In order for one to act, the timing must be perfect. This can result in someone getting what they want, or never being able to achieve what they truly want. Indecisiveness, hesitation, and delay, are three major reasons why the play Hamlet is a tragedy. Hamlet has lost his father because his power hungry uncle Claudius murdered him. Hamlet being enraged wants to desperately seek revenge. In William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Hamlet delayed in killing Claudius because he was waiting for the “perfect moment”. This can be proven through exploring Hamlet’s need for the proof that the ghost was authentic, Hamlet not wanting to kill Claudius while he was praying, and his desire for a public justice. While waiting for the perfect moment to kill Claudius, Hamlet delayed in killing him because he needed to know that the ghost of King Hamlet was real and not a mirage put on by the devil. During the first appearance of the ghost, Horatio doubted the ghost. Horatio believed that Hamlet should not follow it and makes this vocal when he says, "what if it tempts you toward the flood, my lord, or to the dreadful summit of the cliff"(I.iv.69-70). Horatio asks Hamlet to re-evaluate the ghosts’ intentions because he could be leading Hamlet into a trick. Within the first meeting with the ghost, Hamlet is told to seek revenge upon Claudius because he committed the murder of Hamlet’s father. Hamlet then waits and plans for the perfect moment to seek revenge on Claudius. Hamlet begins questioning the ghost’s intentions when the players arrive in act III. Hamlet needs to prove the authenticity of the ghost before he can act for he fears that "the spirit that I have seen/May be the devil: and devil hath power/To assume a pleasing shape:"(II.ii.596-598). Hamlet wonders if the ghost is the devil in disguise, attempting to trick him. Therefore, in order to prove this he uses the play within the play (mouse trap). He asks Horatio to "observe mine uncle: if his occulted guilt/Do not itself unkennel in one speech,/ It is damned ghost that we have seen,/And my imaginations are as foul"(III.ii.79-82). Once Horatio and Hamlet watched the kings reaction they were able to determine that he did indeed kill King Hamlet. Claudius is enjoying what he is getting out of being king and is not yet ready to give it up. He loves the attention and the power and because of that, he cannot get the forgiveness, although he tries "But, O, what form of prayer/ Can serve my turn? "forgive me my foul murder"?/ That cannot be, since I am still possess’d"(III.iii.52-54). Hamlet walks in on Claudius alone and praying and at this time contemplates whether or not he should kill Claudius. Hamlet decides against it because of his strong religious beliefs. Hamlet delayed in killing Claudius at this point in time because Claudius would get forgiveness and go to heaven. Hamlet believes that because his father didn’t get the opportunity to repent his sins, therefore Claudius should not either. Hamlet decides that the perfect timing to kill Claudius is "when he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,/Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed,/At gaming, swearing, or about some act/That has no relish of salvation in’t:"(III.iii.90-93). Hamlet wants to kill Claudius when he is sinning therefore he will not be offered the chance to be forgiven and will go to hell. Hamlet does not just want to kill Claudius and it be over with, he wants it to mean something. Throughout the play Hamlet, Hamlet is determined to bring the truth of his story to the people of Denmark. He wants his story to be told and for everyone to find the truth behind his father’s death, which would result in a public justice. Justice is the quality of being fair and reasonable which would cause Hamlet and his father’s name to be cleared. In order to get this public justice, Hamlet needed Claudius death to be in a public place and to be publicly known. Claudius’ death was delayed multiple times because Hamlet needed it to be a public affair. An opportunity to kill Claudius approached while he was in the church. Hamlet considered taking his life at this time, but knew that if he were to do that he would not get the public justice that he wanted. This is because with no one around this would result in more of a private revenge. Hamlet was determined to wait for the perfect moment, which was not in private. At the end of the play, after Gertrude, Laertes, and Ophelia were dead Hamlet finally acted and killed Claudius. Whether or not it was a “perfect moment” is debatable, but it was in public. Hamlet then confides in Horatio who throughout the entire play was his voice of reason. Hamlet reaches out and ask him "O God, Horatio, what a wounded name,/Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!/If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart/Absent thee from felicity a while,/And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain/To tell my story"(V.ii.341-346.) Hamlet is asking Horatio that if he ever truly loved him, then to please postpone the sweet relief of death a while, and to stay in this world, just long enough to have his story be told. Within this conversation, the relationship between Horatio and Hamlet is proven to be extremely strong. The need for a public justice is clearly distinguished within this short conversation, and Horatio keeps his word and when Fortinbras enters the scene, he quickly explains to him "How these things came about. So shall you hear/Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts,/Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters,/Of deaths put on by cunning and forced/ cause, And, in this upshot, purposes mistook/Fall'n on th' inventors' heads. All this can I/Truly deliver." (V.ii.381-387). Horatio asks Fortinbras to let him tell the story. The story will consist of violent and unnatural acts, casual murders, deaths caused by trickery and threat, and also murderous plans that have backfired. Horatio wants to explain all of this and help restore order to the state of Denmark. Hamlet was unable to act on his rage throughout the majority of the play. Hamlet tries to obey his father’s ghost but could not come to the conclusion of when to kill Claudius. Hamlet delayed in killing Claudius because he waited for the perfect moment to do so. This was shown through Hamlet’s delay until he understands the ghost’s intentions, Hamlet not wanting Claudius to get the satisfaction of going to heaven, and his need for public justice. Hamlet was a young man who could not act upon something until he knew it was the truth. This results in him needing the perfect moment. The perfect moment would be different for every individual, and every different situation, but for Hamlet the perfect moment was when his story was told exactly the way his father would have wanted it and what his father deserved.
Shakespeare, William. "Hamlet". Harbrace Shakespeare. Marilyn Eisenstat. Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1988.