why does hamlet delay when avenging his fathers deathgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet : One Thread
when hamlet is first approached by the ghost he is told what he has to do. why does he delay so long , whereas laertes does not delay he is straight to the point and rushes to avenge his fathers death almost immediately after he is notified. however hamlet is not as "onto it" as laertes and delays. why does he delay ? what is the reason behind his procrastination ?that is what i would like to know thank you p.montergomeir
-- paddarick montergomeir (email@example.com), August 21, 2002
Hamelt delays killing Claudius for many reasons: (1) Considered against the background of ancient Greek and Roman revenge tragedies, the Ghost's command to "kill the king, but spare the queen" is like saying "make an omlette, but don't break any eggs." Hamlet has trouble working up just enough anger to punish murder, but tempering it with just enough compassion to spare (what was then regarded as) incest. (2) Hamlet delays killing others for the same reason he delays killing himself -- being poised on the edge of death (either inflicting it or suffering it) leads him to a series of highly illuminating moments and insights that Hamlet shares with us, particularly in the soliloquies, and he wants to extend this "self- educational" moment of crisis and see where it leads. (3) On a more mundane level, Hamlet wants to be completely convinced of Claudius's guilt first -- and as soon as he gets proof (The Mousetrap), Claudius virtually arrests Hamlet and whisks him out of the country. (4) It takes Hamlet a while to work up the nerve to commit regicide face to face and deliberately -- he tries in impulsively in act IV but kills the wrong man, Polonius; then proceeds to a more deliberate dispatch of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern...finally after having "practiced" in this way, he's ready to do the deed in Act V. I have submitted an extended essay on reasons 2 and 4 which I believe will soon be posted at www.hamlet.org.
-- Marcus Webb (MARCUSWEBB@AOL.COM), August 25, 2002.
I think Hamlet has excelent reason to delay. First off, somebody smart figured out that there is about 2 months time between when the ghost tells hamlet and when he kills claudius. That is a long time to delay. Keep in mind that killing a king is a major crime. He would certainly be killed as a result. I think that hamlet wants to kill the king the 'right' way whatever that may be. That's why he doesn't kill claudius while he's praying. If hamlet acts like laertes and immediatly goes off for revenge. Hamlet would have only succeeded in makeing the king a martyr. The truth of his father's murder would be lost forever. Laertes is an idiot, by the way, compared to hamlet. All he can do is react. I don't think he is capable of initiating an action.
-- crystal (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 16, 2002.
I believe that hamlet delayed the murder of claudius after the play because claudius confessed his sins right after (to no one though) and hamlet did not wish him to go to heaven.
-- Franko (email@example.com), November 18, 2002.
Hamlet delays because he does not have within himself a clear foundational philosophy of life, upon which he can make a decision and thereby act upon it. The old adage is that you can tell a tree by it's fruit, and the Delay of Hamlet points to a pretty 'mixed up tree.' Hamlet, through out the play points out that he has a variety of world views floating around within him. He goes to school in Wittenberg, the seat of the Christian Reformation. Through the play we see him speaking of his beliefs in Judaeo/Christian beliefs," that the everlasting had not fixed His canon against self slaughter", the fear of the after life (purgatory - ghost - damnation), etc. There is also a mix of PAGANISM in there, with fear of the undiscovered country (like a traveller crossing the river styx), not to mention that Danish / Viking type background with all its mythology, there is Humanism of the Enlightenment, ("What a piece of work is man"), there is Fatalism (O cursed spite that ever I was born to set it right", "There is a special providence (which also points to Christian predestination)), there is Existentialism (There is no good nor bad but thinking makes it so") and who knows what else. Hamlet is polluted with conflicting and warring world views. Add to this that he is a Prince, a student, a Dane, studying in Germany, an actor, a writer, overwhelmed with a melancholic disposition which bends towards manic-depression, and you begin to wonder how on earth he got anything done. Without a clear foundational belief, he can't settle on a final decision on what to do. If over reliance on his reasoning capabilities is his flaw (thinking too precisely on the event") - a highly touted trait within the enlightenment - then he needs a clear philosophy of life within him before he can make a final decision on how to exact his revenge. Until that occurs (and it never really does) Hamlet is left with indecision / procrastination. That's what I think ... today.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 29, 2002.
