Hamlet is a famous Shakespearean play written around 1601 in which the hero, Hamlet is depicted struggling with the opposing forces of moral integrity and the quest to avenge the murder of his father. The play, Hamlet is based in the Kingdom of Denmark and revolves around Prince Hamlet’s quest to seek revenge on Claudius, who seizes the throne of Denmark by murdering the old King and then marrying Gertrude, Prince Hamlet’s mother. The play focuses on the themes of treachery, corruption, incest and revenge.
Most revenge tragedies are characterized by certain common features such as the presence of the main character who is seeking revenge on his formidable opponent, mad scenes, and play within a play, gory scenes and vengeful ghosts. The hero in such revenge plays often seeks to avenge the insult privately after failing to get the required justice in his public life. In the play Hamlet, it is through the Ghost which in fact is the Ghost of old King Hamlet, that Hamlet learns the truth about his father’s death. The Ghost further exhorts Hamlet to take revenge for the unnatural murder.
The Mousetrap or The Murder of Gonzago is the play within the play which Hamlet re-enacts in order to prove Claudius’s guilt. The sub-plot of the play follow the events leading to the murder of King Hamlet and the motive is to trap Claudius to reveal his guilt. It turns out to be one of the major event in the revenge plot. Hamlet feels “The play's the thing, wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king” (2.2.606-07). While the play is being staged, Hamlet and Horatio conclude that Claudius was agitated and indeed guilty of the crime he had committed. Claudius is visibly agitated and leaves the place before the play ends.
Deception as a motif occurs through out the play in Hamlet. Claudius murders Hamlet’s father but Hamlet does not reveal his knowledge about the events of his father’s murder. Later Hamlet feels that the Ghost may be deceiving him by claiming to be his father while in all probability he was a devil. Polonius engages in deception when he discusses Hamlet with Claudius. Guildenstern and Rosencrantz pretend to be friendly with Hamlet while all the while conniving with Claudius to kill Hamlet. When they are unsuccessful in their attempt, Claudius teems up with Laertes in a fencing match with the aim to Kill Hamlet. However it is Gertrude who deceptively falls prey to the poisoned cup meant for Hamlet.
Hamlet utters seven major soliloquies in the play each having a significant part in the play. But his soliloquy, "To be, or not to be, that is the question" (3.1.56-89) is an all time favorite and often quoted phrase in the English Language. A number of explanations have been in circulation about the import of the soliloquy. The traditional view is that the reference here is to Hamlet’s decision whether or not to commit suicide. Hamlet has to wait patiently to execute his plan of avenging the king’s death and debates about one’s right to live or end his life. Others debate that it refers to Hamlet’s dilemma on the course of action he has to take to unravel his tale of woe.