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

It could be said that Hamlet is not a play of inaction, but a play of providence and fate. Shakespeare seems to purposefully initiate action through inaction to show how certain events act as a catalyst for the eventful finale

Extracts from this document...


Hamlet is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind. How much is Hamlet a play of inaction? Some critics have stated that the appeal of Hamlet to the audience is his many human weaknesses, the most notable being his indecision. His deliberations and procrastinations are particularly high-lighted when he is faced with the task of revenge. The law and Christianity, around the early seventeenth century, were clear in condemning personal revenge as an attempt by man to arrogate the prerogatives of God. Hamlet's contradicting feelings toward avenging his father and avoiding breaking the law and going against Christianity were most likely felt by the Elizabethan audience also, which would have been made up of many Christians, namely, Protestants. Catherine Belsey stated: ...The act of vengeance, in excess of justice, a repudiation of conscience, hellish in its mode of operation, seems to the revenger (and the audience) an over-riding imperative. Not to act is to leave crime unpunished, murderer triumphant or tyranny in unfettered control.1 The well known critic, Nietzsche, states that Hamlet; Once looked truly into the essence of things and the resulting nausea has rendered him incapable of taking any action.2 The disturbing truth of Hamlet's, father's death outweighs any motive for action. ...read more.


Cicero in De Oratore stated: Wordplay tactlessly handled belonged to buffoons or pedantic scholars.7 Coleridge characterises Hamlet as a man unable to act through excessive thought. Bradley disagrees with Coleridge, and states that: The inaction is only a feature of Hamlet's character issuing out of the peculiar circumstances of the action of this play.8 It could be argued that Hamlet intends to mislead, and his ambiguous sayings are not down to Hamlet's indecision, or even sardonic humour, but a tactic to wrong foot others. There are many instances within the play when Hamlet does display an ability to make instantaneous decisions and immediate action. The irony in this, however, is that the times when Hamlet does not deliberate, act as a series of catalysts that lead to his demise. When Hamlet first encounters the ghost, he makes no hesitation in following it, even when Horatio and Marcellus warn Hamlet not to follow. Why, what should be the fear? I do not set my life at a pin's fee, And for my soul, what can it do to that.9 Hamlet states here that the ghost can not harm him physically, as he deems his life worthless anyway, and cannot harm his soul. ...read more.


The play seems to focus on the deliberations of the protagonist, and if Hamlet had more willingness to act, rather than think or talk, he may have prevented his own death. When Hamlet finally acts upon what he has been deliberating through the entire play, it is too late. Fortinbras, who is portrayed as noble, honourable and willing to take action has, arguably, the only fortunate outcome in Act V scene II. It is the only time Fortinbras does not have to take action to achieve his goal; rather, it seems every other characters action results in his inaction. 1 Belsey, Catherine. 'The subject of tragedy', London, 1985. 2 Nietzsche. 'A critique of Hamlet'. (quote taken from www.cosmos-club.org) 3 Shakespeare, W. 'Hamlet', Act III scene III. 4 Shakespeare, W. 'Hamlet', Act II scene II. 5 Shakespeare, W. 'Hamlet', Act IV scene IV. 6 Shakespeare, W. 'Hamlet', Act IV scene IV. 7 Cicero, De Oratore. (Quote taken from www.pages.unibas.ch) 8 Hazlitt, William. 'Characters of Shakespeare's plays'. 1838. 9 Shakespeare, W. 'Hamlet', Act I scene IV. 10 Shakespeare, W. 'Hamlet', Act III scene IV. 11 Shakespeare, W. 'Hamlet', Act V scene II. 12 Shakespeare, W. 'Hamlet', Act I scene II 13 Shakespeare, W. 'Hamlet', Act IV scene V. ?? ?? ?? ?? Katie Brown Page 1 02/05/2007 Katie Brown Page 2 02/05/2007 ...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. Peer reviewed

    The Play within the Play of Hamlet. To try and reveal his Uncle ...

    Coincidentally the same way Julius Caesar was killed. Hamlet did not feel guilt for killing Polonius even though he wished it was Claudius but just called Polonius a "wretched, rash, intruding fool" (3.4.33). The story of Julius Caesar could have also described Claudius's betrayal of his brother.

  2. Hamlet's strengths and weaknesses

    I think that even though it is frustrating at the time, Hamlet's tendency of dragging things out makes the play far more enjoyable and keeps your eyes glued to the pages. because you know that he will do something suddenly, you just don't know when.

  1. Comparing Hamlet with Fortinbras

    take action it is to gather information rather than to take revenge, he could be described as a little too hesitant. However, Fortinbras likes to take immediate action, perhaps rushing into situations without thinking through the consequences, he could be described as a little too rash.

  2. Why does Hamlet delay his revenge?

    He now knows that Claudius wants to have him killed, he has no other option to carry out his revenge. Although Hamlet does now seem to be more determined, Claudius' death is not planned by Hamlet, when Hamlet is himself dying and no longer has anything to stop him.

  1. How successful is Hamlet as a play about revenge? Consider both the modern and ...

    much time being frustrated -"I do not know/why yet I live to say 'This thing's to do',/ Sith I have cause, and will, and strength, and means/ To do't" In a play about revenge, this is successful rather than if it were carried out in a quick, rash way, because

  2. Hamlet Act 3 scene 4

    Some of the words in this scene are quite difficult to interpret so I would have to make some sort of gesture in order to make it more obvious what the two actors mean. I think that obvious hand or body gestures would make it more obvious.

  1. Explore Shakespeare's presentation of Hamlet, his moods and motivations, through his soliloquies in Act ...

    Hamlet expresses his melancholy and his disgust with the state of affairs, as well as expressing despair, anger, loathing and other emotions. In Hamlet's soliloquy in Act II Scene 2 we see Hamlet going through several changes of mood. These are self-criticism ("...O what a rogue and peasant slave am

  2. Hamlet Coursework: Is Hamlet alone responsible for Ophelias death? - WJEC English Lit. ...

    We see this 'affection' for her inferred as when asked to sit next to his mother he moves over to Ophelia stating 'here's metal more attractive'. This would have been not only embarrassing for Ophelia, but also confusing as in the previous scene he was telling her to 'get thee a nunnery', as if he didn't like her at all.

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