Two Wrongs Do Not Make a Right

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Two Wrongs Do Not Make a Right”

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Rosani Varatharajan

Mr C Santin


A common human reaction to being wronged is to seek revenge. The theme of revenge is constant throughout Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. Many of the characters try to solve one wrong with another. Some characters resort to revenge by wanting to kill the wrong doer after losing something valuable to them. In this play, one problem after another is created, and the characters such as Hamlet, Claudius and Laertes immediately consider having the same or worse done to the person that had wronged them, Their search for revenge results in the various killings of innocent individuals, due to their irrational and hasty decisions. It is clear to see that two wrongs do not make a right but only make a situation worse. This is seen through the ways that King Claudius, Hamlet, and Laertes seek to settle their score towards the ones who wronged them.

King Claudius tries to eliminate Hamlet to protect his secret of the murder of King Hamlet. Once Claudius is aware that Hamlet knows he had killed his father, he wants to cover his tracks by committing another murder, to insure that his secret would not be revealed in any way. “The present death of Hamlet. Do it, England; For like the hectic in my blood he rages, And thou must cure me: till I know ‘tis done...” (4.4 65-68) Without wanting to commit the murder himself for selfish reasons, Claudius sends Hamlet to England to have him murdered. Claudius does this to protect himself from the accusation of not only one murder, but now two. By trying to kill Hamlet, Claudius is trying to solve the problem of Hamlet knowing of his father’s murder. He sees Hamlet as a definite threat to his secret and to his new kingship, and thus, he plans to eradicate him. His plan did not succeed, since not only had Hamlet found out his uncle’s plans, but made it clear that Claudius was the murderer of the old King, and would be severely punished for his actions. Not only is Claudius trying to kill Hamlet after finding out his secret, but he also exaggerates the point that Hamlet is crazy.

“ O heavy deed!

It had been so with us, had we been there;

His liberty is full of threats to all,

To you yourself, to us, to everyone;

Alas, how shall this bloody deed be answer’d?

It will be laid to us, whose providence

Should have kept short, retrain’d, and out of haunt,

This mad young man: but so much was our love,

We would not understand what was most fit,

But, like the owner of a foul disease,

To keep it from divulging, let it feed

Even on the pith of life. Where is he gone?”


Claudius, to ensure that no suspicions could arise from this situation, he tries to make Hamlet seem dangerous. By creating a picture of Hamlet, as a mentally deranged individual, seeking to kill the new King, Claudius paints a picture of Hamlet as a bloodthirsty mad man on the loose. He says that not only is Hamlet a menace to society, but specifically to himself and Gertrude. By including other people at risk of Hamlet’s ire, it makes his reason for sending Hamlet away, justified and appearing to be the right thing to do. He does so, as part of his preparations to send him off to be executed in England. Claudius makes it clear that Hamlet is a threat to him, his secret, and his new life as king. To solve this, he needs to kill Hamlet in order to eliminate any chance of the others finding out that it was he who had killed the beloved King Hamlet, and any further erroneous actions. With the potential for others to find out his secrets, Claudius lives in constant fear of losing his respect within the kingdom, and his throne. Hamlet has become his greatest liability, being the heir to the throne, and more importantly, a young man out for cold blooded revenge.

After returning from his journey, Laertes discovers that his father had been murdered, thus demands revenge against his killer. Laertes is looking to avenge his father’s death after being told that it was Hamlet who had killed his father. He is informed that Polonius was murdered through Claudius and is now set out to seek revenge on Hamlet.

“ That drop of blood that’s calm proclaims me bastard,

Cries cuckold to my father, brands the harlot

Even here, between the chaste unsmirched brow

Of my true mother.”

(4.5, 115-118)

Laertes must prove his love for his father by avenging his death. He believes that the murder of Polonius can only be justified with the murder of Hamlet. Laertes chose to take the pain of the loss of his beloved father and turn it into action and retaliation. Laertes is mentally startled and disturbed by the fact that his father is dead, and does not realize that revenge on Hamlet will not change that matter. After discovering that his sister, and Hamlet’s lover, Ophelia, has gone mad, Laertes becomes even more upset and eager to kill Hamlet.

“And so have I a noble father lost;

A sister driven into desperate terms,

Whose worth, if praises may go back again,

Stood challenger on mount of all the age

For her perfections: but my revenge will come.”

(4.7, 25-29)

Laertes thinks by killing Hamlet it would reverse the mental instability that his sister is in, and all will go back to being normal. The motivation behind this murder is the current state of his sister and the death of his father. In this sudden shock of losing his loved ones, he tries to make himself feel better by eliminating the cause of his pain and suffering. He has come to the conclusion that only the death of the person to blame, Hamlet, will justify everything’s that has just happened. Laertes acts irresponsibly, believing that by killing Hamlet, Ophelia would return to normal, and that his father’s death would be justified. The trust he once had in the royal family, has now been tainted with betrayal. Basically Laertes tries to fix his problems with another wrong, the first being committed by Hamlet.