First, Hamlet needed proof that Claudius killed his father. Second, killing Claudius, avenging his fathers death would result in his damnation.Third, Claudius had to be killed at the right time to go to hell( like at night in the incestuous pleasure of his bed).
-- Binh Pham (Bi5Ph@aol.com), January 23, 2003.
All these answers and theories are all well and good but the fundamental reason was, Hamlet was a human being. Whether he knew Claudius had kiled his father or not, whether he had apt opportunity or not, whether was the hell, he was told to kill in cold blood by a ghost. Hanlet's delay was firstly the natural human reaction to such a situation. To do nothing. Secondly, as has been said before, Hamlet's delay is one of the biggest red herrings in the history of literature. It's not really that important once you get past the reason of "why he didn't act" and accept is as as simple a reason as I have claimed. There is too much else going on in the play.
-- Patrick Walker (email@example.com), January 26, 2003.
I feel that the reason Hamlet delays does not lay directly in a character flaw, but in a literary necessity. One may point this out as a simple cop out of the question at hand; however, I feel it is the root to the prolem we are tackling. The flaw is not primarily in the character himself, but in the play. In other words, Hamlet is indecisive only out of literary necessity. If he was impulsive rather than pensive, the play would be a one-act. Yes, "The play's the thing". Indirectly, I suppose I have said Shakepeare's work is flawed. He gives us no concrete reason for his protagonist's delay. In all his other plays (or the tragedies with which I am most familiar), the theory of the characters is evident. The motivation (or lack there of) for their actions is evident. The plot is logical and characters behave accoring to their circumstances. Hamlet, however, has trouble scholars and critics for years, but I say Shakespeare made the error here... Now, due to that error, this play has become the most analyzed, criticized and praised play of all time. So do we give Shakepeare a pat on the back or do we file this classic peice in the dud file. Of course we could not do that...so keep criticizing, but I feel I must end here. Unfortunately, I have an essay due tomorrow on this very topic and I do not feel my teacher will accept this simple explanation, however probable it may be.
-- Amy (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 03, 2003.
I believe there are many factors of reason behin Hamlet's procrastination. Many have been named above. However, lets not forget: 1) Hamlet does not know if the ghost is really his father or devil incarnate 2) Ophelia's purpoes in the play is as an implement of distraction for Hamlet's already troubled mind
-- ben brown (email@example.com), April 03, 2003.
hahah you guys lost me help me
-- yah the email is real (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 20, 2003.
I think Hamlet is troubled with the existentialistic anguish of death, and the play is full of hamlet's preoccupation with the idea of death. His father's death, as the man who had begot him, giving existence to him, is a major source of his angiush of death. He has acquired an intellectual consciousness of death and the idea of revenge is just what he may have the least in his mind! Since he must face with its fatal consequences, and he is, like Tolstoy's Ivan Illich (and like everyman), unprepared. Acually, I am now writing an article about the anguish of death in Hamlet (in Persian language) and I myself am unprepared for a full answer.
-- Alireza Mahdipour (email@example.com), May 17, 2003.
I think that hamlet delays when avengning his father's death because he has some doubt about the killer. he saw the ghost but he can't be sure if the ghost is good or evil. He may think that the ghost is just an evil thing that is trying to make him kill. Also Hamlet thinks before doing anything, he doesn't just do things out of nowhere. I think that he just wants proof that Claudious did killed his father. On the other hand, Laertes is the opposite he just does things without thinking about it twice.
-- heureux247 (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 17, 2003.
Clearley, Hamlet is emotionally and intellectually enjoying the torment of the situation.
--The masochistic theory
keep in mind I'm only in grade 12...but thats my spin on it!
-- Sarah (email@example.com), December 14, 2003.
he doent know if the ghost is authentic and the king in those days had divine powers so if he kills the king he could be killed too.
-- sabs (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 25, 2003.
Ive been working on an essay for english on why Hamlet delays. I came here to get some ideas but all the answers stated have been rationalizations for Hamlet. Hamlet suspects Claudius before the ghost appears and needs no reason to doubt the ghost except to delay. His reasons for killing Claudius change as well, and when he gets the perfect opportunity to avenge his father he decides to wait, and do it at some other, more opportune time. The real reason, as Ernest Jones writes, is that Hamlet has deep, repressed, feelings about killing the man who replaced his father. Jones argues that when every conscious reason tells you to do something and you do not then there must be some repressed reason that may not be known even to you why you delay. Jones believes Hamlet has an Oedipus complex and cannot kill the man who did exactly what he wanted to do... I'm not sure if I buy that argument, but I don't agree with all the other arguments on this page.
