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Explore Shakespeare's presentation of the character and role of Hamlet, with special reference to the different ways in which audiences may interpret and understand Hamlet's procrastination. Illustrate your points with relevant details from the text.

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Introduction

Sasha Campbell 'It is as if Hamlet were pausing not before the deed [...] but before action in general (Adolphus William Ward) Using the above quote as your starting point, explore Shakespeare's presentation of the character and role of Hamlet, with special reference to the different ways in which audiences may interpret and understand Hamlet's procrastination. Illustrate your points with relevant details from the text. The above quotation outlines Hamlet's hesitation, implying that not only did he hesitate before the actual act of murder but before any act at all. This could be explained by an array of different factors, hindering Hamlet and causing conflict within him. In this essay I am going to discuss what these factors are. Initially Hamlet is introduced to the audience as a troubled young man, mourning his father and being confronted with his mother hastily marrying his uncle. He is being forced to deal with all this and is in a state of depression, Hamlet says when speaking of his grief over his mother's hasty marriage to his uncle 'But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue.' Meaning that although his heart is breaking, he can't say or do anything about it. However, his father's ghost then appears to him and tells him that he was murdered by the very man now married to Hamlet's mother, his uncle and his father's brother. ...read more.

Middle

Nor does beating himself up about it 'Why, what an ass am I!', or even the contemplation of suicide 'Or that the Everlasting had not fixed His canon 'gainst self-slaughter'. Moreover, Hamlet's tendency to think about things too much is his own curse 'Of thinking too much on th' event', which seem only to reinforce that `all occasions do inform against me'. Throughout all this we must consider that Hamlet's in the midst of ``slings and arrows of outrageous fortune'', Hamlet must also consider Claudius and make sure that he does not suspect Hamlet of knowing. While he procrastinates, Claudius acts quickly and decisively. He enlists Polonius, Guildenstern and Rosencratz to spy on and interrogate Hamlet and once the King perceives a threat to his crown and wife, orders his nephew's execution. Hamlet is left unsure whom he can trust with even his friends backstab him 'my two schoolfellows, Whom I will trust as I will adders fang'd,', he pretend to be crazy and lashes out at almost everyone around him and in doing so, begins to lose dignity, nobility and credibility. Ophelia is only complying with her father's and brother's orders, but she becomes his first victim and perhaps this is because Hamlet projects his mother's sins onto all women. Especially his crude, suggestive comments during the play 'It would cost you a groaning to take off my edge.' ...read more.

Conclusion

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' however, if he had stayed to hear Claudius next words 'My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go. ' Therefore it could be said Hamlet's thirst for revenge and perfectionism could be said to be further factors which hinder his progress. The chance to kill Claudius constantly seems to slip through his fingers each time. In the end he does kill Claudius but dies while doing so. Although he is criticised for his procrastination, he did try. Most of the time, Hamlet is parrying blows directed against him rather than carrying out his own attack. Avoiding Claudius's suspicion and pretending to be crazy, while under the surveillance of Polonius, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz. Hamlet may have delayed the murder of Claudius but in the end, his father is avenged and Claudius is murdered by the very poison which he had intended for Hamlet, yet ironically, only in death is Hamlet victorious. However, this leaves the audience with a pessimistic tone overshadowing the finale of the play. Therefore, in conclusion, it is in my opinion that due to all these factors which get in the way of his intentions he is hesitant to act. Thinking and planning takes place of action which leads to indecision. ...read more.

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