_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Sciences sociales et humaines
Département d'Ang/ais
Université d 'Abomey/ Ca/avi-BENIN
Ham/et closely follows the dramatic conventions of
for performance purposes, so ifEnglish playwrights
revenge in Elizabethan theatre. AlI revenge tragedies
liked his ideas, they had to figure out a way to make
originally stemmed from the Greeks, who wrote and
the story theatrically workable, relevant and exciting
performed the first plays. After the Greeks, came
to the Elizabethan audience who were very
Seneca who was very influential to all Elizabethan
demanding. Seneca's influence formed part of a
tragedy writers. Seneca, who was Roman, basically
developing tradition oftragedies whose plots hinge
set all of the ideas and the norms for all revenge
on political power, forbidden sexuality, family
play writers in the Renaissance era including William
honour and private revenge.
Shakespeare. The two most famous English revenge
tragedies written in the Elizabethan era were Ham/et,
During the time of Elizabethan theatre, plays about
written by Shakespeare and The Spanish Tragedy,
tragedy and revenge were very common and a
written by Thomas Kyd. These two plays used
regular convention seemed to be formed on what
mostly all ofthe Elizabethan conventions for revenge
aspects should be put into a typical revenge tragedy.
tragedies in their plays. Ham/et especially
incorporated all revenge conventions in one way or
In all revenge tragedies first and foremost, a crime
another, which truly made it a typical revenge play.
is committed and for various reasons laws ~djustice
Shakespeare's Ham/et is one ofmany heroes of the
cannot punish the crime so the individual who is the
Elizabethan and Jacobean stage who finds himself
main character, goes through with the revenge in
grievously wronged by a powerful figure, with no
spite ofeverything. The main character then usually
recourse to the law. and with a crime against his
had a period of doubt, where he tries to decide
family to avenge. Seneca was among the greatest
whether or not to go through with the revenge,
authors of classical tragedies and there was not one
which usually involves tough and complex planning.
educated Elizabethan who was unaware of him or
ather features that were typical were the appearance
his plays.
of a ghost, to get the revenger to go through with
the deed. The revenger also usually had a very close
There were certain stylistic and different strategically
relationship with the audience through soliloquies
thought out devices that Elizabethan playwrights
and asides. The original crime that will eventually
including Shakespeare learned and used from
be avenged is nearly always sexual or violent or both.
Seneca's great tragedies. The five-act structure, the
The crime has been committed against a family
appearance of sorne kind of ghost, the one line
member ofthe revenger. The revenger places himself
exchanges known as stichomythia, and Seneca's use
outside the normal moral order of things, and often
of long rhetorical speeches were all later used in
becomes more isolated as the play progresses-an
tragedies by Elizabethan playwrights. Sorne of
isolation which at its most extreme becomes
Seneca's ideas were originally taken from the Greeks
madness. The revenge must be the cause of a
when the Romans conquered Greece, and with it
catastrophe and the beginning of the revenge must
they took home many Greek theatrical ideas. Sorne
start immediately after the crisis. After the ghost
ofSeneca's stories that originated from the Greeks
persuades the revenger to commit his deed, a
like Agamemnon and Thyestes which dealt with
hesitation first occurs and then a delay by the avenger
bloody family histories and revenge captivated the
before killing the murderer and his actual or acted
Elizabethans. Seneca's stories weren't really written
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out madness. The revenge must be taken out by the
was actually telling the truth, and he did this by
revenger or his trusted accomplices. The revenger
staging the play "The Mousetrap" at court. When
and his accomplices may also die at the moment of
Claudius stonned out in rage, Hamlet knew that he
success or even during the course of revenge.
was guilty. The second stage was when Hamlet could
have killed Claudius while he was confessing to God.
