Why Did Hamlet Delay Killing the King?

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Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s many tragedies. Common themes in these works by Shakespeare are murder and deceit. Hamlet is full of each. The protagonist of the play, Prince Hamlet, is a young man whose father was murdered two months before the beginning of the story. Early on in the play Hamlet is approached by the ghost of his father. He explains to Hamlet that his brother, Claudius, murdered him. Before he returns to purgatory, he asks that Hamlet take revenge on Claudius, who, since the murder has taken the Crown of Denmark and taken Hamlet’s mother as a wife. Hamlet then makes a vow that he will avenge his father, but as the play progresses Hamlet passes up multiple opportunities to kill Claudius. This begs the question, Why does Hamlet delay? Hamlet delays avenging his fathers murder because he is waiting for the optimal moment to maximize the success of his revenge. After talking with his father’s ghost Hamlet could easily have grabbed a sword, approached Claudius and murdered him. Instead, Hamlet chooses to delay. By choosing not to act rashly, Hamlet is able to take a step back from the situation and wait for a better opportunity, one that arises when a group of players come to entertain Hamlet. The actors quickly catch the eye of Hamlet and he gets an idea to use the players to get a read on his suspect. Hamlet asks the players to perform an act that roughly re-enacts how his father was murdered to try and force a reaction out of Claudius. When discussing this plan with his close friend, Horatio, Hamlet reveals the reason why he delayed his revenge. He states, “If his occulted guilt/Do not itself unkennel in one speech/It is a damned ghost that we have seen” (III.II.73-75). In these lines Hamlet reveals that he has delayed because there has been no proof that the ghost was actually his fathers ghost, and not just a “damned ghost” (one sent by the devil). In Elizabethan times ghosts were considered incredibly untrustworthy, “Society believed...
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