Revenge Justice and Revenge Are Research Paper

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The inclusion of an immortal spirit as a key catalytic character in the play underscores Shakespeare's intention. Hamlet states, "For this same lord, / I do repent…I must be their scourge and minister," (Act III, Scene 4). Here, Hamlet clearly sees himself placed in the unfortunate roll of champion of spiritual justice.

Antigone is perhaps even more directly concerned with spiritual matters than with mundane law. The realm of human society is comparatively petty compared to a higher law and order, notes Antigone. For example, Antigone states outright to Creon, "I did not believe that your edicts were so powerful that you, a mortal, could override the gods' unwritten and unshakable customs," (lines 451-445). Therefore, both Hamlet and Antigone perceive the immortal, undying laws of universal ethical truth as being far superior and more important than the often-unjust laws supported by human governments.

Both plays also show that revenge is a treacherous and dangerous occupation, one that leads to certain but necessary tragedy. For example, the Chorus in Antigone is melodramatic and bemoans the fate of Antigone as well as the polis: "Pray thou no more; for mortals have no escape from destined woe." However, the final line of the play proves that the gods would have been happy with Antigone's quest for universal order. "Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness; and reverence towards the gods must be inviolate. Great words of prideful men are ever punished with great blows." Even Creon seems to recognize that his actions were severe and unjust. Antigone became obsessed with her occupation of burying her brother, to the point where the principle was more important than the act of burial itself. She was also more concerned about the burial of her brother than about the equally as concrete need for social harmony. As a result, she, her fiance, and her sister-in-law, all suffered. In the end, though, Creon did receive his just desserts. Sophocles shows that for Antigone, the choice was therefore a clear and righteous one. Antigone's motives are good, but unfortunately the results of her actions are tragic.
In Hamlet, too, many people die as a result of their attempts to secure justice. Both Antigone and Hamlet emerge as heroic figures of their respective plays. However misguided their means were, the end is a good and just one. Whether motivated by revenge, as Hamlet was, or by spiritual righteousness, as Antigone was, the result was similarly sad.

Still, both plays treat revenge as a dangerous but necessary means of thwarting unjust and corrupt political power. Revenge is what causes great psychological turmoil to Hamlet, which serves as an ancillary theme in Shakespeare's play. Yet Shakespeare is not saying that the quest for justice is ill-conceived; only that the avenger of justice must take care not to become too consumed or obsessed with revenge at the expense of restoring social order. Antigone is not as vengeful as her Danish counterpart. Motivated by a personal sense of righteousness, justice, and social order, Antigone does end up directing her ire at Creon. In the process, she sabotages her own potential for happiness as well as those around her. Both Antigone and Hamlet are tragic heroes whose sacrifices were not for naught; they both reveal the corruption in state power and prove that there is a higher order of justice.

Works Cited

Bowers, Fredson. "Hamlet as Minister and Scourge." PMLA. Vol 70, No. 4. Sept. 1955.

Fernie, Ewan. Spiritual Shakespeares. Taylor & Francis, 2005.

Hamilton, John D.B. "Antigone, Justice, and the Polis." Chapter 5 in Myth and the Polis. Pozzi, Dora Carlisky and Wickersham, John Moore. Cornell University Press, 1991.

Prosser, Eleanor. Hamlet and Revenge. Stanford University Press, 1971.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet.

Sophocles. Antigone.

Wilks, John S. "The Discourse of Reason: Justice and the Erroneous Conscience in Hamlet." Retrieved online:

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