It should not be assumed that revenge plays parallel
If Hamlet had done it here then Claudius would have
the moral expectations ofthe Elizabethan audience.
gone to heaven because he confessed while Hamlet's
Church, State and the regular morals of people in
father was in purgatory because he did not get the
that age did not accept revenge, instead they thought
opportunity to confess. So Hamlet therefore decided
that revenge would simply not under any
not to murder Claudius at this point in the play. The
circumstances be tolerated no matter what the
thi~d delay was the fact that he got side tracked. He
original deed was. It is repugnant on theological
accidentally killed Polonius, which created a whole
grounds, since Christian orthodoxy posits a world
new problem with the fact that Laertes now wanted
ordered by Divine Providence, in which revenge is
Hamlh dead. After he committed this murder he
a sin and a blasphemy, endangering the soul of the
was also sent off and unable to see the king for
revenger. The revenger by taking law into his own
another few weeks until he could finally do the job.
hands was in turn completely going against the total
political authority of the state.
It can be easily understood that Hamlet very closely
ln Ham/et, Shakespeare follows regular convention
follows the regular conventions for all Elizabethan
for a large part of the play. In the beginning,
tragedies. First Hamlet is faced with the fact that he
Shakespeare sets up the scene, having a ghost on a
has to avenge the murder of his father and since
dark night. Everyone is working and something
there is no fair justice available, he must take the
strange is happening in Denmark. It is, ~s if
law into his own hands. The ghost of his father
Shakespeare were saying that sorne kind offoul play
appears to guide Hamlet to Claudius and infonn
has been committed. This sets up for the major theme
Hamlet ofthe evil that Claudius has committed. Then
in the play which is of course revenge. The ghost
Hamlet constantly delays his revenge and always
appears to talk to Hamlet. It is quite obvious that
finds a way to put it offuntil he finally does it in Act
the play had a gruesome, violent death and the sexual
V, Scene 2. Hamlet at the same time continues to
aspect of the play was clearly introduced when
keep a close relationship with the audience with his
Claudius married Hamlet's mother Gertrude. The
seven main soliloquies including the famous, "To
ghost tells Hamlet that he bas been given the role of
be, or not to be..."(Act 3 Scene 1). The play also
the person who will take revenge upon Claudius.
consists of a mad scene where Ophelia has gone
Hamlet must now think of how to take revenge on
mad because her father Polonius had been killed and
Claudius, although he doesn't know what to do
because Hamlet was sent offto England. The sexual
about it. He ponders his thoughts for a long period
aspect of the play was brought in when Claudius
of time, expecting to do the deed immediately, but
married Gertrude after he had dreadfully killed Old
instead he drags it on until the end of the play. In
Hamlet and taken his throne. Ham/et also follows
most revenge plays, the revenger was often
almost every aspect ofThomas Kyd's fonnula for a
anonymous and well disguised, stalking the enemy
revenge tragedy. The only point that can be argued
about to be killed, but Hamlet started a battle of
is that the accomplices on both sides were not killed
wits with Claudius by acting mad and calling it his
because at the end ofthe play, Horatio was the only
"antic disposition", although the whole thing was a
one to survive, although if it wasn't for Hamlet,
ploy to get closer to Claudius to be able to avenge
Horatio would have commit suicide when he said, "
his father's death more easily. The strategy was a
1 am more an antique Roman than a Dane. Here's
disadvantage in that it drew aU attention upon
sorne liquor left."(Act V Scene 2, 346-347). If
Horatio had killed himself, then Hamlet would have
followed the Kydian fonnula as well as the regular
One important part ofall revenge plays is that after
conventions for Elizabethan revenge tragedy. Ham/et
the revenge is finally decided upon, the tragic hero
is definitely a great example of a typical revenge
delays the actual revenge until the end of the play.
tragedy of the Elizabethan theatre era. It followed
Hamlet's delay of killing Claudius takes on three
.every convention required to c1assify it as a revenge
d~stinct stages. Firstly he had to prov~ that the ghost
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play quite perfectly. Ham/et is definitely one of the
a tragic situation. Perhaps, if Hamlet had avenged
greatest revenge stories ever written and it was all.
his father's death quickly, he would not have had to
influenced first by Sophocles, Euripides and other
kill Polonius and set off another chain of revenge
Greeks, and then more importantly by Seneca.
