Hamlet as an unconventional revenge play


Revenge drama stands for a kind of tragedy that is represented as a quest for vengeance and results in bloodshed and mutilation. This type of drama was popular in England during the late 16th and 17th centuries with the Elizabethans and Jacobeans. Before England, this type of drama is popularized in Rome by the hand of the ancient Roman playwright Seneca (4 BC-AD 65). Though Shakespeare designed “Hamlet” as a revenge tragedy it is an unconventional revenge tragedy.  

More Notes: Hamlet

The Plot is Based on secret murdered 

The plot of the play Hamlet is centered on the secret murder of Old Hamlet. Claudius killed secretly his brother old Hamlet and seized the kingdom. But nobody is known that it was a cold-blooded murder even though the audience was unknown of this fact. Shakespeare has limned through his character that guilty creates permanent fear in the way of life. Thus, the plot is well-matched with the features of a revenge tragedy but it is slightly different from a revenge tragedy and has some touch of unconventional revenge tragedy. 

Sign of ghost 

The presence of ghosts is an important trait of Shakespearian tragedy not only Shakespearian but also Senecan tragedy is mingled with the sign of the ghost. The drama opens with the gossip of the ghost of old Hamlet. Barnardo and Francisco have seen the ghost of Old Hamlet but the ghost was not willing to speak to someone except Hamlet. After hearing this from Horatio, Hamlet decided that he would meet the ghost. Then they met and the ghost informed Hamlet that the death of Old Hamlet was not the usual death. He is killed by Claudius also the ghost said to take revenge on Claudius. Thus, like the Senecan revenge tragedy, the ghost has played a vital role in becoming Hamlet an avenger. 

The complex attitude of Hero 

The hero of the Senecan revenge tragedy is serious-minded his one and only motive would be to take revenge on the suspect. But in the drama “Hamlet” the hero Hamlet is different from the conventional hero. According to critics, the hero of the play has possessed mysterious behavior. His madness is a fine example of mystery. So, from this point of view, we can say that Hamlet is not a conventional revenge tragedy. 

Unique dramatic artificiality 

Shakespeare is most prominent for his literary style. Each of his dramas is pregnant with various literary devices. The tragedy Hamlet is not differing from this tradition. Here we find Shakespeare’s artistic excellence such as play within a play, the madness of the hero, and so on. 

A number of avengers 

Usually, in a revenge tragedy, we find a hero who is concerned about his revenge motive but here we find a number of characters all are tried to take revenge such as Laertes who is the brother of Ophelia and son of Polonius wants to take revenge for the death of his father and the insanity of his sister. Another character Fortinbras wants to take revenge on Denmark for the losses faced by Hamlet’s father. So, we can say that the Tragedy of Hamlet is not a conventional revenge tragedy. 


In conclusion, we can say that Hamlet is not Only a conventional revenge tragedy but also an unconventional revenge tragedy. It has some quality of traditionalism and some quality of uniqueness. So, it can be said that Shakespeare has represented “Hamlet” as a unique revenge tragedy blending some quality of traditional or Senecan revenge tragedy. 

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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