Hamlet Essay

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Topic: Why does Hamlet delay in taking his revenge?

"No place indeed should murder sanctuarize; revenge should have no bounds." (iv, vii, 128-129). Revenge comes from intense hatred, anger and determination. Hamlet, the tragedy of the "melancholy" Dane was written by more than four hundred years ago by English playwright William Shakespeare, never seems to slow down, much less to stop and rest. The play itself demonstrates explicitly the dark side of human nature: dishonesty, betrayal, scheming, spying, abuse, aggression, and war. Revenge, being one of the important themes, plays a crucial role in the book. Throughout the years critics have fiercely disputed Hamlet's indecision about avenge his father's murder. What makes him too slow to respond to his revengeful will? In this essay, this will be addressed. Some original views will be offered and based on these ideas; a possible understanding of Hamlet's delay will be suggested.

First of all, in the book reading on Hamlet, noted Shakespearean experts Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar of the Folger Shakespeare Library believe that "Hamlet, possessed of a finely trained intellect, is a man with a philosophic approach to life. He has been at the University of Wittenberg, where he has engaged in the subtleties of intellectual speculation. By training, such a man learns to analyze problems, and his responses are never automatic because his decisions come after contemplation rather than impulse." They further point out that, "If Hamlet's methods of working out his problems are indirect and time-consuming; he is merely following the pattern of behavior of the thoughtful and speculative type of thinker." They are trying to explain that Hamlet is a well organized and calculating person who is seeking and waiting for the best moment for his revenge, they strongly affirm that this is the main reason for Hamlet's manner of postponing his father's revenge. We can see how manipulative he is in act iii scene ii where he designs the play "mousetrap" in attempt to catch Claudius's secret, and he succeeds. Although he might be an outstanding individual, Hamlet himself is definitely not as "thoughtful and calculating" as they think he is. In the story there are moments for which Hamlet being irrational. The murder of Polonius is the most annoying and unexpected scene in the play, followed by the scene when Hamlet refuses to kill Claudius as he is praying. Hamlet's rash, frantic action in stabbing Polonius exhibits his potential inability to control his thoughts, emotions and actions, which could be considered his tragic flaw. In his passive, thoughtful state of mind, Hamlet is confused and slowed down by complex moral considerations and uncertainties to avenge his father's death by murdering Claudius, even if the chance is right in front of him. But when he chooses to act, he executes so carelessly, so blindly, stabbing his anonymous "enemy" through a curtain. Obviously this is not a part of his plan. He does it just because at that moment he loses control of himself; in other words, he doesn't know what he is doing. This example has completely made the argument becomes literally vague and unconvincing. Hamlet's indecision to his revenge must have included some other factors. Also the question is: what makes Hamlet behaves so unpredictably and randomly?

Perhaps the question can be answered according to the book Understanding Hamlet, published by a reputable Shakespearean scholar, Don Nardo, "At his best, he possessed qualities and abilities typical of renaissance ideal of gentlemen… only since his father's death has he succumbed to melancholy which has temporarily made him apathetic and slow to act." To be more specific, the death of Hamlet's father is not the only factor that contributes to his disconsolate. In fact, at the beginning of the play, Hamlet suffers from succession of shocks: the unnatural and accidental death of his idolized father; the over-haste marriage of his...
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