Ham/et as weil as The Spanish Tragedy tackled and
conquered aIl areas that were required for the
The question often asked conceming the story of
consummation ofa great revenge tragedy. Revenge
Hamlet is why he delayed. Hamlet delays because
although thought to be unlawful and against the
he wants to justify his killing his uncle. Unfortunately,
Church was absolutely adored by aIl Elizabethan
the delay is not to the merit of the play. When
people. The Elizabethan audience always insisted
considered as a revenge tragedy, Ham/et could also
on seeing eventual justice, and one who stained his
be exonerated in his grief. He is seen as the one who
hands with blood had to pay the penalty. That no
has lost a father so dear to him and instead of the
revenger, no matter how just, ever wholly escapes
mother grieving with him, she marries the uncle in
the penalty for shedding blood, even in error. This
an unseemly haste. Likewise, Laertes cannot bear it
was also a very important point that was also dealt
when he Joses both his sister and father to the same
with brilliantly by Shakespeare in finding a way to
person, Hamlet. So also is the grief of Fortinbras.
kill Hamlet justly even though he was required to
When looking at Hamlet as a revenge tragedy, it is
kill Claudius
relevant to consider the remote causees) of the
revenge action, its course in the play and its
Shakespeare wanted to show through this revenge
consequence(s). The direct cause oftragedy which
tragedy how griefhas affected the three young men.
had a revenge undertone in the story of Hamlet is
Fortinbras is guided by reason; he is not a victim of
the killing of the king. This is sacrilegious and an
his grief. Hamlet is inconsolable, and his grief is of
abomination follows it when the queen marries in
the sort that renders him dull, that effaces memory,
an unseemly haste, Claudius the brother ofthe king.
that makes him guilty of the sin of sloth. Laertes is
It is a sin against mankind and the cosmic order of
neither to be consoled nor to be appeared in his own
grief. His grief converts to anger and it enrages his
0, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven ;
heart. In Ham/et, passion in combination with grief
It hath the, primaI eldest curse upon't,
is what brings about the tragic situation. In Hamlet
A brother's murder...
himself, it is passion which would not yield to the
What ifthis cursed hand
consolation of philosophy. This is interpreted as
Were thicker than itselfwith brother's blood
excessive grief and Hamlet's grief is therefore the
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
grief that makes memory fade, that makes reason
To wash it white as snow. 1
fail in directing the will, this makes reason fail in
directing the will, and this makes him "guilty of
The king is killed and cut offfrom existence without
sloth". He could offend Ophelia, kill Polonius, escape
completing his lifespan. This makes the ghost not to
on shipboard, and insult Laertes, even kill the king
rest and it cornes back to disturb and demand for
in moments ofunreasonable passion. There is need
justice from the living, especially young Hamlet, his
for revenge in Ham/et because the king is murdered
son. The killing of the king makes Hamlet to kill
by his own blood brother; and his ghost cannot rest
Polonius while he is eavesdropping. Afterwards,
until death is avenged. Coupled with this is the
Ophelia commits suicide because ofthe'death ofher
marriage between the usurper ofpower and Hamlet's
father. Laertes too, as a result of this, aims to kill
mother. The knowledge of murder and incest is
Hamlet because ofthe death ofhis sister and father.
enough to warrant revenge on the part of Hamlet.
The king after trying to kill Hamlet while on a ship
Of interest is 1:he fact that it is not only Hamlet's
uses Laertes' anger as a tool to instigate him to fight
revenge that takes place, for in his excessive grief,
Hamlet in a bout. While the bout is going on, the
Hamlet delays in killing the king and this leads to
queen drinks of the poisoned wine prepared for
chain of events which necessitate Laertes and
Hamlet by the king. The wine is poisoned just in
Fortinbras taking revenge too. The revenge of
case Hamlet survives the poisoned rapierofLaertes.
Hamlet would not be regarded as tragic, but the
The queen dies and both Hamlet and Laertes stab
combination of revenge on the part of the three
themselves with the poisoned rapier as it is
young men, Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras brings
exchanged during the duel. Laertes dies exposing
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the king's treachery and Hamlet stabs the king before
an oath of secrecy that they will-not tell of the
he dies leaving Horatio to explain the events to
appearance of the ghost.
