The most famous of William Shakespeare’s plays, Hamlet has been labelled the most perfect revenge tragedy ever written. A “revenge tragedy” is defined as a drama in which the dominant motive of the main character is revenge for a real or imagined injury carried throughout the entire story. While the quest for revenge can simultaneously be a quest for order and balance, tragic events disrupt the existing order and balance—from the moment that Hamlet’s father appears to him in his ghostly form, chaos is inevitable.
Thomas Kyd, not Shakespeare, established the specific revenge tragedy genre in 1587 when his popular play Spanish Tragedy took the stage by storm. He perfected the structure of middle and final climaxes within the narrative and composed a psychological profile of the protagonist Hieronimo that many scholars believe paved the way for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hamlet’s desire to avenge his father’s death is the quintessential literary example of someone taking revenge.
Curriculum Connections: English Language Arts, Performing Arts, Shakespeare
Middle and High School Grades
Production by The National Players
and supported by
Paul and Patricia Gaeto in memory of Dorothy Lillian Gaeto