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"Hamlet is better at talking about delay than he is at doing it. Consider the reasons for his delay"

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Johanna Mans 12.2 "Hamlet is better at talking about delay than he is at doing it. Consider the reasons for his delay" The essay title refers to the delay between Hamlet discovering the murder of his father and the avenging of him. Hamlet learns of the murder from his father's ghost in Act 1 Scene 4, and he is enraged and swears immediate revenge. When he calms down he decides that it is unwise to take action until he is sure that the ghost speaks the truth. The play put on in Act 3 Scene 2 confirms it is true, and yet still Hamlet does nothing. Hamlet does eventually kill his uncle in Act 5 Scene 2, when it is too late, as Hamlets own death is brought about. It is this sad storyline that gives the play the description as a "revenge tragedy" Full of melodrama and violence, revenge tragedies were very popular in England towards the end of the 16th century. Apart from Shakespeare's "Hamlet", one of the most popular plays was "The Spanish Tragedy" (1589) by Thomas Kyd. In this play, the main character Hieronomo seeks to avenge the murder of his son. There is a delay between this decision and the murder, and this is due to practical problems in getting to the murderer. Another popular play was "Antonio's Revenge" (1602) by John Marston. In this, the revenge is delayed to enhance its brutality. ...read more.


Some critics feel that this may be because Hamlet, despite being 30 years old, still has very childlike tendencies: "He was a full grown adult, yet he still attended school...it took him a very long time to stop grieving about his father because he didn't want to move past that part of his life" This may be due to Hamlet's position in life. After all, he is the Prince of Denmark, and must have very little to occupy his time. He has not fought in battles; all he has achieved is further education and experience of culture in other countries. He has been taught how to think but not how to act, and as a result, he does not know what to do when put in such difficult circumstances: "The time is out of joint. O cursed spite/ That I was ever born to set it right!" Hamlet is aware that he has been put in a situation that is not suited to him - he is not like "Hercules". Far from suggesting he is childish, this explains how Hamlet, as a philosopher, is beyond his time. In the voicing of another point of view, the German poet Goethe says of Hamlet: "A lovely, pure and most moral nature, without the strength of nerve which forms a hero, sinks beneath a burden which it cannot bear and must not cast away." ...read more.


However, in the scene in the grave yard when he is with Horatio and the grave digger, his words are no longer written in prose. This could be Shakespeare's way of showing that at points during the play, Hamlet's melancholia is so severe, it could be said he is mad. One example from the text is in Act 3 Scene 4, when Hamlet is reproaching his mother, and he sees the ghost. When the ghost first appeared, the guards and Horatio saw him, as well as Hamlet. This time the ghost can be seen only by Hamlet, and this may be due to his guilty conscience that he is the "tardy son" In conclusion, the theory put forth by Bradley does appear the most likely. Evidence to back up this is found in Hamlet's first soliloquy "O that this too too sullied flesh would melt". At this point in the play, he has no idea that his father did not die from a snake bite. Despite this, he is already contemplating suicide: "that the Everlasting had not fixed/ His canon 'gainst self - slaughter" Even under the circumstances this reaction seems over the top. His "unmanly grief" as Claudius calls it may be due to his melancholia. It also explains his obsessive attention to detail, his swinging between moods and his hypochondriasis. This is one theory for which evidence can be found throughout the entire play, and which explains all of Hamlet's actions. ...read more.

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