, not from without' - Masefield.
  • 'The ways of his uncle are precisely those that the prince is most reluctant to follow' - Elliot.
  • 'Revenge exists on the margin between justice and crime' - C. Belsey.
  • 'Revenge is not justice. It is rather an act of injustice on behalf of justice' - Belsey 
  • "Hamlet is unable to carry out the sacred duty, imposed by divine authority, of punishing an evil man by death" -


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