The Motive of Revenge and/Or the Feeling of Anxiety in Hamlet and Memento
Both Hamlet and memento are stories of revenge. Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, a great play, based on a revenge mission. The revenge of a father drives the prince Denmark passion to find the killers of his father. Memento, on the other hand, portrays a modern revenge story of a man seeking to avenge the murder of his wife. Both stories have different story lines, but the similarities are evident. Hamlet seeks to narrate the revenge story in a traditional setting while Hamlet applies a modern touch to it. The evidence of love being a driving force for revenge clearly shows in both stories since revenge derives its raging fury from the loss of a loved one who they believe was wrongfully murdered.
The road to revenge for Hamlet starts when his father’s ghost starts making appearances to him. The ghost narrated the story if his father’s death in which he was apparently murdered (Mercer 23). However, Hamlet does not give in to the desires of the ghost to avenge his father’s death. He continues to postpone the revenge mission until the moment is right for his mission accomplishment. The ghost keeps reminding Hamlet of his need for revenge but the motivation it offers is not enough to drive Hamlet into undertaking the mission immediately (Shakespeare 45). Uncertainty surrounds Hamlet’s dilemma of whether to take up revenge or not. The ghost plays the role of motivation towards revenge since it only interacts freely with Hamlet as a sign of acceptance after he decides to revenge his father’s death.
Leonardo, the main character in Memento, craves the revenge of his wife. He suffers memory lapses and therefore some memories on the occurrence of events fades from his memory, and the only source of reference used is notes, tattoos and photos that act as a great motivator for his revenge mission. Leonard desires to take up revenge but lacks the source of reminder of the objectives and direction of his revenge (Memento 2001). He continues to look for the motivation from pictures since they capture various specific moments, and when that becomes challenging, he opts to carry a camera around. He takes measures to boost his poor memory by writing notes on the pictures to act as a reminder of the occurrences captured in the picture. The picture of Natalie does not tell the whole story about the encounters of Leonard and the bad character of Natalie. The highlights of her in his memory only reveal the positive side of Natalie (Memento 2001).
Tattoos, on the other hand, are permanent sources of information and modifying is impossible unlike the notes written on the pictures. Leonard’s tattooed body becomes a memento since it is embedded with the memories of his revenge mission. The tattoos marked on his body are the sign of his strong quest for revenge that he would seek to fulfill throughout his life (Memento 2001). Evidence from his tattoos posses the challenge of unreliability since their context is not determined hence the order of even occurrences are incomprehensive. Later on Leonard struggles to make himself forget about his wife’s murder by avenging it so that he can move on.
Anxiety comes up in Hamlet’s story. The story based on revenge makes the reader anticipate the incidences of revenge, which do not start immediately. Hamlet delays his mission for revenge and creates anxiety for the reader as he waits for the beginning and accomplishment of revenge (Shakespeare 63). Hamlet only takes up the mission of vengeance towards the end of the story. In memento, Leonard is delayed by his inability to remember things as they occurred which posed a serious challenge for the mission. This also creates the aspect of anxiety.
Uncertainty surrounds the characters in both stories. Hamlet is in a dilemma of whether to trust the ghost that he believed was his father’s ghost or to dismiss the ghost since there was a possibility it was a demon. Hamlet cannot seem to take his uncle as a murderer and for this reason; he hesitates to take up revenge on him until he is sure. On the other hand, Leonard faces the challenges of memory loss, which make him unable to focus his attention on the direction of his revenge. In both situations, the uncertainties cause the fade of motivation for revenge. If the circumstances were definite, the revenge mission may have been easier to undertake. Guilt takes over and attempts to convince the characters to rethink their missions. This shows when the characters stall in an attempt to delay their revenge, which acts as an obstacle in achieving their revenge goals.
The guilt overtakes them, and at some point, they look for someone to blame for their guilt. The play-within-a-play shows Hamlet’s strategy of transferring guilt to others while memento seeks to find John G. Hamlet’s soliloquies bring out the feeling of guilt from the thoughts of the character while john holds talking sessions with himself (Kafka, Muir, Muir, and Rahv 25). The stories also highlight the various conflicting feelings within the characters. Hamlet debates with himself on whether to kill his uncle or to give up on his revenge mission. The feelings of disappointment facing Hamlet for delaying his revenge show from the soliloquies. Leonard also considers giving up on his revenge mission and at the same time, feels disappointed in him self for being incapable of succeeding in his revenge mission. Hamlet also faces a moral dilemma since if he kills his uncle, people would consider it a sin.
Eventually, the strong quest for revenge consumes the characters. Natalie uses Leonard in her own mission of revenge. Since the mission of revenge blinded him, he concentrated on carrying out the revenge mission unaware that it was not his mission but Natalie’s (Memento 2001). Hamlet kills the wrong person in his quest for revenge since he becomes so determine to take up revenge so much that it blinds him. In the end of both stories, the characters fail to gain the satisfaction they looked for in revenge, all this time and the revenge mission therefore became unsuccessful.
Kafka and Hamlet share some similarities. There is presence of delusional tendencies. Hamlet claims to communicate with his father’s ghost who instills the feelings of revenge in him. The ghost acts as a motivator towards the fulfillment of the revenge on his father’s death. The ghost seems pleases by Hamlet’s choice to carry on with the revenge plan. Without the ghost appearances experienced by Hamlet, the revenge mission would not exist. The ghost therefore plays a vital role in ensuring the plan of revenge works out accordingly. Kafka questions the certainty that the object of conversation is supernatural since there is a possibility that he is delusional and suffers from a psychological disorder. Their attitudes towards women share a common ground while the relationship of Kafka and the father is similar to that of Hamlet and the ghost.
Kafka, Franz, Willa Muir, Edwin Muir, and Philip Rahv. Selected Short Stories of Franz Kafka. New York: Modern Library, 1952. Print.
Mercer, Peter. Hamlet and the Acting of Revenge. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1987. Print.
Nolan, Christopher, Wally Pfister, David Julyan, Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, and Jonathan Nolan. Memento. Culver City, CA: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, 2001.
Ralli, Augustus. A History of Shakespearian Criticism, A History of Shakespearian Criticism. Humanities Press, 1932. Print.
Shakespeare, William, and Harold Jenkins. Hamlet. London: Methuen, 1982. Print.