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Shakespeare: Hamlet

1. Hamlet as Revenge Tragedy

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about Hamlet as a revenge tragedy. In one sense, Hamlet is quite typical in its narrative; as with other revenge tragedies, there is (a) the victim (Hamlet Senior), (b) the murderer (Claudius) and (c) the avenger (Hamlet). What Shakespeare does with Hamlet, however, is to complicate each element of the traditional revenge tragedy, before adding a second revenge tragedy narrative that is set in motion after Hamlet accidentally kills Polonius. The module ends by considering why revenge was so fascinating to the original Elizabethan audience.


In this course, Dr John Lennard explores Shakespeare's Hamlet. In the first module, we explore the idea of Hamlet as a revenge tragedy, and think about how Shakespeare has complicated the basic structure. In the second module, we consider the character of the Ghost, who is one of the most unusual ghosts in Shakespearean drama. In the third module, we think about the comparisons that the play insists upon, as well as the impact that "dramatic doubling" may have had on the play. In the fourth module, we look at the role of Hamlet himself, an exceptionally dominant and demanding role. And in the fifth module, we turn to the concept of metatheatre and its pervasiveness in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama.


Born in Bristol, and educated at Oxford and St Louis, Dr John Lennard has taught English, American, and Commonwealth Literature in Cambridge, London, and Jamaica over more than twenty years. He has written two widely used textbooks (on poetry and drama) and monographs on Shakespeare, Paul Scott, Nabokov, and Faulkner, as well as two collections of essays on contemporary genre writers in crime, science fiction and fantasy, and romance. Enthusiastic, discursive, widely knowledgeable, and a demon for punctuation (on which he has also published extensively), he has been a popular Summer School Course Leader and lecturer for the Institute of Continuing Education since 1992.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Lennard, J. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare: Hamlet - Hamlet as Revenge Tragedy [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lennard, J. "Shakespeare: Hamlet – Hamlet as Revenge Tragedy." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,