Get help from the best in academic writing.

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

Hamlet’s Delay

The question of why Hamlet delays in taking revenge on Claudius for so long has puzzled readers and audience members alike. Immediately following Hamlet’s conversation with the Ghost, he seems determined to fulfill the Ghost’s wishes and swears his companions to secrecy about what has occurred. The next appearance of Hamlet in the play reveals that he has not yet revenged his father’s murder. In Scene two, act two, Hamlet gives a possible reason for his hesitation. “The spirit that I have seen / May be a devil, and the devil hath power / T’ assume a pleasing shape” (2.2.627-629). With this doubt clouding his mind, Hamlet seems completely unable to act. This indecision is somewhat resolved in the form of the play. Hamlet comes up with the idea of the play that is similar to the events recounted by the ghost about his murder to prove Claudius guilty or innocent. Due to the king’s reaction to the play, Hamlet attains the belief that the Ghost was telling the truth the night of the apparition.

In Hamlets mind, it is now his duty to avenge his father’s murder. This is where the real problem of inaction enters the play. Later that night, Hamlet has a perfect opportunity to kill Claudius, when he sees the King kneeling in prayer. He wonders if this is the time to kill him and get it over with, but decides not to. He claims that he does not want Claudius to go to heaven, so he would rather kill him when he is committing a sin. If this is the case, then why doesn’t he simply wait till Claudius has completed his prayer, accuse him of the murder and kill him in his sin of denial. Instead, Hamlet goes to the chamber of his mother and passes up his best opportunity at revenge. The argument can be made, however, that it is not a fear of killing that causes this inaction. He does not display an inability to end someone’s life when killing Polonius. He neither hesitates nor capitulates in sending Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their executions. Why then would the prince of Denmark hesitate to kill the one man he most justly could? Many literary believe that his inaction is the result of a vicarious Oedipus complex. Those who concur with this theory say that Hamlet, in his subconscious mind, has a desire to do exactly what his uncle has done; that is, get rid of the king so that he can have Gertrude for himself.

Hamlet is Not a Coward

Hamlet is Not a Coward

The first seven lines of Hamlet’s soliloquy in the third scene of the third act have been the cause of debate for centuries as to what they reveal about Hamlet’s character. Some say that he has chickened out of the prime opportunity to obtain the revenge that he has been commissioned to achieve by the ghost of his father. They accuse Hamlet of being a pacifist who hasn’t the heart to put his thoughts into action-that he has merely talked himself out of the deed. My interruption of these lines, however, shows that just the opposite is true. The Prince of Denmark is indeed set upon avenging his father’s death, and rather than backing away from the task at hand, he is going forward in away which is intended to bring dishonor to Claudius and maintain his own honor at the same time.

Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;

And now I’ll do’t. And so ‘a goes to heaven;

And so am I reveng’d. that would be scann’d:

A villain kills my father; and for that,

I, sole son, do this same villain send

To heaven.

Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge.

–Hamlet III.iii.73-79

Hamlet becomes truly committed to revenging his father’s murder after the Mouse Trap scene in Act II in which the guilt of Claudius is clearly brought forth. His little play had a two fold effect which spurs Hamlet forward. First of all, by mimicking the exact way in which Claudius killed his brother and married his sister-in-law, Claudius knew that Hamlet was on to him. The second effect may or may not have been intend by Hamlet, but the murderer in his play happened to be the nephew of the king, which may have been interrupted by Claudius as Hamlet’s future intentions. Both of …

… middle of paper …

…ational thought, for had he stopped and thought for a moment, he would have realized that it couldn’t possibly have been the King-he had just left Claudius praying.

Revenge is a dangerous game to play as Hamlet well found out. In the end his father’s death is avenged, yet the kingdom has been lost to Norway – a greater tragedy than the death of all the main characters.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Bloom, Harold. Modern Critical Interpretations Of Hamlet. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.

Charney, Maurice. All of Shakespeare. New York, NY. Columbia University Press. 1993.

Evans, Gareth Lloyd. The Upstart Crow-An Intro. to Shakespeare’s Plays. London, England: J.M. Dent

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.