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Indecision, Hesitation and Delay in Shakespeare’s Hamlet – Excessive Hesitation and Delay?

Hamlet – the Hesitation and Indecision

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet presents a hero who hesitates to avenge his dead father when given the opportunity – what should be his judgment? This paper examines the decision from various points of view.

Mark Rose, in “Reforming the Role,” comments on how the hero’s hesitation to kill at the propitious moment, coupled with his later hasty decision to kill, have left the protagonist a changed man:

[. . .] the prince who returns from sea is a changed man, resigned, detached, perhaps “tragically illuminated.” Having refused to kill the king when the time was every way propitious – that is, when he found Claudius kneeling in empty not genuine prayer – and then, having chosen his own moment to act only to find that instead of the king he has murdered Polonius, Hamlet seems to have allowed his sinews to relax. He has let himself be thrust aboard ship, let himself in effect be cast onto the sea of fortune that is so common an image in Shakespeare and the Elizabethan poets, an image recalling that “sea of troubles” against which he had earlier taken arms. When the opportunity to escape the king’s trap arises, Hamlet seizes it, leaping aboard the pirate ship, but what he is doing now is reacting to circumstances rather than trying to dominate them wholly. (126-27)

Is there a connection between verbal hesitation and hesitation in action and decisions? Lawrence Danson in the essay “Tragic Alphabet” discusses the hesitation in action by the hero; this is related to his hesitation in speech:

To speak or act in a world where all speech and action are equivocal seeming is, for Hamlet, both perilous and demeaning, a kind of whoring.

The whole vexed qu…

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…g.” Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. Rpt. from Tragic Form in Shakespeare. N.p.: Princeton University Press, 1972.

Rose, Mark. “Reforming the Role.” Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. Rpt. from Homer to Brecht: The European Epic and Dramatic Traditions. Ed. Michael Seidel and Edward Mendelson. N.p.: Yale University Press, 1977.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995.

West, Rebecca. “A Court and World Infected by the Disease of Corruption.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Court and the Castle. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1957.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Essay: Who is Gertrude?

Hamlet –Who is Gertrude?

This essay intends to explore Gertrude’s situation in the play in an attempt to answer many questions about her, the queen, wife of Claudius and former wife of his deceased brother, King Hamlet.

Back in 1883 Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Lectures and Notes on Shakspere and Other English Poets comments on what he interprets as a problem or inconsistency in the presentation of the character Gertrude in Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet:

Ham. A bloody deed;- almost as bad, good mother,

As kill a king, and marry with his brother.

Queen. As kill a king?

I confess that Shakspere has left the character of the Queen in an unpleasant perplexity. Was she, or was she not, conscious of the fratricide? (364-365)

Remember that the ghost does tell Hamlet not to prosecute the queen, but only Claudius. So she would seem to be innocent of the murder.

At the outset of the drama, Hamlet’s mother is apparently disturbed by her son’s appearance in solemn black at the gathering of the court, and she requests of him:

Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,

And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.

Do not for ever with thy vailed lids

Seek for thy noble father in the dust:

Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,

Passing through nature to eternity. (1.2)

The queen obviously considers her son’s dejection to result from his father’s demise. She joins the king in asking Hamlet to stay in Elsinore rather than returning to Wittenberg. Respectfully the prince replies, “I shall in all my best obey you, madam.” So at the outset the audience notes a decidedly good relation…

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…zine, 285:2011 (July 1898), 33-41. Rpt. in Women Reading Shakespeare 1660-1900. Eds Ann Thompson and Sasha Roberts. New York: Manchester University Press, 1997.

Burton, Philip. “Hamlet.” The Sole Voice. New York: The Dial Press, 1970. N. pag.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Lectures and Notes on Shakspere and Other English Poets. London : George Bell and Sons, 1904. p. 342-368.

Jorgensen, Paul A. “Hamlet.” William Shakespeare: the Tragedies. Boston: Twayne Publ., 1985. N. pag.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. No line nos.

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