Theme of Inaction in Hamlet

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Hamlet Essay

Hamlet, the titular character of the Shakespeare play, is one that, like many tragic heroes, has a tragic flaw. This hamartia eventually leads to his downfall, as a result of the circumstances he places himself in. Hamlet’s tragic flaw of inaction leads to his death by Laertes hand, as he is consistently unable to kill Claudius despite occult intervention, the slaying of Polonius, and the eventual climax of the duel.

Near the beginning of the play, Hamlet is approached by the ghost of his slain Father. The specter urges Hamlet to take action against Claudius, who murdered him in his sleep. Hamlet appears forthcoming about his desires for revenge: “Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as swift as meditating, or the thoughts of love, may sweep to my revenge.” (1.5.29-31). He now has a purpose to seek, the revenge of his father’s death. However, this bravado quickly sours as throughout the following scenes Hamlet constantly delays his task. Simply put, Hamlet could walk into the palace and slay Claudius where he stands, but to Hamlet, this is not the manner of which he would handle this task. He begins to devise a plan: “As I perchance hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on, that you, at such times seeing me, never shall with arms encumber’d thus, or this head-shake, or by pronouncing some doubtful phrase…” (2.1.170-175). Here Hamlet states his intent to feign madness. What purpose does this serve in his quest to kill Claudius? To Hamlet, he believes that acting as a madman will give him more ground to investigate the crime, as no criminal would be scared of the delusions of a crazed man. But to the common reader, one could see this as a ploy of a man who does not know where to go. The purpose of feigning madness seems scant when the goal is to prove a dastardly deed has been committed and to punish the deviant. Hamlet’s uncertainties are numerous in this portion of the play, and he expands his “plan” to a group of actors:...
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