Hamlet's Delay in Murder of Claudius

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Hamlet’s actions in the play have been interpreted in different ways, especially when he procrastinates in killing the king, Claudius. Questions have been raised because he does not kill the king after Hamlet’s first encounter with the ghost. The ghost had warned Hamlet that Claudius had murdered his father. As a result, there have been four theories that have been developed which try to discover the reasoning behind Hamlet’s procrastination. The average person would have murdered King Claudius immediately after the encounter with the ghost. However, it takes Hamlet almost the whole play to murder Claudius. The first theory suggests that Hamlet is skeptical about the intentions of his father’s ghost and is hesitant in acting upon the ghost’s warning; the second says that Hamlet is unable to murder the king is due to the weakness in Hamlet’s character and that he thinks too much about the consequences of his actions; the third theory states that Hamlet’s inaction is due to his unconscious mind; and the final theory suggests that Hamlet suffers from depression because of his father’s murder and the quick remarriage of his mother to King Claudius is the cause of his inaction. The last theory seems to fit best in explaining why Hamlet acts this way and it is very difficult for it be proven wrong.

The first theory proposed by John Dover Wilson can easily be disproven by Hamlet’s actions in the play. This theory mainly talks about the early beliefs of ghosts during the Elizabethan Era. The Protestants believed that “ghosts…were generally nothing but devils” (p 62) and that no one was allowed to speak to one. This is because ghosts would bring “harm upon those to whom they appeared” (p 62). This theory written by Wilson is completely based on religious views and it says that Hamlet’s inaction is caused because he cannot decide if the ghost is a devil or an angel and that he is not sure on how to interpret the ghost’s warnings. It is a very difficult decision to make...
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