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
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 StratfordChurch, with this Epitaph inscribed over his
“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”
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
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. William Shakespeare’s preoccupation in Hamlet and
Merchant of Venice is vengeance. This work therefore is meant to
contribute to scholarship in Literature.A topic like vengeance was a
common phenomenon in the society in which Shakespeare lived and it is
relevant to our own society. The plays are set in Englandand address the
problems of England then in a simple and clear language.