PS to whom ever thought that he delays just because it is human nature and that why he delays is not important... just look at fortinbras and why Hamlet delays is one of the most important aspects of the play!
-- Tyler B (email@example.com), January 07, 2004.
If Hamlet had committed suicide during his soliloquies then he would never have been able to avenge his father (King Hamlet)'s death. Had Hamlet committed suicide he as well would have gone to a) Purgatory or b) Hell. Being a Christian (and a proven coward on top of his religous beliefs)Hamlet would have been very afraid of what the afterlife could bring, which would inflict upon his road of action. Ultimately pride would have played a considerable part in Hamlet's decision. Perhaps Hamlet had lost so much that he could not bear to lose himself as well. This is indeed a complex and questionable topic yet it me as well. ~Ava
-- Ava May (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 07, 2004.
Hamlet is super passive-aggressive. Let's face it, he put on a play to make his uncle confess to murder (regecide, no less). Why doesn't he do anything? Quite simply, it's because his nature is not to do anything. Hamlet is a weak character with many flaws. That's how Shakespeare created him. His character is not a take-action type of character. Hamlet's main problem is that he cannot confront his situation (conversely, Laertes and Fortinbras are wonderful sons, aggressive, motivated, and not whiny!) Whereas Laertes takes the wonderfully loyal role of avenger without having been prompted by some stupid ghost, Hamlet gets too submissive even once the ghost of his father has told him to get his butt in gear. Twice! When Polonius is killed (by Hamlet), Laertes comes and threatens first Claudius the king (who he thought had committed the murder) and then Hamlet. He follows through on his threat, too. Hamlet would have been much safer in confronting and murdering Claudius (he had the support of his entire country), but Laertes (who nobody really knew or cared about)would have been attacked and probably killed. Fortinbras, also, risks his life and his honor for something that is not only unnecessary, but slightly ridiculous. His father died fighting for thatsmall patch of land, and so he will risk everything on getting that insignificant piece of land back. I guess all I've said is that Fortinbras and Laertes are literary foils to Hamlet.
-- MCN (email@example.com), January 22, 2004.
Hamlet delays to avenge his fatheres death because he is unsure if the Ghost is his Fathers' or an evil form from the darkness. He waits for the perfect moment when he puts on a play of a scene that he thinks might be comparable to that of King Claudius murdering his father. He does this for a good reason. Whether the Ghost was telling the truth about his father's murder or if the Ghost is evil and just playing with his mind by telling lies. In the following scene, Claudius reacts to the perfectly set up play and looks so guilty as he leaves the hall. Continuing, Claudius is knealing on the ground and from Hamlet's point of view and the perfect chance to avenge his fathers death, looks like as if he was praying to the heavens. He is delayed here because he had to be killed at the right time to go to hell and be eternally damned (like at night in the incestuous pleasures of his bed). If Hamlet were to kill him while he was praying, he would be sending him to heaven and Hamlet would be eternally damned himself and the truth he knows about his fathers murder would never be told. Another reason while he is delayed throughout the whole ACTs because Ophelias role in the play is only distracting Hamlet.
-- AL (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 22, 2004.
oh and i think someone above mentioned that Laertes was an idiot... I totally agree! He is the opposite of Hamlet. Hamlet is patient and his action for taking revenge for his fathers death and making that promise in the beginning of this play is finally fulfilled in the last act (ending). On the other hand, Laertes is a coward and does not take time to think and instead reacts.
-- AL (email@example.com), January 22, 2004.
I agree with Tyler B further up the page! Hamlet's delay tactics are for deeper meanings than that of being scared. Many elements affect his decisions and actions. G. Wilson Knigh wrote in "The Wheel of Fire" that "We have all done ill to sentimentalize his personality", suggesting that Hamlet was infact aware and incontrol of the situation he was presenting himself with, although I feel this is not the case. Hamlet deserves the audiences sympathy by the end of the play because he has been a lone avenger as a 'duty' to his father "Thou shalt honour thy mother and father" although he never questions "Thou shalt not kill". Hamlet even admits at one point in the play "O cursed spite, that I was ever born to set it right" (Act 1 Scene 5 Lines 189-190) showing Hamlet's true feelings of natural nervousness!
