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Why Hamlet delays

Hamlet is an emotional person. He feels guilt, remorse and has responsibilities, yet at the same time he feels pride and a sense of duty. He is also quick, in Act one, scene five to take on his role of avenger

“Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as swift

as meditation or the thoughts of love, May sweep to my revenge.” I believe that there are many factors that contribute to hamlets delay in action.


Hamlet is passionate about his role and swears to “wipe away all trivial fond records” and to concentrate avenging his father’s death. However he is concerned with his mother’s betrayal “O most pernicious woman!” and this makes him hesitate.

This was not the main issue his father spoke of, yet Hamlet is troubled by the thought of his mother’s marriage to his uncle. Hamlet idolized his father so much that he would do anything to make him happy, to be the perfect son. However towards the end of the scene he starts to have some doubts, “The time is out of joint. O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right!” Although he feels it’s his duty, he says ‘cursed spite’ I think he is resentful of his evident fate and feels put upon to be made to do this terrible deed.

Hamlet tries to convince everyone that he is mad rather than plotting revenge. Although at first Hamlet feels the idea of acting mad is a good one, it becomes obvious that even Hamlet doubts his genuine sanity. In some parts of the play it is hard to tell if he is acting mad or he is really mad particularly in act scenes 4 when Hamlet argues with his mother. He was already accusing her of treachery and when talking to his mother he is threatening, Gertrude becomes scared ‘though wilt not murder me? Help, ho!’

When Hamlet murders Polonius he still seems to be troubled with his mother’s betrayal.

“A bloody deed-almost as bad, good mother, as kill a king and marry with his brother.”

There is a continuous theme of deceit within the play and Hamlet feels strongly about the deceit by his mother. His idolization of his mother being completely shattered may have thrown Hamlet into depression. Also

the death of his father and the sudden marriage is enough to make anyone depressed, so for Hamlet, who is a very philosophical and deep character these events may have tipped him into mad behavior.

Hamlet is battling with his conscious, he has become more aware of his sense of morality towards the end of the play. Hamlet lives in a society where it is thought wrong to kill, even for revenge, law forbids it, but he also lives in a society where duty and personal honor prevail. Hamlet tries to stir up his hatred for his uncle by speaking in harsh language, calling him a ‘bloody, bawdy Villain’ and a ‘remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindles villain.’ But this tactic does not work and he continues to dwell.

Hamlet’s ‘play within a play’ again shows some hesitation, there is no physical action-taking place on Hamlets part, however Hamlet is searching for some sort of truth in what he has been asked to do. In seeing Claudius’s reaction to the play that Hamlet has prepared Hamlet has some hard evidence. The ghost of his father, an apparition, has only told Hamlet of the murder. Hamlet wanted to concrete some evidence.

Despite all this, when the play is performed and Claudius’s reacts strongly, hamlet still does not kill Claudius. This is another opportunity Hamlet passes on.

Hamlet has another ideal situation where he can kill Claudius when Claudius is praying in the church, however, Hamlet is quick and realizes that if he were to die now, he would go straight to heaven as he has been purged of all sins. “A villain kills my father, and for that

I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven.”

He wants Claudius to suffer the same fate as his father did; he realizes that with the forgiveness Claudius has asked for he will end up in heaven.

Although Hamlet does finally kill Claudius it is the death of his mother that is the key to the murder of Claudius. Hamlet is so enraged and passionate about the death of his mother. The death of his mother leaves Hamlet with nothing left to live for and there is no longer any reason to hesitate as he has nothing left to loose.

In conclusion I think hamlets lack of resolve comes from his personality, he was too uncertain of anything including his own feelings to commit himself to action, he had too many conflicting ideas in his head including knowing that killing is wrong, revenging his fathers death, if there was any truth from what the ghost said, whether he really was mad and his mothers hasty wedding to his uncle. This is enough to put doubts in anybody’s mind.

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