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

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Hannah Waddilove 12.3 English Literature AS "Hamlet is better at talking about revenge, than he is at doing it." Consider the reasons for his delay The question of why Hamlet does not immediately avenge his father's death is perhaps one of the most perplexing problems faced by an audience. Each generation of viewers has come up with it's own explanation, and it has now become the most widely known critical problem in Shakespearean studies. A rather simplistic, yet valid standpoint to take on this problem is that it was essential to the tragedy's narrative progression. As Hanmer said "had he gone naturally to work, there would have been an end to our play!". Shakespeare, then, is faced with a problem - Hamlet must delay his revenge, and he has to come up with reasons why. The ingenuity of his solutions in depicting this complex and troubled man has given us an insight into the human condition of relevance to each age. Since we are certainly left in no doubt of the intricacy of Hamlet's character, it would therefore seem that Shakespeare is exploring a diversity of reasons as to why the Prince of Denmark delays his revenge. Hamlet's delay begins as he recognises that first he must determine the ghost's true nature. Upon doubting the authenticity of its form he questions it's intent with, "Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell?". Despite the ghost's pending claim of "I am thy father's spirit", Hamlet still seems to be unconvinced, thus presenting Shakespeare with a primary ingredient for delay. ...read more.


Hamlet it seems has no appetite for revenge. A wild, passionate attack on the King is clearly not on the agenda, for Hamlet is not one to act, rather it seems, he prefers to think. The 'To be or not to be' soliloquy establishes Hamlet as this reflective, characteristically detached and tremendously analytical man. This flaw, for it is often known as one, of this abstract reflection is another significant reason for his procrastination. Hamlet's periods of profound dissection do however show that he has a desperate will to do right, although in this circumstance a further complication arises; what is 'right'? As part of the battle with his is conscience, Hamlet caught between two belief systems, Paganism and Christianity. In the play Shakespeare goes to elaborate lengths to show us there is not only life after death in the Christian faith, but also divine punishment for those who sin. In context, this means divine justice will be won and Claudius will be severely punished in the after-life. If Hamlet were to accept this view, revenge would not be necessary. The pagan universe however tells him it is his duty as a son to obey his earthly father. Hamlet it seems cannot articulate this problem; to do so would be to accuse his father of being a devil who asks his son in the nature of loving duty, to do what would cost him his soul. This confusion in his mind, which we see unsuccessfully rationalised in numerous soliloquies, naturally does cause some reason for delay. ...read more.


Without a doubt he has achieved this objective, so then our job, in exploring Hamlet's intricate character, is to come to a conclusion about why Hamlet delays within the plot. One option is that perhaps practical obstacles guarded his way. Was Claudius so shrewd and well protected that Hamlet could not, even if he wished to, find him alone? Did much of Hamlet's delay come down to distrusting the expressions of the Ghost, and so the investigation of whether it's story was true took up time? On the other hand, one can look in more detail at Hamlet's character and decide from there. For Geothe, the case was thus: "A lovely, pure, noble and most moral nature...sinks beneath a burden which it cannot bear and must not cast away". In other words, Hamlet's battle with his moral conscience and his insecurities when looking at superior warrior types meant he did not have the 'will' to commit this vengeance. His reflective personality delayed his revenge; his constant analytical thinking paralysed him, and when he did actually fulfil his task it was on pure instinct when he did not have time to think. This final point perhaps suggests that overall it was Hamlet's personal shortcomings that led to his delay. The fight with his moral conscience, his belief in restraint over passion all contributed to his major hesitation. However, overall it was down to Hamlet's substantial indifference to a typical 'revenge hero'. Bloodthirsty, passionate and fiery are qualities that Hamlet certainly did lack. Rather he took the more passive, sly approach which would inevitably lead to a significant delay. ...read more.

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