GD LUCK EVRY1 TRYIN 2 DO HAMLET CW, IT AINT EASY!!! :)
-- B. Adelmann (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 28, 2004.
The most helpful to me was tyler B, i agree with the oedipus complex and i think this is shown to good affect in the Mel Gibson version of this play where there is great affection between Hamlet and Gertrude in the scene in which Polonious is murdered. Hamlet shows great jealously of Claudius and he desperately wants to kill him but he has to wait for the right moment...the point of murdering claudius would be to put him in a place where he is in eternal pain and suffering for the sin he commited...if Hamlet killed him when he was in prayer, then he would go straight to heaven and Hamlet would go to hell. Hamlet needed to procastinate to be sure that Claudius would be suitably punished for his misdeed. However, i don't think that Hamlet needed to delay for quite so long, two months? i think he could have found an opportune moment at some point in those two months if he'd cared enough. Another point that i heard recently was that Hamlet, although he loved his father was not too concerned about his death except for that fact that Gertrude married again so soon, the funeral meats were served cold at the wedding. But, the second his mother was killed, Hamlet immediately jumped into action and revenged her...this again supports the idea of Hamlet having had an oedipus complex, he revenged his mother immediately without thinking about the consequences. So, Hamlet didn't seem to want to revenge his father that much because once he'd calmed down he delayed for as long as he possibly could. Excepting the occasion when he was disturbed and killed Polonious, Hamlet was remarkably calm and sensible in plotting revenge.
-- steph (email@example.com), March 23, 2004.
i think Hamlet delays because the thought of killing someone he has known throughout his whole life, his blood, troubles him. Claudius is the husband of his mother and brother of his father. Hamlet is depressed and when his mother is marrying claudius and everyone is celebrating, hamlet is wearing black and mourning deeply. He must feel betrayed by his mother, he probable thought that his mother and him could comfort eachother, instead his mother has married into incest and found comfort in his fathers murderer. hamlet is religious, he would be suverley punished for killing the king, he finds it difficult to build up his anger and finds it hard to make decisions
-- kate (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 27, 2004.
I think the answer to this question is quite simple. Hamlet is depressed! He is unable to balance his emotions with rational behaviour. As a result he is impulsive and unable to make sound judgement. This is apparent in the scene with the play. Whenever an emotional scene takes place, Hamlet would get up and start almost narrating the play under his breath. Also, when Claudius gets up and shows his guilt, this would be a perftect oportunity for Hamlet to kill Claudius. He doesn't, however, because he gets too emotional and excited over the fact that his plan has worked. As a result, he lets the opportunity pass by. I'm not going to talk about his oedipus complex because so many have already talked about it. Instead I'm going to move on. Another reason, as Hamlet says in the end of the play is that he wasn't "rough-hewing". Rough-hewing is when you take a log and slice off pieces so that it is now a perfectly square piece of lumber. It's a metaphore for doing what you can with what you've got. What Hamlet is refering to by this statement (now that he is of sound mind and can look back on his madness and delay) is that he was trying to do more with what he had than was possible. He didn't want to just kill Claudius, everything had to be perfect. This is shown in the scene where Claudiud is praying. He didn't want to send Claudius to heaven, he wanted him to go somewhere a little more south. This would have been a perfect opportunity for him, but he delays.
-- Nate Ivinski (email@example.com), November 07, 2004.
The simple answer is Hamlet DOESN'T delay! I firstly must point out that for Elizabethans the act of revenge was a damnable offence. It was NOT regarded as an obligatory act of honour. It was held in complete disaprovel by the church, the law and the state. Even if a man had had his entire family murdered by someone, and he went out with the sole aim of killing that murderer, then he would be as guilty as the first man. The act of revenge was dangerous to the body, the mind and the soul. It was NOT approved of in any circumstances.
Thus Hamlet's duty is NOT to kill Claudius. Rather completely the opposite. Thus putting Hamlet's journey and dilemma in the same category as Shakespeare's other tragic protagonists; Lear, Macbeth and Othello - though we sympathise with Hamlet, we should disaprove of the route he is taking. The audience should also share Hamlet's dilemma - what they think vs what they feel.
