Revenge is definitely a major theme in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. P.C Goddard in one of his quotes, very eloquently describes the two different types of revenge that are present in this play- hot and cold revenge. Goddard states that cold revenge can conceal itself, is carefully calculated and can strike at any given moment. He defines hot revenge as a passionate state of mind that can be acted on prematurely and eventually burns out. Although these two types of revenge rear their ugly heads in distinctly different forms, their destructive outcome is often quite similar. There are many examples of hot and cold revenge in this play. Particularly strong examples are evident in Act 3 Scene 2, Act 4 Scene 7 and Act 5 Scene 2 through the characters Hamlet and Laertes.
According to Goddard’s description of cold revenge, Hamlet’s behaviour certainly exemplifies this type of revenge. In Act 3 Scene 2, it is evident that Hamlet is trying to avenge his father’s death with the act of cold revenge. In this scene, Hamlet plans for the players to perform the “Murder of Gonzago.” This play depicts almost exactly the way Hamlet thinks his father was murdered by Claudius. Hamlet has meticulously calculated a plot to prove his uncle’s guilt. He has also carefully ensured that his best friend, Horatio, watches Claudius’ reaction to the play. After the staged murder is performed in the play, Claudius demonstrates his guilt by storming out of the theatre. Hamlet immediately checks with Horatio to see if he concurs that Claudius is indeed guilty. This is evident when Hamlet says, “O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for a/ thousand pounds. Didst perceive?” (III, ii, 283-284) With Horatio’s confirmation, Hamlet is now certain that his uncle murdered his father and is ready to obtain revenge by killing him. Hamlet has been able to conceal his vengeful desire while ensuring Claudius’ guilt. These methodical actions fit perfectly into Goddard’s description of cold revenge.
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Laertes’ type of revenge is very different from Hamlet’s and illustrates Goddard’s description of hot revenge. Act 4 Scene 7, clearly exemplifies this description. After discovering that Hamlet killed Laertes’ father, Laertes reacts with pure unadulterated emotion. This is a premature reaction because Laertes takes to heart all that Claudius tells him about his father’s death and hardly questions him. He also does not verify with any other sources as to the reason for his father’s death. Knowing that Laertes is in an unstable state of mind, Claudius proposes that Laertes avenge his father’s death. Claudius suggests a fencing match where Laertes uses a rapier with an unprotected tip. Laertes instantly agrees and even goes one step further when he says, “I will do’t;/And for that purpose I’ll anoint my sword./ I bought an unction of a mountebank,/ So mortal, that but dip a knife in it,/ Where it draws blood, no cataplasm so rare./Collected from all simples that have virtue/Under the moon, can save the thing from death/ That is but scratch’d withal; I’ll touch my point/ With this contagion, that, if I gall him slightly,/ It may be death.” (IV, vii, 140-148) Laertes wants to ensure that Hamlet dies during the fencing match so that he may attain his necessary revenge. Laertes’ emotional and premature behaviour epitomises Goddard’s description of hot revenge in a clear and descript manner.
In Act 5 Scene 2, the final scene of the play Hamlet, Goddard’s description of hot and cold revenge is undoubtedly demonstrated through Laertes’ and Hamlet’s behaviour. In this scene Laertes and Hamlet are participating in the fencing match. Throughout the match, Laertes carelessly uses an unprotected and poisoned sword to avenge his father’s death. Laertes is in an unsound and emotionally charged state of mind due to his father’s and sister’s recent deaths. Laertes finally lands a strike on Hamlet and poisons him. Laertes is also stabbed by his own poisoned sword and quickly comes to the conclusion that both he and Hamlet are about to die. When Hamlet is told by Laertes that they are dying, he immediately takes action and wants to commit regicide by killing the king. Hamlet grasps the poisoned sword and strikes Claudius without warning. After stabbing Claudius, Hamlet states, “Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane,/ Drink off the poison.” (V, ii, 315-316) Hamlet’s desire for revenge fuels and drives him throughout the entire play and he feels no remorse after killing his uncle. When Claudius is killed, Laertes experiences an epiphany and realizes that Hamlet is not totally responsible for his father’s death. This is evident when Laertes says “Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet:/ Mine and my father’s death come not upon thee,/ Nor thine on me!”(V, ii, 319-321) Unlike Hamlet and his undying and deliberate desire for revenge, Laertes relents and asks for forgiveness. Laertes’ desire for revenge eventually burns out, as was stated in Goddard’s description of hot revenge. Conversely, Hamlet’s cold and calculated revenge never wavers as he seeks revenge until the bitter end.
... father. When Claudius tells Laertes that Hamlet was responsible for his father's death, he decides to kill Hamlet to avenge the death of his father. He and King Claudius ... used in exacting their revenge led to the deaths of both Laertes and Hamlet. When Laertes found out about his father's death, he immediately returned home ...
Goddard makes a strong point of differentiating between two different types of revenge, hot and cold. It is evident that the two characters, Hamlet and Laertes, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet seek revenge on their perceived enemies in the two distinct ways. As one reads through the play, and witnesses the vengeful behaviours of Hamlet and Laertes, the reader can conclude that any evil and vengeful reaction to an initial evil behaviour cannot help but result in more evil and misery. In the case of the play, Hamlet, the ultimate demise of humanity- murder- is the single most destructive outcome of both hot and cold revenge.