• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Hamlets dilemma - Why can't he act?

Extracts from this document...


HAMLETS DILEMMA: WHY CAN'T HE ACT? One of the focal aspects within the play is a dilemma he is forced to face. This dilemma is whether or not he should murder his uncle to revenge his father's death. In Act 1 Scene 5, Hamlet comes face to face with the ghost of his father, who is doomed to suffer eternal damnation unless his sins are purged; yet this can only occur through the revenge of his own death. Hamlet believes that despite doing his father the justice, he will go to hell, since according to the Christian religion; all life is sacred and should not be ended by anyone but God. Evidence of Hamlet's religious belief, in relation to afterlife, can be found in Act 1 scene 2 in which he expresses a desire to end his life: "...that the everlasting had not fixed his canon gainst' self-slaughter. How weary, stale and unprofitable seem to me all the uses in the world!" This is an explicit expression of Hamlet's melancholic state of mind. He has near lost the will to live, yet cannot commit suicide, as he holds a Christian belief that life is sacred; and so if he ends his own life, he will be sent to hell. Hamlet is not a man of action, barely possessing the will to go on with his life. Therefore it is a tragic turn of bad luck when his father asks Hamlet to revenge his death, because he is suffering from melancholia and consequently a lack of decisiveness and action; yet he has to face a dilemma concerning whether or not he should act on his father's will. ...read more.


However, we can connote a deeper feeling of chaos felt by Hamlet at the thought of his mother sleeping with another man. By society's standards of the time, it was considered scandalous for a woman to reveal herself capable of desire. Hamlet's Oedipus complex causes him to suffer intense sexual jealously at observing sexual desire in his mother, especially because that desire is not for Hamlet himself, but for another man. Among others, this is the sort of psychology that constitutes Hamlet's inner turmoil, which his initial prone to indecisiveness and inability to act is a symptom of. Hamlet's melancholia and inability to act is a crucial flaw in Hamlet's character and according to Aristotle; it is essential to the progression of the plot. According to Aristotle's theory, in revenge tragedy there is a tragic flaw in the hero (main protagonist), which to an extent undermines his/her purpose as the tragic hero of the play. As previously mentioned, Hamlet's purpose is to revenge his father's death. However, because he suffers from depression, he has not the personal conviction to commit to any form of action. Throughout the play he is contemplating whether or not he should murder his uncle to revenge his father's death, believing that if he does, he will surely go to hell. This creates an enormous dilemma: Hamlet either revenges his father's death, subsequently freeing his father from purgatory whilst Hamlet himself goes to hell; or he decides not to kill his uncle, saving his own soul whilst leaving his father to face eternal damnation. ...read more.


whilst praying/repenting, that person may not end up in purgatory- this uncertainty further adds to Hamlet's confusion over what action he should take, if any. My personal feeling is that Hamlet's religious fears and uncertainties intensify Hamlet's dilemma so strongly, that it is only natural that Hamlet is forced into action by a change in the plot or a moment in which Hamlet is pushed into a corner and has to act- I am referring to Act 5 Scene 2 in the play, in which the King and Laertes plot to kill Hamlet by putting poison on the tip of the sword, or alternatively, by handing him a drink of poison of the former plan fails. The scene takes a crucial turn when the Queen drinks from the cup, in respect to Hamlet's health. She dies, and then Laertes blames the King. It is only at this point that Hamlet is fuelled into a course of action that he would have otherwise felt too indecisive to take. Hamlet of course kills his father in revenge of his mother as well as his father. This scene is an essential device in providing a logical conclusion to the play. Without being fuelled into such a vengeful rage, it is likely that the time taken for Hamlet to commit any action could not be married with any suitable duration of time a play should last for! On this note, I conclude that Hamlet's dilemma, influenced by his fears; depression and indecisiveness could not be logically resolved on his own exclusive decision to act. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Hamlet section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Hamlet essays

  1. How does Hamlet's character develop during the play?

    In Act 3, Scene 3, he says "Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge". In Act 2, Scene 3, he convinces himself that his plan to add sixteen lines to the play, The murder of Gonzago, and watch Claudius's reaction is the best plan of action.

  2. How does Shakespeare portray changes in Hamlets character in soliloquy one and four

    This is where we are first introduced to Hamlet's emotions and feelings. This is where the downward spiral off Hamlet's life begins where we can see a mixture of emotions consisting mostly of anger, depression and self doubt, leading to suicidal and miserable thoughts.

  1. How Does Shakespeare Convey a Sense of Anomie in Hamlet Act 1, and to ...

    or whether he is seeking buried treasure, acquired during his lifetime, which some people believed spirits did at the time the play was written. In Act 1, Scene 2 starts with Claudius, the new king of Denmark, addressing his subjects.

  2. An exploration of how Shakespeare presents Hamlet's fear of death.

    For example, his mother who is now with Hamlet's uncle, only two months after his father was murdered. It could also be interpreted that Hamlet has a close relationship with his mother, and that the way the word "incestuous" is used is in fact ironic because he should not have those feelings for his mother either.

  1. To what extent was Claudius's decision to invade Britain in AD43 motivated by a ...

    Caligula had gone against the Senate, and he had ended up murdered. Claudius knew that he should act towards the Senate like other Emperors before him such as Tiberius, and keep them close. A good relationship with the Senate would mean a more secure position.

  2. How does Shakespeare display Hamlets limitations as a conventional revenger? How do you as ...

    He has almost resolved to procrastinate. The veil of madness allows him to observe and distance himself from the other characters. Shakespeare has employed this as a means to isolate Hamlet further from his family and friends. This clearly adds weight to Coleridge's view of Hamlet as a more deliberate revenger.

  1. What do Hamlet's soliloquies reveal about his state of mind and how do they ...

    Most significantly, this speech is an open invitation to the audience to think about Hamlet and what is 'within' the man. This is subsequently developed in the first soliloquy. The play is packed with theatrically conscious words such as 'business' and the first soliloquy is almost like a show, with

  2. Commentary on a poor example of an essay on Hamlet's madness.

    This is a very confusing topic to talk about because who knows what Hamlet actually is thinking. It could be understood that he was actually mad for sure but then there is a part of me that says he maybe could have just did it to make is close companions realize that he will revenge and to be aware.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work