For a first time audience of Hamlet the notion that Hamlet has delayed in his revenge would not have struck them until the end of Act II when Hamlet is filled with self reproach after watching the Player's Speech. He then makes it perfectly clear that he is unsure whether of not the spirit is a 'spirit of health' or if it is 'a devil' - a dilemma that is too much overlooked. He then resolves to test his Uncle's guilt. 2 minutes later is To Be Or Not To Be and with that soliloquy he basically discusses, if his uncle be proven guilty, whether the nobler, greater persuit for a man is violent action or resigned passivity. By the end of the soliloquy he has resolved to take action. So there has hardly been a delay. We have not even seen one or hardly been aware of it. When he becomes convinced that his Uncle is guilty at the Play he absolutely assumes the role of the private blood revenger. He could 'drink hot blood'. His refusal to kill Claudius at prayer is not an excuse of any kind for delaying the murder. It is in fact Hamlet SO UTTERLY adapting to his revengers role that he is willing to usurp God's power and have his own hand in Claudius' damnation. This scene would have been utterly shocking to Shakespeare's audience. This is Hamlet's darkest moment. It isn't a question of Hamlet delaying or reasoning his way out of murder - it is quite the opposite. The point is that he has taken the act of revenge upon him to such an extent that he commits this 'usurpation of divine law'. Of course, when he murders Polonius in that bungled, mad, murderous frenzy only seconds later, we have further proof that Hamlet was ready and prepared to carry out this killing, as well as with the murders of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. At the end of the play Shakespeare does his uttermost to ensure that the murder of Claudius is an act of swift, instinctive, 'knee-jerk' retaliation and not a pre-determined act of revenge, thus ensuring Hamlet's soul is saved, despite, not because of. his revenge.
-- Patrick Walker (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 10, 2004.
Hamlet is an INTP temperament. So if Hamlet were to be a person in himself and not made up by Shakespeare, he wouldn't have been able to tell you why he delayed taking the revenge. He thinks too much and his thoughts just don't concentrate(like thinking how the pen must have been made), when he is supposed to writing down an essay. There is no other reason why he delayed killing Claudius. I am of an INTP trait and I exactly know how time passes without even getting the word done.
-- Inayatullah Hanslod (email@example.com), December 06, 2004.
How many times does Hamlet reason his way away from murder? How often does he "dwell" on it and talk his way out of it to alternatives? Off the top of my head...None, I'd say. The first time he talks about any "delay" is the soliloquy at the end of Act II. There he proposes to test the truth of the ghost's word before he commits a blind murder...fair enough! The good reasoning of a healthy mind. Laertes would not have done the same - he would have killed Claudius before we reached Act II. AFTER the Play Scene Hamlet is completely intent on murdering Claudius. Nothing will stop him. Nothing except accidently murdering the wrong person and being shipped off to England. The scene with Claudius at prayer is NOT Hamlet making excuses to shy away from the deed - what reason have we to think so anyway? He has shown no signs of passivity or cowardice up to this point in the play. No, this is in fact the complete contrary - Hamlet has assumed the role of bloody private revenger to the extent that he decides to have a hand in Claudius' eternal fate, as well as his death. He decides to usurp God's judgement. This is Hamlet's very darkest moment. He has surpassed his deed of murderous revenge - not shyed away from it at all! We know he is prepared to kill Claudius because he attempts do do so in the following scene...only it's Polonius. Oops. So Hamlet cannot kill Claudius. And when he comes back from England? Well, he becomes a changed man in the graveyard scene and the revenge is not the major issue.
So I think that your analysis is wrong.
-- Patrick Walker (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 10, 2004.
I agree. Moreover, in 'To be or not to be', he is considering, among other things, whether or not to do the deed. Not how, or why, or other possibilities, but yes or no. Yet here, he shows a supreme ability to concentrate. He draws quite a few threads from his life together, along with ideas more generally about humanity, and still sticking to his case and coming to conclusions. If you like, he can concentrate all at once on how pens are made, what they could do, and what they do do, at the same time as writing his essay.
-- catherine england (email@example.com), December 11, 2004.