Titus Andronicus, is considered the bloodiest of
The play could have taken another course ifHamlet
Shakespeare's tragedies. Generally TItus Andronicus
had killed the king on time instead of delaying. This
has not been considered as one of Shakespeare's
is because it is as a result of his delay that the play
Roman plays, a strange conclusion when apparently
took the course it did. Hamlet, when he leams ofhis
the name 'Rome' is uttered more times here than in
father 's murder, decides in his mind to avenge the
the other Roman plays put together. At a glance the
death of his father. In order to remove suspicion
play deals with issues of whether individuals should
from him as regards what he wants to do, he starts
have absolute power over others, whether illegal
behaving madly. He pretends to everyone that he is
violence is ever justified, and most of aIl whether
mad. He stages a play in order to make the king
personal loyalty should ever supersede civic
betray his guilt and this makes the king resolve to
responsibility. Each ofthese issues is also central in
kill him.
the later (and unquestionably 'Roman') play, Julius

The ghost of Hamlet's father is relevant to the play
as a revenge tragedy because it is the ghost that
Shakespeare's continued use of a Roman setting
brings the motive for revenge. 11 also gives Hamlet
indicates its popularity withaudiences, and it's worth
a fatherly command instructing Hamlet to avenge
questioning the ways aûdiences through history have
his death, of which a refusaI would have been
identified Titus' corrupt Rome with their own
tantamount to disobedience on Hamlet's part. Tlle
society. In Classical Drama And Its Influence B.L.
ghost claims that it cannot rest unless this reven~~
Joseph explains that 'English society did not need
action takes place and so Hamlet is obligated to
encouragement from outside to develop an attitude
revenge so that it can rest. But what the ghost did
to revenge. A cult of revenge is inseparable from
not obviously bargain for, was the mas~ tragedy. Aiso
that ofhonour in every incompletely civilised society
murdered is the queen whom he has instructed
where law does not dominate.' Sorne would question
Hamlet not to kill, but the death ofthe queen can be
whether any society can be completely civilised. or
justified as it can be seen as a retribution for her
entirely dominated by the forces of law. Hence the
sins. She commits the unbecoming sin of incest, a
ancient revenge story retains its popularity, finding
sin which shows that she is not saddened by the death
new forms through history.
ofher husband. And in fact, puts her in an accomplice
position in the murder case. Her death then could
The leading characters in this crude and horrifie
be regarded as atonement for her sin of betrayal,
revenge tragedy are, on the
one hand. Titus
incest and unfaithfulness. The ghost gets his revenge
Andronicus, his brother Marcus, and his son Lucius.
but with the revenge came tragedy; the tragedy of
On the other hand were Tamora, who is the queen
so many people who were directly linked to his
ofthe Goths, her son Demerius, and her lover Aaron.
murder, a revenge tragedy of so many innocent
Each side vies with the other in a furious and
people. At this point, it is pertinent to examine the
inhuman revenge which brings about one ofthe most
relevance of revenge to the theme and how the
horrifie tragedy ever wrîtten. Titus assumes his role
playwright achieves this dramatically. Revenge as a
right at the start as a magisterial authority caught
theme exhibits itselfin the play through the sequence
between irreconcilable duties. In loyalty to an
of actions in the play and according to the stage
emperor childishly feuding with his brother (over
direction of the playwright. The showing ofa ghost
the hand of Titus' daughter, Lavinia), he slays his
in distress, who is wandering about at the beginning
own son. Here is an important aspect of much noir
of the play, gives one the impression of a wronged
and of revenge tragedy- the fact that someone's
ghost. A ghost that cannot sleep because of a sin
basic, human interests are undermined by a higher
committed against it. From there henceforth, the plot
or more powerful authority, although in this case it
is constructed to follow the pattern of a revenge
is interesting that Titus himself is directly an
tragedy. The ghost can only speak to Hamlet and
instrument of that authority. Titus has put Rome
when it does, Hamlet refuses to divulge their
before his family, and it turns out to be a pointless
discussion to the guards, he makes them swear to
gesture. The new emperor Saturninus decides he can
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do without marrying Lavinia after all, and so Titus'
play as the democratically chosen future emperor
dreadful act was for nothing. What is more,
ofRome, literaIly the most powerful and untouchable
Satuminus actually begins to jealously resent Titus
man in the world. By his own foolish loyalty he has
at this point. He seems to fear the old man's greater
dropped to a status below that ofan ordinary citizen,
popularity, and incredibly, he is even able to imagine
and put himself in great danger. Of the noir
Titus is disloyal.
