The Theme of Revenge in The Wild Duck essay

The theme of revenge has always been of great significance, in ancient times, in the middle ages, as well in the 19th century and in the 21st. Oresteia, an ancient Greek work of art, as well as Hamlet, one of the most famous William Shakespeare’s tragedies, can easily prove it on their own example. All three works ”“ Oresteia, Hamlet and The Wild Duck – being devoted to the common theme of revenge show how this strong feeling destroys everything around, ruins main characters’ lives and hopes and make suffer innocent people

Ibsen’s The Wild Duck is a novel of great significance. It touches a lot of physiological and social questions. Although Henrik Ibsen wrote his one of the most famous plays more than century ago ”“ in 1885. Despite more than a century passed since the time it was written the aroused problems are still actual nowadays. One of the most burning themes in the play is the theme of revenge. The conflict between two heads of families ”“ Werle and Ekdal becomes the crucial moment of the play. The revenge between these two persons establishes the relations between two families.

The life of all the characters is in that or this way connected with this theme.

The plot of the play is rather twisted and very rich with details and different symbols, which help to catch the main ideas of the work. Hakon Werle and Old Ekdal were two partners and army officers before a forestry scandal. Old Ekdal was imprisoned because of this scandal that Werle organized. This scandal changes their relations forever.

Gregers, Werle’s son, having not been home for fifteen years, returns and accuses his father in this scandal with Ekdal and betray of his mother with Gina, Hialmar’s wife. Hialmar, Ekdal’s son, works in his own photography studio.

All in all, Gregers comes to Ekdal’s place where all his family leaves and asks for a spare room. He often speaks with Hedvig, Hialmar and Gina’s daughter, who has problems with her eyes and that is why does not attend school.

Hedvig has a wild duck, which is very symbolic in the play. Every character can be considered to be a wild duck in this world.

After a walk with Gregers, Hialmar is furious, he does not allow his wife to work in his studio any more because he reveals his wife’s betray. Gina is not sure whether Hedvig is Hialmar or Welre’s daughter. Hialmar does not want to see his daughter any more and he decides to leave this house. Hedvig hears this conversation and wants to sacrifice her favorite wild duck to prove her father that she loves him so much. We also reveal that Werle sent a letter in which he promises a monthly income to Ekdal. Hialmar is sick and despaired. Hedvig wants to return her father’s love and runs to the garret to kill her duck. Soon it appeared that Hedvig has killed herself.

The main motive in Ibsen’s play is the opposition between dark and light. These two notions always come together in this work of art: revenge and love, truth and lie, ideal and real, sight and blindness. Gregers is sure that he knows his destination and that he is following it. He is obsessed by his idea to bring the “light of transfiguration”. He is intented to make Ekdal’s household light and spiritually rich, however, he is able to bring only oppression and dullness. Gina remarks that Gregers’s ideals lack practical sense. Removing the lampshade while Gregers is speaking about the importance of light and spirituality she shows all the irony of situation and main joke of the play. “The joke operates by shifting from the plane of Salvationist allegory to physical comedy, from Gregers’s impassioned rhetoric to the banal household object. The removal of the lampshade recalls how the petty concerns of the household function throughout the play to deflate the tirades of our would-be romantic heroes” (Ferguson 98).

Gregers lives in an idealized fantastic world. He divides the world into two parts ”“ good and bad. He idealizes some people, rejecting to see anything good in others. Werle, in Gregers’s opinion is a tyrannical and despotic father, while Ekdal is an example of an ideal father. He leaves his own father for idealized Ekdal. He sees and interprets everything from the position of idealism and maximalism. Rellin, another character of the play, presents a realistic position. The heated dispute between Gregers and Rellin ”“ in fact between idealism and realism ”“ is another important theme in The Wild Duck. The end of the play proves that idealistic ideas without any practical foundation are inappropriate in this world because Gregers’s life ideals crash out.

Ibsen presents us a vivid illustration of how revenge, selfishness and concentration only on own problems and disappointments can lead to terrible consequences when innocent people suffer. Hiamar is betrayed and he wants to revenge for his insult. He starts despising the innocent child, Hedvig, whom he always thought to be his daughter.

He projects his revenge on his child not thinking about Hedvig’s feelings. Hedvig’s becomes a victim of her parents’ betrayal, deception and emotions. Hiamar lacks self-control, he does not think that his daughter is not guilty of her mother’s infidelity. Hedvig is ready to sacrifice the most precious thing in her life ”“ her wild duck, but in reality she sacrifices her own life and becomes an innocent victim of intrigues. This is the retribution for the Ekdals who were not able to see further than their own nose and are preoccupied by their own problems.

All three books, Orestia, Hamlet and The Wild Duck deal with the theme of revenge. The moral of these works is that the evil, what in fact revenge is, will never bring good and calm your soul. It will only make the situation more difficult and horrible showing no way out.

Revenge is the main theme in Oresteia. It reminds a vicious circle because one murder is following another and it seems that it will never end. A relative takes revenge for the member of the family who was killed and in such a way soon becomes the murderer himself. The person who is furious and wants to revenge for somebody is out of control.

He does not listen to his mind but just follows animal instincts that live in him. Only conscious analysis of the situation can help to make the step forward and can help to stop a continuing cycle of revenge. Furies in Oresteia also want to revenge for their murdered relatives and torture everybody who could have been involved in this murder. It is Athena who is able to stop this   range of revenges. Orestes is accused in taking revenge for his father and murdering his own mother. Apollo tells Orestes: “we will find the means to free you from this toil you’ve been caught in, once and for all. For I persuaded you to kill your mother” (97-9). Apollo sends him to Athena for advice and judgment in this case. It is Athena that listens to him carefully without aggression, emotions and fury and that is why she becomes that force that ends the cycle of revenge.

In Oresteia, as well as in The Wild Duck, only terrible consequences of characters’ actions can open their eyes and make them see the reality in another color but the experience shows that it often happens too late when nothing can be changed or returned.  

Hamlet written by Shakespeare in 1600 is also the greatest revenge tragedy. In this play the protagonist becomes the victim of circumstances. His father’s ghost appears in from of Hamlet eyes appealing: “Do not forget. This visitation is to whet thy almost blunted purpose,” (83-84). Hamlet can not forget his mother’s quick marriage after his father’s death and at last revenges his father’s death on his uncle.

Hamlet is an extraordinary personality with a rich controversial inner world. He feels grief, love and a wish to revenge at the same time. He is confused and can not resolve the situation himself. He gets through a number of significant life stages in the play which teach him something all the time. “Throughout the play Hamlet goes through several different stages of life, constantly being in a tortured mental state, caught between love, grief, and vengeance.

His different states of mind are the result of his controversial personality and his ability to objectively analyze any situation” (Hurstfield, 112). The hatred that lives in Hamlet’s heart, all in all, leads him to his demise and he is left with nothing. This play, together with The Wild Duck, illustrates how hatred can not only bring harm to a person but also ruin the personality.

To sum up, Henrik Ibsen in his play The Wild Duck creates an image of tragic and confused relations in two families, which, at first sight, make an impression of normal and even warm relations among relatives. Nevertheless, further the readers find out that all the characters are preoccupied by their own problems. The theme of revenge during the whole play is very important. It makes the readers understand how characters are miserable. They are not able to be over this feeling, forget all evil and turn over a new page of life. People spend so much time and effort on their negative emotions that it does not give a single possibility to stop the cycle of revenge which has been started so long ago. Comparing this play to the other works of art devoted to the same theme we can see that revenge can give birth only to the evil and it is because of it innocent people can suffer. This theme does not refer to a particular author, time or style.


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