Hamlet is an unconventional revenge play

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Hamlet is a notable literary work by William Shakespeare. A complete discussion of this literary work is given, which will help you enhance your literary skills and prepare for the exam. Read the main text, key info, Summary, Themes, Characters, Literary Devices, Quotations, Notes, to various questions of Hamlet.


Hamlet is an unconventional revenge play.

The revenge play is a dramatic genre in which the protagonist seeks revenge for an imaginary or real injury. It represents a quest for revenge and results in bloodshed and mutilation. It was popular in England during the late 16th and 17th centuries with the Elizabethans and Jacobeans. Before England, this type of drama was popularized in Rome by the ancient Roman playwright Seneca (4 BC-AD 65). Though Shakespeare designed “Hamlet” as a revenge tragedy, it is an unconventional revenge tragedy. 

The Plot is Based on Secret Murder: The plot of the play Hamlet is centred on the secret murder of Old Hamlet. Claudius secretly kills his brother, old Hamlet, and seizes the kingdom. But nobody knows that it was a cold-blooded murder. Even the audience was unaware of this fact. Shakespeare has limned through his character that guilt creates permanent fear in the way of life. Thus, the plot is well-matched with the features of a revenge tragedy. Shakespeare’s Hamlet is slightly different from conventional revenge tragedy. It has a sundry touch of unconventional revenge tragedy.

Sign of ghost: The presence of ghosts is an important trait of Shakespearian tragedy. It is not only a Shakespearian but also a Senecan tragedy, which is mingled with the sign of the ghost. The drama opens with the story of the ghost of old Hamlet. Barnardo and Francisco have seen the ghost of Old Hamlet, but the ghost is unwilling to speak to anyone except Hamlet.

After hearing this from Horatio, Hamlet decides to meet the ghost. Then, Hamlet meets the ghost, and the ghost informs Hamlet that the death of Old Hamlet is not the usual death. Claudius kills him, and the ghost says to take revenge on Claudius. Thus, like the Senecan revenge tragedy, the ghost has played a vital role in the tragedy of Hamlet to become Hamlet an avenger.


The complex attitude of Hero: The hero of the Senecan revenge tragedy is serious-minded; his only motive is to take revenge on the suspect. But in the drama “Hamlet,” the hero Hamlet differs from the conventional hero. According to critics, the hero of the play possesses mysterious behaviour. 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 does not differ from this tradition. Here, we find Shakespeare’s artistic excellence, such as play within a play, the madness of the hero, and so on.


Several Avengers: Usually, in a revenge tragedy, we find a hero who is concerned about his revenge motive, but here we find several characters all trying 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. Hamlet, the hero of the tragedy, reflects the nature of existence and the internal struggle associated with revenge. Hamlet says:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them

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.