Every society is defined by its codes of conduct—its rules about how to act and behave. There are many scenes in Hamlet when one person tells another how to act: Claudius lectures Hamlet on the proper show of grief; Polonius advises Laertes on practical rules for getting by at university in France; Hamlet constantly lectures himself on what he should be doing. In Hamlet, the codes of conduct are largely defined by religion and an aristocratic code that demands honor and revenge if honor has been soiled.
But as Hamlet actually begins to pursue revenge against Claudius, he discovers that the codes of conduct themselves don't fit together. Religion actually opposes revenge, which would mean that taking revenge could endanger Hamlet's own soul. In other words, Hamlet discovers that the codes of conduct on which society is founded are contradictory. In such a world, Hamlet suggests, the reasons for revenge become muddy, and the idea of justice confused.
Religion, Honor, and Revenge ThemeTracker
Religion, Honor, and Revenge Quotes in Hamlet
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.