The most prominent theme in the play Hamlet is revenge, the word itself appears in the text 16 times. Three of the main revenge plots in the play Hamlet are Hamlet’s aim to avenge his father by killing his Uncle, Laertes’ target to avenge the murder of his father by killing Hamlet’s and Prince Fortinbras’ wish to reclaim his father’s land.Shakespeare shows many different forms of revenge and ends with the question whether revenge is worth all the bloodshed. In Hamlet, Shakespeare uses Hamlet, Laertes, and Prince Fortinbras to demonstrate how revenge tends to destroy the person who attempts it.
Shakespeare introduces the theme of revenge to create conflict between Hamlet and Claudius. In Act 1, Hamlet is approached by the ghost of his father who alerts Hamlet of his murder carried out by Claudius. The Ghost says “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder”. This is the introduction to the revenge plot between Hamlet and Claudius. Hamlet creates an intricate plan to catch Claudius and kill him. Hamlet has people act out the murder through a play in order to verify that Claudius was truly guilty. “The play’s the thing,” Hamlet declares, “wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king”. When Claudius affirms that he is responsible for his brothers murder Hamlet continues his revenge plot. Revenge causes Hamlet to push away loved ones and become depressed. As part of Hamlet’s plan he must break off his relationship with the love of his life Ophelia. This is part of what makes his attitude towards revenge waver. Hamlet takes his time to actually carry out the revenge. He was waiting for the “perfect time” but also questioning himself and his decision to murder his Uncle. From confirming that the ghost was correct about his father’s murder to coming to terms with possibly dying it takes Hamlet the entire play to actually murder Claudius. He took longer to act, because he needs to be ready for the consequences.
While it takes Hamlet the length of the whole play in order to complete his revenge, when Laertes hears about the murder of his father he acts swiftly and recklessly. He gathers an army and threatens to overthrow Claudius if he does not explain the murder of Polonius. Laertes conspires with the King to deceive Hamlet and challenge him to a fencing match, where Laertes will carry a poison-tipped sword. “Let come what comes; Only I’ll be revenged. Most thoroughly for my father.” Laertes immediately agrees to take part in the King’s plan to kill Hamlet. Laertes will challenge Hamlet to a fencing match, where Laertes will carry a poison-tipped sword. “To you in satisfaction; but if not, be you content to lend your patience to us, and we shall jointly labour with your soul to give it due content.” The minute Laertes hears about the death of his father he is ready to act and murder Hamlet. Laertes reacts out of anger and in the end, it gets him killed.
Hamlet and Laertes are on opposite sides of the spectrum while Prince Fortinbras is in the middle. When Fortinbras heard of his father’s murder his reaction was neither delayed nor reckless. “For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune: I have some rights of memory in this kingdom, Which now to claim my vantage doth invite me.” Fortinbras camly and deliberately forms a plan to avenge his father’s murder and reclaim his land. He builds an army and plans to invade Denmark.”Now, sir, young Fortinbras, of unimproved mettle hot and full, hath in the skirts of Norway here and there”. It is no coincidence that the character that reacts rationally is one of the 3 characters that survive. Fortinbras plots and waits until the time is right to carry through his big scale plan. Fortinbras focuses o trying to take back what was his father’s while Hamlet and Laertes are focused on murdering the people responsible for the death of their fathers.