protagonist, Russell James has said 'it is the
probability ofhis death that underlines the noir nature
ofthe story'. A high probability ofdeath is common
to all ofShakespeare's tragic heroes, but Titus stands
Agree these deeds with that proud
out from the others as a man who has shed all his
defences. Later in the play the great war hero even
That saidst 1 begged the empire at
cuts oifhis own hand as a sign ofhis loyalty to Rome.
thy hands.' (1.1 302-304)
The problem for Titus is that the emperor he serves,
and eventually opposes, is not so honourable as
Also in the first scene is the event which starts the
himself. It is as ifhe is old fashioned in his patriotism,
whole cycle of violence. This is the slaying of
and in his naïve beliefin the Emperor. Satuminus is
not loyal to Rome, he only desires to possess it,just
Alarbus, a necessary sacrifice and example in the
as the rapists Demetrius and Chiron desire to possess
Romans' eyes, but a needless slaughter as far as the
Lavinia for selfish, lustful reasons. These are not
Goths see it. Tamora swears revenge and is almost
the sentiments that built up the great nation centuries
immediately moved into a position of great power
before, the three pillars of 'justice. continence and
nobility', which only Titus and sorne of his family
in Rome. Again, this marks out Titus as doomed.
now seem to possess. Against the double-dealing,
After Tamora begs convincingly but in vain for her
pettiness and arbitrariness of the new royal family,
son's life. we can tell that Titus is going to suifer
the honourable, straight-fighting Titus is helpless.
sorne unspeakable retribution, especially since there
Like an unwilling noir hero, Titus becomes isolated
from his past life. He has always been away at war
is mention of Gods and of Titus overstepping the
with Rome's enemies, but his constant comfort has
mark in sorne sort of great scheme.
been a beliefin the ideals ofthe empire he serves. It
takes a great deal to shake that belief, and for much
'Wilt thou draw near the nature
ofthe play staggering examples ofTitus' loyalty are
Draw near them then in being
The audience may not like Titus when he kills his
m e r
f u I
son Mutius, but his loyalty and fortitude cannot be
Sweet mercy is nobility's true
questioned, particularly when we are aware of his
natural fondness for his family. Titus cries, 'What.
Thrice noble Titus, spare my first
villain boy/ barrst me my way in Rome?', and it
born son.' (1.1
doesn't matter that it is bis son barring his way, only
that he is being hindered in his serving Rome, and
This early slaying is a vengefuI act committed in
the hindrance must be removed. It is a mistake to
accordance with the laws of Titus' society and
contrast the evil pIotterAaron's affection for his son
religion. He bas lost twenty-five sons in the war with
against Titus' apparent callousness as a father. The
the Goths, and the killing of Alarbus is to set their
point is that Titus denies himself the personal
souls at rest. lronically, this one religious killing is
indulgence that others succumb to, and if need be,
the cause of all the other deaths. Tamora quickly
this includes patemallove..In this respect, he might
gets her revenge, and so must Titus.
be called the most civilised character in the play.
