The Moral Consequences Of Revenge In William Shakespeare's Hamlet

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The character of Laertes explores a potential alternate path that Hamlet could have taken while still exploring the moral boundaries of what “taking revenge” really entails. Later in the play, Hamlet’s indifference about Polonius’s death creates a ridge between Hamlet and Laertes. Laertes, who represents Hamlet’s foil, also seeks retribution for the murder of his father where he betrays his mortal soul by planning to kill Hamlet at the fencing match. When the ruse is uncovered, he says regretfully, “the King, the King’s to blame” (5.2.299). It is at this point, Laertes seeks repentance for his sin of impulsivity and being complicit in murder by rightfully pointing out the mastermind of the plan: Claudius. In his final moments, Laertes shows …show more content…
Ophelia seems innocent, yet commits the most heinous sin - suicide (according to Elizabethans). The wedding of Claudius and Gertrude, the player’s performance, the fencing match, even King Hamlet’s nap in the garden, seem like innocent situations; however, underneath the thinly veiled charade lies a darker, violent ethical question. Shakespeare deliberately forsakes an interpretation whether innocence parallels with goodness, inasmuch as guiltiness correlates with malevolence. Hamlet is the respective titular protagonist while Claudius plays the clear villain of the tragedy. However, is this indicative that Hamlet is innately good and Claudius bad? Interestingly, the argument does not support these black and white counterparts. Hamlet is capable of terrible crimes as Claudius is still able to regret his actions. Likewise, Gertrude, appears to be the typical motherly character, yet shows a moral ambiguity that is divided by her loyalties to both Claudius and Hamlet. She may be innocent of one crime, such as being complicit in the murder of her deceased husband, but guilty of another, having technically “incestual relations” by marrying the King’s brother. Therefore, innocence and guilt are not mutually exclusive concepts in human nature. Shakespeare argues that accusing or perceiving someone as completely guilty or completely innocent can have terrible consequences. Hamlet says of Claudius “One may smile, and smile, and be a villain” (1.5.106) after the ghost tells him of Claudius’ crime. Hamlet instantly villainizes Claudius, after only feeling ambivalent towards him earlier. Only later does he pause to verify whether the ghost’s claims were truthful through the mousetrap. His perception of Claudius as evil is the main reason why the audience recognizes Claudius as the wicked character. If the play had been narrated through

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