Stacey Featherstone Ms. Gordon AP English 6 January 2005 Waiting for Perfection The debate rages: Hamlet was insane, indecisive, victim to an Oedipal complex, or, how easy--Shakespeare needed a play that did not finish at the end of its first act. After all, if Hamlet had avenged his father immediately, that would have been all. The greatest work of literature, caput, straightforward and devoid of complexity. Critics have long questioned the motives that fuel the procrastination of Prince Hamlet as he avoids killing Claudius for nigh two months, despite obvious opportunities to murder the king. Mere indecisiveness cannot be cited as the reason behind the delay; there are several examples of rash action performed throughout the acts. Hamlet's wheedling cannot be summed as an attempt by Shakespeare to proliferate his masterpiece. Every act, every word is weighted, calculated, and has substance in Hamlet. "Hamlet's delay in exacting vengeance is internally motivated" ("Hamlet"): Hamlet delays his revenge because of his obsession with perfection: in life, in death, in revenge, or in action. Hamlet's fantastical aspirations for a perfect world lead to the postponing of his vengeance. Throughout the play, Hamlet worries incessantly about the possible immorality of seeking revenge, and turns himself into a mass of questions that must be answered before he continues. These questions goad him into his struggle to find certainty in the ghostly mandate. Thus he steadfastly avoids action while he answers them all, checking the ghost's honesty, affirming Claudius' guilt in a crime sans witness, debating the state of Claudius' soul and the possibility of his repentance, analyzing the consequences of this revenge for Hamlet and Denmark, and attempting draw some conclusion on the afterlife (Encarta). "Shakespeare's dramatic representation of delay ultimately interpenetrates with the theme of death" ("Hamlet"). Hamlet is constantly caught in situations that confront him with mortality, be it his own or another's. The ghost's command requires that he "discover the truth about those who surround him; [this] leads to intense self-questioning about his own attitudes on life and, especially, death" ("William Shakespeare"). The problem and reality of death is that it must be lived through and accepted, and Hamlet's cannot do this. Instead of planning his vengeance, he broods over skulls, suicide, and Hell. Even his prime opportunity to kill Claudius is muddled by this obsession with death. He cannot bring himself to murder the king while he is in prayer because of the threat of salvation. If Hamlet had acted in that moment, the "bloody, bawdy villain! / Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindles villain" (II.ii, 580-81), could have had entry to Heaven. He will not kill the king "when he is fit and seasoned for his passage", but will wait until he is certain Claudius is caught sinning and will be held justly accountable King Hamlet's murder after he dies. "No. Up, sword, and know a more horrid vent. / When he is drunk asleep or in his rage / or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed / at a game swearing / or about some act he's no relish of salvation in 't—" (III.iii). Moreover, Hamlet's need for better circumstance stems from his apprehensions of death. Besides the threat of sanctity, the prince does not murder the praying king because this tests his morality. If Claudius had already repented when Hamlet stabbed him, Hamlet would have been punished in his own afterlife by Hell or Purgatory, both places decidedly unknown and unlived, too vague for Hamlet to risk. Furthermore, Hamlet is haunted by the uncertainty of death. As a scholar, it is the one entity that eludes him. "Hamlet is acutely aware of both the fixity and the silence of death: dead Polonius "is now most still, most secret, and most grave" (III.iv.214); Yorick's smile is fixed on his grinning skull and his gibes no longer set tables to roar" ("Hamlet") He struggles with the justice of life when Ophelia is killed, this brings into focus the idea that the innocent die along with the guilty (Andrews 162). Cynicism then sets in and any action seems futile. "The shock of the murder has gotten him thinking about the irreversible reality of death. Nothing lasts. The good guys are mortal. The noblest minds and brightest dreams can succumb to a dose of poison…what basis can there be for action?" (Kinney 43). Shakespeare uses scene after scene to drive home the link between Hamlet's passivity and his preoccupation with death and decay. Additionally, Hamlet searches in vain for the perfect circumstance for his vengeance, and for proof that the messy revenge is necessary. His world has crumbled; Hamlet lives in a nightmare. "Elsinore [is] haunted, its corridors are dark and circuitous, its rooms prison-like, its halls filled with disguise." He sees the sickness of humanity and corruption at a personal level: he has been admonished by the ghost of his murdered father, troubled by a kingdom in decline, and outraged by his mothers incestuous liaison. "His accustomed esteem for his mother—and