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Hamlet's Delay

Good Essays
Cole Langan
Mrs. Henderson
ENG 4U
8 April 2013
Prince Hamlet’s Vengeful Delay
Within every human, lies a philosophical nature, driving the question as to whether a greater power or dominant spirit exists. This intellectual activity is evidently portrayed in William Shakespeare’s famous play Hamlet. The protagonist Hamlet, is deeply vexed with melancholy, and as the young Dane struggles with his vengeful conscience, his deep deliberation and analysis causes a great delay on his probe to avenge his father’s murder. Hamlet’s beliefs in infinite knowledge, gives rise to his intellectual capacity far surpassing his counterparts and this superiority leads to an indecisiveness ultimately inducing the casualty of Hamlet. This rationale is excess of the reflective and speculative mind. Despite Hamlets high intentions to abide by the ghosts commandment, he capitulates to an enormous amount of mental exertion and a proportionate aversion to real action consequent upon it. Hamlet’s extreme desire to reason all situations thoroughly becomes his tragic flaw as many opportunities arise to extract revenge upon his incestuous uncle, but refuses to for fear of damning his own soul. The delays in Hamlet’s actions ultimately ratify his fate. Contemplating every possible pattern, Hamlet takes on a God-like persona in his antic disposition. He is a philosopher by nature, and his reflections lead to internal conflict that inhibits action. Continually pondering “To be, or not to be…”(3,1,56) Hamlet reckons his thoughts and possible consequences, much more then required to avenge his father’s death.

Hamlets ultimate plan is meticulous and very sophisticated but in order for this plan to transpire accordingly, great discretion is required. Hamlet comprehends the complexity of his course and the precise planning, “[Hamlet] so am revenged, that would be scann’d” (3,3,76). The more he thinks about his actions, the more he delays…the more he thinks about the less he acts. Hamlet is suspicious of his fathers death and appears to be the only one refusing to wear a false face as in the wake of King Hamlet’s sudden passing as it “Seems, madam! Nay, it is; I know not “seems””(1,2,76). Hamlet welcomes the ghost of his father and affirming that “...thy commandment all alone shall live, Unmix’d with baser matter…”(1,5,103-105) obliges to “…Remember thee! Ay, thou poor ghost…”(1,5,96-97). As the play reopens two months later, Hamlet has yet to act as he begins to reweigh his justification as to whether or not the ghost was an illusion or perhaps the devil tempting him to kill an innocent man, damning his soul forever. To reassure himself of his course he devises a plan using the players to observe if Claudius “but blench, [Hamlet will] know [his] course …The plays the thing, Wherein [he will] catch the conscience of the king.”(2,2,595-604). Hamlet uses the play ‘The Mousetrap’ as a utility to determine his own state of sanity and the realignment of his course. After avoiding perhaps yet another murder of a faultless ruler of Denmark, Hamlet then revives his desire to seek revenge on Claudius, mere minutes after referring to himself as “A weak and muddy mettled rascal, peak, Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of [his] cause”(2,2,563-564). Although Hamlet’s plan seems very insightful and particular, he lacks the capacity to find the happy medium between action and reason. The more time that passes the more he ponders greater scenarios further displacing him from his path.

Hamlet’s true destiny as King of Denmark will never be fulfilled due solely to his lacking ability to take action. Many times throughout the course of the play, Hamlet has opportunities to extract his revenge, none more perfect then faltering upon Claudius in prayer. Struggling with the commandment summoned upon him by the paranormal figure of his father, or ‘the devil’, the prince verges upon the edge of a metaphorical abyss, where Hamlet must embark on a leap of faith to take Claudius’ life “When he is fit and season’d for his passage [to heaven]” but “No” (3,3,87-88). Hamlet never truly finds it within himself to act and as a result passes up on what would have been an opportune time while Claudius kneels, unarmed in the confessionary, but as previously observed, the continuity to ponder possible repercussions and the replete ability to conclave himself out of action poses itself as Hamlet’s tragic flaw. Once again he delays putting Claudius to his death, until exploited in the act of something “That has no relish of salvation in’t.”(3,3,93) Dating back to the biblical times of Adam and Eve, mankind has been tepmpted to mimic God, and Hamlet selfsame. Attempting to direct the soul of Claudius, Hamlet wrongfully takes on a God-like persona further exploring the struggle for a clear foundation of philosophy within himself. Without this basis he cannot make a decision to thereby act upon. The delay within the character of Hamlet is one of the most disputed literature themes debated since the play was written and had Hamlet been impulsive appose to pensive the play would have been rather short, but his inquisitiveness and struggle with morality portrays humanities great internal dispute with procrastination and philosophy.

Hamlet is careful and dilatory with his actions, contrary to the literary foils of Laertes and Fortinbras. Once discovering the murder of his father, Laertes returns from France concerned exclusively with revenge, acting extremely impulsively, with very little contemplation. Gathering a rebellion, Laertes storms the castle and immediately confronts Claudius and is prepared to kill him, demanding that “ Thou vile king, Give [him his] father”(4,5,113). In contrast to Hamlet who is fearful of the after life whether it be purgatory or damnation, Laertes is only concerned with the present and physical life as he clearly explains his distinct trial to evoke revenge “I dare damnation: to this point I stand, that both the worlds I give to negligence” (4.5.131-132). Laertes takes a loyal liberty in avenging the murder of his father, where as Hamlet cannot reason with himself to kill “the serpent that did sting [his] father’s life, [that] Now wears his crown.”(1,5,39-40). Hamlet and Laertes portray opposing ends of a murderous spectrum of rationality and action, where Fortinbras is seen as a foil medium between the two. Risking his life and honor for something insignificant, unnecessary and slightly ridiculous, Fortinbras conjoins the rationality of Hamlet and the impulsiveness of Laertes to become the only prince to truly avenge his fathers death. The delay of Hamlet and the rashness of Laertes ultimately proves to be tragic flaws leaving Fortinbras to “… embrace [his] fortune … in this kingdom, Which now to claim [his] vantage doth invite [him]”(5,2,382-383).

Prince Hamlet succumbs to his lack of action and as a result never fulfills his true destiny to avenge his father’s death and to inherit the throne of Denmark. The philosophical nature that lies within Hamlet is ultimately his tragic flaw as his deliberation and strong intentions are outweighed by his own intellectual capacity. Hamlet’s belief in infinite knowledge leads him to a desire for perfection and control as he is constantly second guessing himself and refuses to act. Many opportunities pass him by but for fear of his own vengeful conscience he delays. He is constantly pondering consequences as he attempts to save his soul while obeying his father’s command. The meticulous and speculative Hamlet, has no firm belief in himself or in anything else as he invariably cripples under the power of acting. His general intentions are the native hue of resolution that is sickbid o’er with pale cast of thought.

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