Explore the ways in which Hamlet responds to the Ghost’s demand for revenge. What impressions of him might an audience gain?
In the play Hamlet by Shakespeare, there is a strong theme of revenge. This begins with the Ghost of King Hamlet urging his own son to revenge his murder. The Ghost reveals that he was killed by Claudius, and expresses his disgust that Gertrude is now married to him. Even before knowing the details of his father’s murder, Hamlet is eager to immediately avenge his death. ‘Haste me to know’t, that I with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love may sweep to my revenge’. Hamlet wants revenge, but doesn’t know how to do it. He also does not want to harm his mother, Gertrude.
Hamlet plans to respond in a few ways. For example, he has determination to remember only the Ghost’s demand for revenge, ‘Thy commandment all alone shall live within the book and volume of my brain’. The idea of it completely consumes him to the extent that nothing else matters to him. He also decides to pretend to be mad in a deliberate attempt to bring down Claudius, ‘To put an antic disposition on’. This is shown throughout the rest of the play, but it doesn’t accomplish much, despite warning his uncle that he might know that he killed King Hamlet. Hamlet has a mission to fix the world and to put things right, ‘O cursed spite, that I was ever born to set it right’. He believes that it is his duty to do so.
At this stage in the play, the audience is slightly shocked at Hamlet. From just being a melancholy, bitter and cynical teenager, he has suddenly transformed into this impulsive, aggressive and even to an extent, violent young man. We are surprised by Hamlet’s sudden obsession with revenge, but we do not believe him to be a ‘bad person’ just yet.
Hamlet has such intentions to be ruthless, but things do not turn out that way for him. He skirts around the task at hand, and keeps thinking of reasons why he should wait before killing Claudius....