theme of vengeance in william shakespeare’s hamlet and merchant of venice

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theme of vengeance in william shakespeare’s hamlet and merchant of venice


Vengeance is a harmful action against a person in response to grievance, be it ready or perceived. This project work examines the theme of vengeance in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Merchant of Venice. In doing this, approaches to taking vengeance will be aimed in both plays. Chapter one will deal with introduction to vengeance, chapter two will consist of literature review on the selected texts. Chapter three will discuss vengeance in Hamlet, chapter four will discuss vengeance in Merchant of Venice and chapter five will be the conclusion of chapter three and four. In doing this, we are going to study the lives of the people in England at that time.


Title page i

Certification ii

Dedication iii

Acknowledgement iv

Abstract v

Table of contents. vi

CHAPTER ONE: Introduction

1.1 Introduction 1

1.2 Author’s Biography 5

1.3 Scope and Limitation 8

1.4 Justification 8

CHAPTER TWO: Literature Review

2.1 Literature Review 10

2.2 Aristotelian Tragedy 11

2.3 Review of Vengeance 13

2.4 Shakespearean Tragedy 17

2.5 Review of Hamlet and Merchant of Venice 19

CHAPTER THREE: Vengeance in Hamlet

3.1 History and Ideology . 26

3.2 Synopsis 28

3.3 Theme of Vengeance in Hamlet 31

3.4 Literary analysis of Hamlet. 50

CHAPTER FOUR: Vengeance in Merchant of Venice

4.1 History and Ideology. 55

4.2 Synopsis 56

4.3 Literary analysis of Merchant of Venice. 64


5.1 Summary and Conclusion 69

Biblography 74



Vengeance is depicted in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Merchant of Venice the major theme was a social phenomenon during Shakespeare’s days. England then was a proud nation and Queen Elizabeth who was the symbol of England would not tolerate her rivals. She destroyed her enemies and in 1587,she had Mary Queen of Scots executed for treason.Also in 1588, her navy defeated a huge armada of ships from Spain.Both acts were prompted by religion.Her power was threatened for other reason. In 1594, her doctor was executed for attempting to poison her. When she died in 1603, James1 succeeded her and brought a change. He was a Scottish.At that time Scotland and England were not in good terms. If Shakespeare needed example of life at its extremes, he had them all around him. His depicting the theme of vengeance in both plays could be traced to the life in England during Queen Elizabeth’s reign. This closeness to the count means that the understood all that was going on very well. Without reading history books,Shakespeare’s days can clearly be seen in his plays because his plays are written by one who knows the tragedy of sudden death, illness, the splendor of the life of the court in contrast to urban and rural poverty. Shakespeare’s plays contains all the hustle and bustle of normal life at the time we see the courtfool, aristocracy, roguery merchants and the servant classes.We hear of bear- baiting, fortune telling, entertainment,drinking,dancing and singing. As changes happen, they are brought into the plays.Shakespeare wrote to perform. He studied his audience closely and produced what they wanted,His play reflects Elizabethan life and times.In Shakespeare’s time,there were confiscatory attitude towards vengeance there was more sympathy than there might be nowadays for people who took private vengeance. These attitude was left over from the days when taking personal revenge was seen as defending one’s honour. However, the law of the court and the church were quite clear in condemning this.

Interest in the theme of vengeance was wide spread and led playwrights of this time to develop a genre of play known as “Revenge Tragedies”. Revenge Tragedies have many features of the plays of Seneca, a Roman Playwright who lived in the first century A.D. Examples of a few of the popular Elizabethan revenge Tragedies include the Spanish Tragedy, The Revenger’s Tragedy, The White Devil, The Duchess of Malfi. In Shakespeare’s revenge plays, the offence is described,the revenger starts planning his revenge or vengeance, he goes ahead to confront the offender, the revenge is partly completed and finally, revenge or vengeance, is carried out.

This study therefore is aimed at focusing on the theme of vengeance in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Merchant of Venice. By focusing on these issues, we hope to arrive at an evaluation of Shakespeare novel by looking at the theme of revenge in his novel. And since the focus is on the works of Williams Shakespeare, we need to look at his background and his work as a prelude to understanding the elements in his work.


Williams Shakespeare was born in 1564, we know this from the earliest record we have of his life, his baptism which happened on Wednesday,April 26th,1564.We do not actually know his birthday but from this record we can assume,he was born in 1564. William Shakespeare is a productive and prolific writer. His father was a glove – maker and Shakespeare received no more than a grammar school education. He married Anne Hathaway in 1582. He left his family behind in 1590 and moved to London, where he became an actor and playwright and was an immediate success Shakespeare soon became the most popular playwright of the day as well as a part owner of the Alobe theatre. His Theatre troupe was adopted by King James1 as the king’s men in 1603. Shakespeare retired as a rich man and prominent to Stratfort upon Avon in 1613 and died three years later, William Shakespeare also known as Darth Shakespeare, Destroyer of words. By his German name Wilhelm Sheibehosen, was a writer and poet who wrote text books for generations of bored students. They are called Comedies, ‘Tragedies’, ‘Histories’ and ‘ sonnets’ but all add up to hours of boredom.However, Shakespeare made all his plays interesting and worth reading.

Shakepeare was perhaps the most over-rated writer in English history. He has put 135 saying into the English Language like ‘Fair play’ ; ‘knock , knock ! ‘ etc.

He had a funny beard and went through life wearing weird duds then. Ironically, his name is an anagram of “ I am a weakfish speller” which he was. Shakespeare is also known for his plays as being precursors for today’s more lucrative entertainment genres, such as pornography,most notably a sancy little music called “ As you lick Dick”.His first dramatic production is Love’s labour Lost. Which was composed in 1591, revised in 1597 and published in 1598. Romeo and Juliet, his first tragedy was written in1591.

In 1591, he purchased for E60, the largest house in Stratford. The purchase of this house “ New Place” by name brought Shakespeare a reputation among his fellow town men. After 1611, he seemed to have abandoned dramatic composition and spent the greater part of his time at Stratford. His health began to fail at the commencement of 1616 and he died that year. The actual cause of his death is unkown. His only son Hamlet, had died many years before, but his wife and two daughters survived him. He died at the age of fifty two and was buried in the chancel of Stratford Church, with this Epitaph inscribed over his grave.

“Good Frend, for Jesus’ sake forbeare

To dig the dust encloased heare

Blest be ye man yt spares the stones,

And curst be ye yt move my bone”


This essay will examine the theme of vengeance in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Merchant of Venice. This study has the objective of examining Vengeance in both plays. One author is selected in order to bring out the theme of Vengeance well. Due to limited time, we shall focus mainly on just the theme of Vengeance in both plays.


A topic like the theme of Vengeance clearly depicted in the society of Shakespeare has a relevance to our own society. It is a study on human behaviours. vengeance William Shakespeare’s preoccupation in Hamlet and Merchant of Venice is vengeance.  vengeance This work therefore is meant to contribute to scholarship in Literature. vengeance A topic like vengeance was a common phenomenon in the society in which Shakespeare lived and it is relevant to our own society.  vengeance The plays are set in England and address the problems of England then in a simple and clear language. vengeance.

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