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Why does Hamlet delay his revenge?

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Introduction

Why does Hamlet delay his revenge? There have been many reasons put forth for Hamlet's apparent delay in seeking revenge. Many believe that Hamlet does not take immediate action because Hamlet's character is one of contemplation and melancholy; not action. Because of these traits, Hamlet needs evidence and assurance that Claudius really has killed Old Hamlet. Another argument is that subconsciously Hamlet may not want to kill Claudius because of the Oedipus complex. Others however have proposed a more practical explanation: Hamlet would like to make Claudius' death more painful and ruthless than Old Hamlet's. Shakespeare could have delayed Hamlet's revenge on purpose because by delaying the revenge, he is satisfying his Elizabethan audience and categorizing 'Hamlet' as a 'tragedy'. Similarly, Hamlet's delay could be seen as a flaw and like all tragic heroes Hamlet must have a fault in order to classify him as a 'tragic hero'. Hamlet's philosophical nature allows him to question the Ghost's existence and collect evidence before acting which delays Claudius' death. Hamlet's initial response is to trust the Ghost and act quickly when he says "Haste me to know't that I with wings as swift. May sweep to my revenge" in Act I scene vi. However by Act II scene ii he doubts the Ghost and thinks that "the spirit I may have seen may be a devil". ...read more.

Middle

As well we labeling 'Hamlet' as a revenge tragedy, by delaying the revenge we are slowly beginning to see another part of Hamlet submerge; and that is his role as the 'revenger'. When we first see Hamlet in Act I scene ii he is mourning over the death of his father. He is melancholic and yearns for revenge but is too passive. His main role as we can see from his soliloquies is 'malcontent'. His soliloquies show us his morally weak, dejected character for in Act III scene i Hamlet talks about suicide as an alternative to avenging his father. He thinks that "by a sleep we end the heartache". Previously Hamlet has mentioned to Gertrude and Claudius in Act I scene ii that the "Everlasting had not fix'd his canon 'gainst self-slaughter!". But as the play progresses we begin to see Hamlet change from a man of contemplation to a man of action. Therefore it is Shakespeare's intention that Hamlet delays as a part of his character and in order for him to find his role. A sign of Hamlet finding his 'active' role is when he says "I need to be my own person and find my own way. My way may be wrong, but at least it will be mine". ...read more.

Conclusion

A Hamlet of decisions, shrewdness and action. His plotting of the 'The Mousetrap' and his challenge to Laertes proves this. The consequence of Hamlet's set up of the play 'The Mousetrap' is the death of Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes and Hamlet himself. Shakespeare would like us to see that after Hamlet's role is no longer one of 'malcontent' but of 'revenge', the speed of the play begins to quicken. The change begins when Hamlet returns from England. The roles of other characters have also switched. Claudius has changed from a man of malevolence and confidence to one of fear for his life and Laertes has also switched to a man of revenge. All the characters, especially Hamlet have specific roles to fulfill which make up the play. Without each character carrying out their function and acting or reacting a certain way , perhaps Hamlet would not have taken so long to kill Claudius and maybe the play would have been only three acts instead of five. However all these reactions make up 'Hamlet' and therefore every action, response, excuse or delay serves their purpose to this tragic play. Furthermore I believe that Shakespeare has made his apparent delay obvious for us because it not only makes us concentrate more on Hamlet's transformation of character and role but also makes us more aware of the consequences of the 'revenge', whether it is the main theme or not, as a whole. Stephanie Ko, L6 ...read more.

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