with it much of his moral outlook on life—has crashed about him, in irreparable fragments" ("Hamlet"). He is reluctant to forget the perfect life that is no more: his father alive and reigning, his parent's faithful marriage, a Denmark at peace and unthreatened (Kinney 47). Suddenly Hamlet is "forced to avenge his father and assume the obligation of curing a sick state" (Prose 93). Beyond this responsibility, Claudius has surrounded himself with henchmen, a "court of concealment and lies" ("Hamlet"), and even Ophelia engages in his deceptions and betrays Hamlet. Hamlet vies for any reason to escape his world, and the chore of his revenge. "O cursed spite/That ever I was born to set it right!" (I.v.188-189). The external difficulties of exacting his revenge are obvious. Besides the moment while the king is praying, Hamlet has open opportunity to kill Claudius at the abrupt close of the Murder of Gonzago, but the outcome of a public slaughter would have been disastrous. It would have ignited all "the complications of executing vengeance upon a heavily guarded monarch, against whom there is no tangible evidence of his crime"("Hamlet"). He realizes that killing Claudius is a terrible crime. In the seventeenth century, kings were seen as divine, and the repercussions for assassination were harsh. The Danish court neither suspects nor disapproves of Claudius; his reaction to The Murder of Gonzago is significant only to Hamlet and Horatio. The public is invested in their king; proof of their loyalty is in the final scene. Even after Laertes has revealed Claudius' guilt, the crowd still has instinct to defend their king, and accuse Laertes of treason. Even if he had succeeded in killing Claudius, Hamlet would have been punished, and almost assuredly lost his own life. His famed "To be or not to be" soliloquy highlights his inability to face his mortality and his contradicting battle with suicide, one minute he is ready to die and the next bogged by fear of the afterlife. Hamlet would never have killed Claudius here, taking an action whose consequence is death is beyond him. Hamlet searches for assurance that his uncle is guilty and the selects perfect revenge scheme slowly. The authenticity of the ghost raises serious concern for Hamlet. "The spirit that I have seen/May be the devil [who]…/Abuses me to damn me" (II. Ii. 598- 603). In Elizabethan times, a phantom was generally believed to be a devil that assumed the guise of a dead person in order to endanger the souls of those nearest to the deceased through lies or other treachery (Encarta). He then staged an elaborate play to reveal Claudius as the murderer of his father. This is the bitter end to any disillusionment or hope for the king's innocence: the trap catches Claudius but Hamlet's dilemma continues as he develops his plan. Hamlet needs and waits for absolute proof of Claudius' guilt, for the fitting hour. "Circumstances have rendered the performance of a well- planned act of aggression against [Claudius] impossible", but Hamlet is unable to tame his need for the perfect moment. He is "unable to comprehend the problems imposed on him by the real world" ("Hamlet"). The truth of his world is that it is all lies: corruption, illicit affairs, murder. Hamlet does not delay action because of indecision. His personal actions have led him to disaster—even his feigned insanity brings Ophelia to suicide. Furthermore, in the one instant that Hamlet acts with authority and kills, at last believing the circumstances right for action, he is fatally wrong and kills Polonius, an innocent man. This leads him to further berating and augments his obsessive need for perfectly planned, perfectly executed action. He carefully considers the "extensive repercussions of all subsequent action, fully and inexorably". His purposes to avenge are extraordinarily strong, even vowed, but his frustrations over the costs of action "reach the point of utter deadlock and standstill" ("Hamlet") as he weighs his options for revenge. The demonstrated actions of the other characters only add to his hesitation. Laertes and Fortinbras are each represented as parallels to Hamlet, and Hamlet can observe the consequences Laertes receives as he acts quickly and as Fortinbras' military pursuits are also delayed and refracted ("Hamlet"). Laertes immediately resolves—nothing will distract him from acting on his revenge—but he is easily influenced and manipulated into serving Claudius' ends, and his poisoned rapier is turned unto himself. Gertrude drinks from a poisoned cup, Ophelia decides to betray Hamlet, Polonius involves himself in the affairs of the royals, Claudius marries the queen and obtains the crown through bold action, but he is tormented by threats to his authority…they all die. These actions by the leads inspire Hamlet's cautious nature, for all of these events under any sort of "imperfect circumstance" fail. Perhaps Hamlet is ready to act in the final scene as he begins to realize his obsessions with death and perfection are futile, all returns to dust in the end. Even the most fantastic people are reduced to random skulls