With the enmity of the emperor and empress
Unfortunately, with the new power structure in
invoked, Titus shifts into the position of the typical
Rome, self sacrifice has become very passe.
revenger. Out of power and favour. he is now more
recognisable as a noir protagonist. Titus began the
The build-up toward the revenge motive often seems
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to follow a set pattern. The revenger is first wronged,
Tragedy has a chorus on stage almost constantly in
secondly he discovers the identity of his enemies,
the form of Andrea's Ghost and Revenge. They
and thirdly he attempts to get justice through
speak briefly of what has passed at the end of each
conventional, legal means. When this fails he tums
act. Hamletlacks a chorus, but his regular soliloquies
to his own violent means ofrevenge. Though1itm,
often serve the same purpose of ipterpreting the
pleads with the emperor for Quintus and Martius to
action onstage. Although Shakespeare does not seem
have a fair hearing, once he finally discovers the
keen on the traditional form of a chorus as used by
identity ofBassianus' murderers he realistically does
Kyd. it is unusual that he does not use sorne method
not harbour any hope of satisfaction through
to interpret the action in Titus Andronicus. More
conventional justice.
than anything it is the lacking ofthis chorus function
to break up and interpret the scenes of action which
The extent to which Titus is overpowered and gone
has led to the general bad opinion of Titus
mad with griefis shown in a number oflater scenes.
There is a repeated image of tears, salt water, and
the sea as ifthe enormity ofhis grief is truly enough
The play presents a confiict between selfish mankind
. to d~own the old man in tears. These long, powerful
and the ideas of civilisation he has built up. Titus
monologues are a convention of a revenge tragedy,
begins the play feeling he is removed from primitive
building line by line a feeling ofthe revenger's grief
desires and follows a nobler cause, but when Rome
lets him down he becomes human, lusting after
revenge. Ofcourse he was deceiving himselfanyway,
Titus' period of impotent griefeventually erupts into
about Rome's righteous conquest of the earth. An
action. He re-awakes as a man entirely lost to the
empire that invades other countries can only justi:fY
normal world, and absolutely uncompromising in his
itself by a conviction of its moral superiority over
pursuit ofrevenge. A mention ofthe play's excessive
the weaker countries. Rome's rulers in the play are
violence cannot be omitted from a full discussion,
hardIy morally superior to anyone, and are certainly
and indeed it is the aspect of the play most focused
not guided by anything other than base desires. Rome
on by many critics. This morbid interest is aroused
has lost the veneer of civilisation that justified its
not so much by the body count, as the manner of
death, the mutilation of the body, and the worse-
than-death suffering inflicted on sorne of the
Shakespeare's goriest play seeks to remind us not
characters, particularly Lavinia. At times
that the world is evil, but that it is indifferent. The
Shakespeare seems eager to present us with gory
worst people may prevail over the best; in fact it is
scenes, as he does when Titus, Lavinia and Marcus
probable that they will as they lack a conscience.
walk off, carrying two heads and Lavinia with Titus'
Audiences and readers accepting this paranoid
severed hand in her mouth. Ifwe remember that the
outlook, seek a protagonist who might redress the
whole assortment of body parts was carried on quite
balance, and who must necessarily operate outside
easily by one messenger, and that Marcus still has
the usual channels of justice. Titus cannot rescue
all his limbs, we might think this gory scene a little
the ideal Roman civilisation he so worshipped, it
contrived. But it is done for the spectacle, and it
has fallen too far and he has anyway seen that it was
recalls the fact that Shakespeare wrote for an
hollow. The bloodshed moves from foreign
audience of ordinary people, whose other
battlefields into the city walls, and the great city
.entertainments including bear-baiting, cock fighting
reverts back into a wilderness of tigers, corrupted
and public executions. Titus Andronicus is known
and weakened beyond redemption.
to have been a popular success on release, and
Apart from the fact that both Titus Andronicus and
Shakespeare was probably aware that the excessive
Ham/et are revenge tragedies; there are certain
violence of the play at times weakens its dramatic
features which tends to distinguish and draw them
effect. Later in his career he would be free to take
together at the same time. These two revenge
more risks.
tragedies of Shakespeare are as educative as well as
One notable omission in Titus Andronicus is the
horrific. But what is worthy of note is the manner
Chorus, which would have been found in aH classical
which Shakespeare approaches the theme ofrevenge
and much later tragedy, fulfilling the purpose of
tragedy in the two plays. One can say without being
interpreting the action onstage. Kyd's Spanish
totally wrong, that Shakespeare wants to show a
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double facet of revenge tragedy. ft could also he
both plays but with different intent and reasons. In
categorized as his own way of showing what leads
Ham/et, Ophelia commits suicide because she feels
to revenge tragedy and the way different people
defected that the one she loves, Hamlet, is not
accept it;putting it into consideration that people
reciprocating her feelings. She is also sad because
are not the same and must follow the dictates of
ofthe untimely death ofher father, Polonius; whereas
their mind even whilst taking revenge.