Hamlet having found out that his father did not die of natural causes, but was murdered, became filled with fury and wanted the same fate for the murderer. Once Hamlet meets with the ghost he is astounded by what he learns. With this new knowledge of what really happened to his father, he was determined to avenge his father’s death.

``O villain, villain, smiling, damned, villain,

My tables,- meet it is I set it down

That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain,

At least I am sure it may be so in Denmark.

So, uncle, there you are; not to my word;

It is “adieu, adieu! Remember me.”

I have sworn’t”


Knowing that it was definitely his uncle who in fact killed his father, Hamlet is filled with rage and wants revenge. Hamlet begins to dislike his uncle, King Claudius, for marrying his mother so quickly after her husband passed away. It not only arises suspicions within Hamlet of his uncle’s actions, but makes him question his motives. Frustrated, distraught, confused and hurt, young Hamlet soon realizes that the few people he could trust within his family, no longer are trustworthy, especially his uncle Claudius. Hamlet, learning that his uncle was his father’s murderer, is filled with rage and wants his uncle dead. Being influenced by the ghost, Hamlet feels his father’s spirit will not rest until the murderer was also put to death. Hamlet does not realize the consequences involved in committing a murder just to balance the previous one. His irrational decision making is just the trigger to an ‘avalanche’ of subsequent deaths, of people he loved and hated. Not only will his mother lose another husband within a year’s time, but the kingdom will also be destructed, or even implode with the loss of two of their kings being murdered in such a short time span. Knowing all the wickedness that has happened in the kingdom, Hamlet starts to make it obvious so that the rest of the kingdom is aware of the wrongs that have occurred as well.

“ A villain kills my father, and for that,

I, his sole son, do this same villain send

To heaven….

‘To heavy with him: and am I then reveng’d,

To take him in the purging of his soul,

When he is fit and season’d for his passage?


Up, Sword, and know thou a more horrid hent,


Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,

And that his soul may be as damn’d and black

As hell whereto it goes….”


Hamlet does not see this as a murder since he believes that Claudius is getting what he deserves for what he has done. He sees the death of Claudius more as justice being served. He believes the only way to achieve this is by a treacherous murder of Claudius just as he did to his father. He wants Claudius to go through the same suffering his father went through if not worse, as punishment for the wrongs he has committed. Hamlet, being an immature young adult, thrust into a precarious situation which would greatly affect his family dynamic and the longevity of his kingdom, had acted irresponsibly, since he was unable to see the ramifications of Claudius’ death. Hamlet tries to find the justification for his father’s death by trying to have the same fate fall upon his murderer, without realizing that another murder will not make anything better. He is able to feel satisfaction in killing King Claudius, by correcting all the wrongs committed to his family and saving the soul of his dead father from a state of eternal purgatory.

Overall, Claudius, Laertes and Hamlet think that killing the person who wronged them would mend their problems and heal their pain. They do not understand that committing consistent wrongs, one after another, will only cause more trouble and not fix anything. The simple concept of ‘two wrongs do not make a right’ does not seem to register with these men. The concept of revenge is solely focussed on punishing the one person who wronged them, without realizing that many others would be hurt. Death is a part of life, but it is how one responds or reacts to it that defines the future. This means that revenge is not the answer to ones problems since it is driven by hatred and the number of people who will be hurt greatly increases. Thus no peace would exist, just further troubles are made and the circle would just continue. Revenge does not make one the superior person but equal to the wrong doe. In most cases karma will avenge the wrong doer for you. When it comes to revenge, just remember what goes around comes around so it is important to treat others the way you want to be treated.



Your elaboration and examples are all well done. Your topice sentences need to be much more specific.


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Displays little insight into the topic and supporting arguments.

Stance is absent or invalid.

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A stance is evident.

Provides some evidence to support stance.

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An attempt is made at logical argument.

Displays good insight into the topic and supporting arguments.

A clear and valid stance is evident.

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Argument is mostly logical, detailed, and coherent.

Displays great insight into the topic and supporting arguments.

A clear and valid stance is evident.

Provides strongest evidence to support stance.

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Displays little use of elements of structure: some components of thesis present; some attempt at structuring paragraphs; lacks conclusion.

Displays some use of elements of structure: some components of thesis evident; some components of body paragraphs evident; some attempt at a proper conclusion.

Displays effective use of elements of structure: four-component thesis, body paragraphs effectively structured with topic sentence, introduction to fact, quotations from text, elaboration, closing sentence; effective conclusion paragraph.

Displays mastery of the elements of structure: four-component thesis, body paragraphs masterfully structured with topic sentence, introduction to fact, quotations from text, elaboration, closing sentence; insightful conclusion paragraph.



Displays little understanding of the standards of conventional Canadian English.

Errors interfere with reader comprehension.

Little attempt at citing sources.

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Frequent errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Errors interfere with reader comprehension.

Displays some attempt at citing sources.

Displays mostly fluent use of conventional Canadian English.

Few errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Sources are cited properly, using standard format.

Displays fluent, error-free use of conventional Canadian English.

Sources are cited properly, using standard format.

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