The story of Hamlet is one containing many major themes, one, in particular, being the deterministic causes behind Hamletr’s delay in seeking vengeance. Hamlet struggles battles, both internal and external, with the internal proving to be more prevalent. Three of the specific factors that impact the heror’s inability to obey the ghostr’s command include his uncertainty, finding the ideal moment to act, and his tendency to over complicate the task in order to seek out perfection. Hamlet chooses to procrastinate his vengeance as a result of his own uncertainty.
Hamletr’s procrastination stemming from an uncertainty begins with his distrust of the spirit he recognizes as his father. When he encounters the ghost he immediately begins to question it. Following this meeting, he addresses his fears of its intentions in a soliloquy, The spirit that I have seen “May be the devil: and the devil hath power” To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps Out of my weakness and my melancholy, As he is very potent with such spirits, Abuses me to damn me: I’ll have grounds More relative than this: the play ‘s the thing Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king. (II,ii)
As a result, he chooses to ensure the guilt before making any rash decisions to take immediate vengeance. He takes it upon himself to uncover the full truth on the death of his father before taking the fate of Claudius into his own hands. His first method of unveiling the truth is done through the traveling players that have found their way to the Elsinore Castle. Hamlet meets with the group of actors and makes a request for a very specific play, The Murder of Gonzaga, to be presented to all, including King Claudius. The play presented a reenactment if what Hamlet presumed to be the events surrounding the murder of his father. During the performance, Claudius is unable to mask his increasing discomfort. The drama causes him so much distress that he resorts to rushing out and demanding the return of lights. This reaction gives Hamlet the needed assurance of Claudiusr’s guilt and leaves him with a stronger sense of certainty.
Following uncertainty, another internal factor that contributes to Hamletr’s inability to take immediate action against Claudius is his unpreparedness and indecisiveness. As Hamlet is exposed to opportunities to take down his uncle, he backs down. Each time he is able to find something potentially wrong with the situation. There are continuous introductions of new refinements, or added rules that Hamlet decides he must obey as he carries out his fatherr’s perfect revenge against Claudius. These added details signal that Hamlet lacks the self-confidence to carry out what he considers to be his duty. It is not that he does not know what he must do and what he even desires to do, but he prefers to take as much time as he can to deliberate and find the optimal method to do his task. His lack of readiness results in his hesitation and this causes the occurrence of unnecessary tragedies. However, he deems it vital to do whatever he can with the utmost precision in order to achieve the most desirable outcome. His behavior and action reflect this with magnitude. Hamlet does not see it possible to take reasonable, yet effective and purposeful action. The question at hand, is how is one to act as he/she is affected by not only the rational considerations, (i.e. the need for certainty), but also by the emotional, ethical, and psychological implications?
Hamlet portrays an attitude of distrust toward the idea that it can be even slightly possible to act in a purposeful, while still controlled manner. Other characters in the play differ in that they think and act with a conscious behavior, but they do not concern themselves with calculating each detail of what they will do to determine the optimal end result. As a result, they are less troubled by the need to act effectively. The characters act how they feel is appropriate in whatever situations and environments they find themselves in. Hamletr’s differing thought process is what sets him apart from the other characters. An interesting quality relating to Hamletr’s thought process is how well he can carry out actions when deprived of having the time to think on them. He reacts and is prompt with his responses. When he ran Polonius through, he did it quickly without any moment for him to become indecisive or allow the intrusion of his meticulous conscience or his over-refinement.
When Hamlet does something well, it is often due to him having been given no opportunity to dwell on the act prior. When he takes action, he does best when he does it blindly without any premeditation. Following the play, Hamlet is given the opportunity to exact his revenge when he encounters his uncle alone in prayer. Hamlet is aware that this is the perfect chance to kill Claudius, however, he does not take action as he presumes his uncle to be praying a prayer that will have his soul pure. He decides he cannot kill the king at that moment because he would certainly be sent straight to heaven. He resolves to wait for an opportunity to kill Claudius, which would be: When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage, Or in th incestuous pleasure of his bed, At game, a-swearing, or about some act That has no relish of salvation in t” Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven, And that his soul may be as damned and black As hell, whereto it goes. (III.iv)
So Hamlet will wait to kill until his uncle is actively indulging in one of his sins in order to ensure his eternal damnation. Unfortunately for Hamlet, he was not aware of what the king was professing in his prayers at that moment. His prayer was not sincere, as he states, My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer can serve my turn? Forgive me my foul murder? That cannot be, since I am still possessed Of those effects for which I did the murder: My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen. May one be pardoned and retain th offense? (iii.iv)
He prays of having a desire to repent and seek forgiveness, but he knows he cannot ever be fully forgiven for his sin against his brother, as he is unwilling to give up neither the crown nor the queen. Hamlet’s father’s ghost assigned him a difficult task, to say the least, and Hamlet consistently worked toward and planned on carrying it out. However, each time he fell short as a result of his need to resolve, and then re-resolve, and finally he would find himself in the exact same place he started. It was not due to any disloyalty, or lack of desire. Rather he was being held back by never finishing out his thoughts on the matter. The instant it was his chance to act, he found a reason to take a step back. He welcomed any opportunity to think the task over once more, allowing himself a conscientious-appearing excuse for delay. He did his best work when the tasks were thrown at him by accident, but struggled when he was given any chance to reminisce. This is why he ultimately steps back and waits for fate to lure Claudius to him rather than actively pursuing him. This leaves him lamenting himself for failing to complete his duty to avenge his father.
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