Lavinia, the daughter ofTitus Andronicus commits .
The way in which revenge occurs in the two plays
suicide because there is apparently no reason to live
and the format in which revenge is achieved is
according to her. She has been raped, mutilated and
different and familiar as weIl. There are quite a
defiled against her wish. Her virtue as a woman has
number ofsimilarities in the two plays among which
been abused and so she kills herself as a way out of
murder. Murder occurs in variousforms, either as a
her misery. Suicide is used by Shakespeare as a way
propeller for revenge or as an antidote for the sins
out for people to stop their woes and suffering. But
committed. ln both Ham/et and Titus Andronicus,
what is worthy of note is that Shakespeare makes
murder is committed in various forms: Titus and
sure that suicide is avenged in both plays. But just
Claudius both commit murder; one in triumphant
as there are similarities, there are also differences in
celebration ofhis victory and the other as a result of
his over-ambition for the throne. This initial murder
committed differently by the two of them starts a
The format, which revenge takes in the two plays is
series of revenge actions. The murder committed
also different. Unlike in Ham/et where revenge is
by Titus necessitates Tamora's revenge action and
delayed, it is swift and fast in Titus Andronicus; of
it leads to a situation whereby there is revenge and
particular interest also is the fact that revenge in
counter revenge. On the other hand, the murder
Hamlet is directed against a particular person unlike
committed by Claudius makes Hamlet to demand
Titus Andronicus where both the innocent and the
for revenge ofhis father. But whilst he is delaying in
offender face death. Tamora hides her intention of
carrying out the revenge action, he commits another
killing the sons of Titus as Hamlet did when he
murder which set-off a series of revenge actions.
wanted to kill the king. But Hamlet's case is
understandable because he wants time to justify his
Talking ofa series ofrevenge actions, this is common
killing the king whereas Tamora hides her intention
to both revenge tragedies, unlike a revenge action
because she does not want to be associated with the
of one person, the revenge leads to the revenge of
revenge at aIl. That could even explain her
so many people. ln Ham/et for instance, he takes
employment ofAaron as an adviser and a facilitator.
revenge for his father but delays. This delay causes
his accidentaI killing ofPolonius and this necessitates
The two plays, though revenge tragedies, have been
Laertes taking revenge too. AIso, in Titus
able to look at revenge and tragedy from different
Andronicus, the revenge action taken by Tamora is
perspectives. The causes, course and consequences
so gruesome and general that it affects not only Titus,
of revenge were highlighted in different ways, and
who did wrong, but also Satuminus and young
aIl probable results ofrevenge were considered. The
differences which can occur in individual characters
when called to avenge and the way in which they
lncest is also another dramatic occurrence common
perform revenge was considered individually and
to both revenge tragedies. There is incest in both
collectively. This is necessary in order to show the
plays as committed by the Queen in both plays. The
similarities and differences of the two. But when
mother of young Hamlet is the first to commit this
considering these notable revenge tragedies, the
incest when she marries Hamlet's uncle and the
major point to consider is that they are not just
brother to her late husband. This is an abomination,
tragedies, but revenge tragedies.
incest enough to bind the eyes. Likewise. in Titus
Andronicus there is incest too as committed by
Queen Tamora who commits this incest in form of
adultery when she has an extra-marital affair with
Aaron, a Blackman, despite being married to the
1 Browning, O.C, Everymans D/ctionaryofShaJœspeare Quotat/ons. London:
king of Rome. There is also suicide common to
lM. Dent & Sons L1d. E.P. Dutto & Co. Inc. 1964
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