"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.

As way of detecting the truth, the Prince decides to put on a play, and have it performed almost as a re-enactment of the ghosts tale. The play, Hamlet claims “is the image of a murder done in Vienna”, the foul act in this performance however is presented as a replica of Old Hamlet’s story, where the murderer ‘pours poison into the King’s ears’. By doing this Hamlet hopes to receive a negative reception from the King, thus revealing the ugly burden on his conscience. The play, in depicting the King’s guilt, does have a certain degree of success. His wish for the lights to come on and  his order of “Away!” certainly suggest he was not feeling altogether comfortable in the situation, but there of course could have been a number of reasons for his minor distress. For Hamlet however it is sufficient, for in later conversation with Horatio he says, “I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound!”

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Hamlet has now secured in his mind that the Ghost was telling the truth, and so can have no doubt that revenge is what Claudius deserves. His delay however does not subside, so what can be his reason now?

Much of his hesitation it seems comes as a result of his own self-doubt. He feels he lacks the powerful warrior image; the one which his Father and so many more do possess. In this respect feelings of inferiority paralyse him to take any action. One can see, in Hamlet’s first soliloquy how insignificant he feels compared to his ...

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