Michael Kuritnik 3/6/13 G-Block Blinding Revenge Fundamental themes are preserved throughout history because they relate to everyday aspects of life. Surprisingly, very little has changed since Shakespearean times. Although technology has changed the way in which humans communicate, people still react to emotional stimuli similarly to those of the middle ages. Anger has always triggered annoyance, uproar and violence. Like several characters in Hamlet, today’s society experiences a thirst for revenge because of something unsettling that ultimately stirred up anger.
Individuals who strive for vengeance become overwhelmed with indignation. In some cases idiosyncratic deception and false imagery are used in order to attain what one seeks. Throughout Hamlet, Shakespeare emphasizes that revenge leads to chaos and ultimately inevitable debilitating consequences Revenge has the overwhelming ability to deteriorate a man into a monster. It influences Hamlet to make reckless decisions that ruin him and eventually lead to his downfall. Hamlet is driven to insanity by his own desire to kill Claudius. Hamlet becomes so obsessed with revenge that it quickly consumes him.
He exclaims in one of his soliloquy, “Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause And can say nothing- no, not for a king Upon whose property and most dear life A damned defeat was made” (II. ii. 595-598), feeling guilty and remorseful for not yet acting on his impulse for revenge. At this point, calling himself a coward for not having taken revenge, Hamlet clearly demonstrates his madness for vengeance. Moments later, blinded by revenge, Hamlet stabs Polonius on the impulsive whim that it may be Claudius spying on him. He feels no guilt for his reckless action, suggesting that he acted out of madness and had little thought through the affair.
Consumed by revenge, Hamlet has deteriorated into a murderer. Immediately after Hamlet murders Polonius, Claudius becomes blinded by his own desire for revenge. In his rage, Claudius sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with Hamlet to England, where Hamlet fools the English into killing them instead of him. After sending them off, Claudius states, “I like him not, nor stands it safe with us to let his madness range,” understanding that the best method of containing Hamlet’s revenge is to keep Hamlet close; however Claudius’ anger leads him to send Hamlet to his unhonorable death (III. ii,L1-2). By attempting to avenge Polonius, Claudius ultimately sets up his own demise, as well as Rosencrantz’s and Guildenstern’s. If not for Claudius’ rash decision to send Hamlet away, Hamlet would have never been able to contact Norway and send the spies to their deaths by sabotaging the letter. Laertes’ vengeful decisions lead to detrimental consequences and the deaths of virtuous lives. Enraged by his father’s death, Laertes decides to make an attempt on Hamlet’s life. Playing cool and pretending to wish for a duel in fun, Laertes tries to gain his revenge.
As a result of his recklessness, the entire court of Denmark is killed. Lying motionlessly on the cold marble floor, Laertes whispers to himself, “The foul practice Hath turned itself on me. Lo, here I lie, Never to rise again,”his lungs gasping for one last breath of air (V. ii. 348-350). Only on his deathbed does Laertes realize the irony and the mistake he made by seeking revenge. This is because Laertes’ obsession with vengeance for his father’s death tempted him to plot for murder with the devious Claudius.
Treachery and vengeance, which blinded Laertes, actually lead to his downfall and make him feel at blame for the deaths of innocent people. Not surprisingly, the modern world is full of regretful acts of vengeance. Imperialist Japan shocked the world by bombing the United States at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. As a result, the United States launched a huge pacific offensive while also sending troops and resources into a large Europe campaign to assist against the Nazis. Similarly, Claudius’ killing of Hamlet’s father triggered Hamlet to seek revenge at all costs.
After essentially winning the war, the United States turned their eyes back to the Japanese who had so mercilessly brought them into the fight. Within a week of the dropping of the first atomic bomb, Japanese opposition crumbled. This historical win marked a huge accomplishment, but the US would soon come to regret their decision. By dropping the atomic bomb on Japan, the US gave away critical information as to the extent of their power. Major allies and enemies began constructing their own nuclear weapons, launching the world into the Cold War era.
In addition, the atomic bomb obliterated Japanese morale and culture, reducing the island country back to the bottom of the food chain. It would take many years before Japan could return to its former prominence. Today in US history classes students discuss the ethics behind the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan because of the death, despair, and world chaos that came as a result of payback for a small bombing at Pearl Harbor. In their pursuit for revenge, both America and Hamlet went too far, which resulted in mass killings and the destruction of powerful nations.
Shakespeare’s message has proven to reiterate itself through the years. As shown when the otherwise noble Hamlet is driven to blindly kill Polonius, when Claudius dooms his servants unintentionally, and when Laertes’ actions result in the death of the Court of Denmark. Shakespeare makes it clear that revenge’s consequences are drastic. As in the bombing of Japan, this statement is tried and tested every day in the real world, albeit on a much smaller scale. Everywhere revenge is sought after, the aftermath is worse than the beginning.