scattered on the ground. Still, in the end, Hamlet can never make a true decision to act; his hand is forced. "His great opportunity comes about not through his own planning but through Claudius' machinations and the accidents of the moment" ("Hamlet"). Claudius makes the arrangements that lead to his own death (Andrews 161). The theories abound to provide cause for Hamlet's delay, but all are easily refuted except for Hamlet's tendency to overanalyze and attempt a fantasy, perfect ending to his nightmare. Hamlet cannot be considered indecisive. He is an extraordinarily complex character, "brilliant, sensitive, intuitive, noble, philosophic, and reckless…a repository of emotion and intellect" (Encarta). He is incredibly decisive, sharp, and clever. In an instant he kills Polonius, battles pirates, engineers the demise of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, rises to face Laertes, plays at insanity, and cleverly traps Claudius with theatre he prepared in mere days. He is terrible and ruthless in his actions. If Hamlet is capable of these, he is certainly capable of exacting his revenge. It is his quest to avenge his father the right way, under the right terms of heaven and society that hinders him. Nor is Hamlet suffering from an Oedipal complex. Freudian theories were nonexistent in Shakespearean time, and besides it is proven Hamlet truly loves Ophelia, not his mother, during the graveyard scene. His disgust at Laertes' flamboyant declaration of sorrow and defense of Ophelia's memory make an irrefutable case defending the strength of his emotion for her. Additionally, Hamlet hates his mother's actions and has multiple desires to kill her. Until he is forced into motion, Hamlet avoids killing Claudius, and he may never have acted if not for accidental circumstance in Hamlet because of an intense fear of imperfection in his vengeance. He is fixated by consequence of action, the properties of death, and the desire to engineer the perfect revenge and therefore is immobilized by his own mental complex.
Works Cited "Hamlet." Ed. John F. Andrews. Shakespeare's World and Works. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, n.d. "Hamlet." Encarta Encyclopedia. N.p.: Microsoft, 2000. CD-ROM. Hapgood, Robert, and Robert R. Reed. "Hamlet - Delay." Shakespeare for Students. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Kinney, Arthur F. Hamlet: New Critical Essays. N.p.: Routledge, 2001. 40-50. Prose, Matthew N. The Heroic Image in Five Shakespearean Tragedies. Princeton: n.p., 1965. 92-93. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. N.p.: Folgers, n.d. "William Shakespeare." British Writers. Ed. Ian Scott-Kilvert. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, n.d. 316.
-- Stacey Featherstone (Jechante@rochester.rr.com), January 06, 2005.
i know that we are talking about why hamlet delays but does anyone really think about the ghost. I have and the most logical answer to me is the ghost is actually Lord Fortinbras! Think about it... it is the ultimate revenge. Lord hamlet killed lord fortinbras. Fortinbras knew that hamlet was a deep thinker so he knew something big was going to happen and he knew that eventually his SON would get the throne. well, thats what i think... anyone else??? -Erica
-- Erica Andring (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 19, 2005.
Ah, shut up.
-- Patrick Walker (email@example.com), January 21, 2005.
I think Shakespeare alone did what he set out to do. That is, to make young people and wise old people to still ponder and question his plays. The genius must be sitting in heaven laughing at people who controversing his creation. Also, studies show that william Shakespeare was a pot smoker, so no doubt could have he made his plays controversial. good luck to ya'll any way
-- Bradley (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 21, 2005.
Dam, William Shake Spear is one very sexy attractive man. Tho he may have done some bad things in his life, he did just as much good as he did bad. I would just love to meet a guy like him!! Im Very Sorry, i havent answered the question fully, but that is cause i didn't really read the book. Tho I heard it was very good from many people. If I ever get the time in my lif time, I may just read it. I also read many of the anwsers all you people wrote, and there all good. Every one had their own opinions. THANKS ALL!!!
-- Curtis Gibson (email@example.com), January 21, 2005.
hey, you nerds lets all get shit-faced at some party this weekend. Bring your Hamlet plays and drinks.
-- cody (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 25, 2005.
obviously Hamlet is a christian(catholic) who might delay due to belief he will be sent to hell himself. However, any one who knows anything about catholicsm knows that Hamlet would not delay killing Claudius bececause he is scared of going to purgatory,because catholics beleive if you are sent to purgatory, you will at some point go to heaven, hell would be out of the questions. Thought i would make that clear from one of the statements above.
-- Casey Myers (email@example.com), March 06, 2005.