Hamlet Vs. The Bacchae

Hamlet and The Bacchae have many similarities and differences, in this paper, I

will discuss some of them, as well as the questions posed in class. Both of these

plays are tragedies, ending with a great number of the featured characters dying, or

meeting another terrible fate.

First of all, I don’t think that Hamlet took place in a godless universe. Of

course, the god in Hamlet, vs. the gods in The Bacchae are very different gods. In

Hamlet, God affects the decisions the characters make (e.g., Hamlet decides not to

kill Claudius while he’s praying, because he believes God will forgive Claudius for

his sins, and not send him to hell), however he doesn’t have a direct role. You have

no proof of a god in Hamlet, while in The Bacchae, the gods are the main

characters in the play, performing a good percentage of the action. Also, the

presence of the ghost means that in the world of Hamlet, there is an afterlife, but

since there are not more ghosts in the world, there must be some divine presence,

affecting why the ghost is there.

Continuing with the issue of the ghost, the presence of the ghost in the play

has many implications. First of all, the presence of the ghost may be an attempt to

satisfy the religious beliefs of both the Protestants and the Catholics, which both

would have been watching the plays during Shakespeare’s time. The Protestants

do not believe in purgatory, so the ghost may be a way to explain the afterlife,

without offending either religion. The ghost also creates some confusion with

heaven and hell, because if the soul is in a ghost, then it means that it went neither

to heaven, nor hell. Yet, throughout the play, the characters often talk of both

heaven and hell, and the presence of the ghost doesn’t change their belief in any


Another significant difference between the two plays, is the role of revenge,

and how it varies between god’s revenge (in the Bacchae) and man’s revenge (in

Hamlet). Hamlet’s revenge tended to have logic, and was fairer to those that

weren’t the point of his revenge. However, in The Bacchae, Dionysus shows very

little logic, simply punishing on his own whim. In some cases, Dionysus took out

his revenge on people that he had no dispute with. He was simply in a bad mood,

so his revenge was also taken out on them. Hamlet’s revenge showed a lot more

reason and organization to it, as opposed to Dionysus’s, who had no reasons for

quite a few of his actions.

Another difference between the two plays is the character’s reasons for

killing. Dionysus obviously kills out of passion, sometimes simply because he’s

bored, or in a bad mood. Hamlet does have reasons, although there are cases in

which Hamlet kills out of passion. When Hamlet kills Polonius, it’s out of passion.

He’s in a hurry to kill Claudius, and in his rage, kills Polonius instead. However,

when he actually does kill Claudius at the end, it’s not really out of pure passion.

It’s much more a planned, logical murder.

In summary, Hamlet and The Bacchae have various similarities and

differences, which I hope I’ve shown in this paper. Neither Hamlet, nor The

Bacchae ends in a pleasant way, which is characteristic of a tragedy. However, the

end of Hamlet basically kills off all the main characters, except one, who carries the

story on. The Bacchae ends with those whom Dionysus thinks should be punished,

are punished. Those who have done him no wrong, are not affected. Both plays

end with the idea that the story should be told, either to keep Hamlet’s memory

alive, or to prevent others from going against Dionysus. In Hamlet, when someone

dies, there’s usually a reason for it, while in The Bacchae, it’s simply because

Dionysus wishes it so.

Word Count: 649

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