Hamlet’s Indecision, Hesitation, and Delay
Hamlet’s father comes to him as a ghost requiring him to avenge on King Claudius on his behalf. However, he is hesitant in completing this mission. Notably, Hamlet does not find a perfect opportunity to revenge King Claudius because he finds him in an awkward position every time he tries to kill him. A perfect reflection of this is when he mistakenly kills Polonius thinking he had landed his target. Hamlet’s delay and indecisiveness could be explained with the help of several theories. The key theories that explain his indecisiveness and delay include the melancholia theory, the weakness of will theory, the lack of opportunity, and the conscience theory. A close analysis of the play would raise questions regarding Hamlet’s willingness to execute the revenge. However, it is crucial to understand that he also faced challenges, as the ghost had instructed him to focus only on King Claudius without involving his mother Gertrude. This essay analyzes textual evidence from the play Hamlet for various theories that explain Hamlet’s delay in executing revenge for his father’s murder.
The first significant theory that explains Hamlet’s indecisiveness and delay is the melancholia theory. Accordingly, this theory tends to assume that Hamlet was insane in some instances that led to his procrastination in carrying out revenge. He is always overwhelmed by the death of his father and tends to be paranoid sometimes. For instance, when his friends come to find out the cause of his mood, he suspects that they are spying on him. He also keeps reproaching his mother madly for marrying King Claudius for sex (Bloom and Foster 46). This delays his plans to avenge, as the ghost had instructed him not to annoy his mother. In the course of scolding his mother for having slept with the King, he ends up killing Polonius. His melancholic nature gives no room for regret as he only says, “Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!” (Clutton-Brock and Robertson 71). His melancholic nature poses a challenge to his ability to stick to the plan and kill King Claudius as instructed by his father’s ghost. The lack of soberness and calmness in handling most of the situations that come along his way postpones his mission of taking revenge. Overall, the melancholia theory presents a clear explanation of Hamlet’s indecision and delay in taking the much needed vengeance on behalf of his father.
The second significant theory that explains his delay is the weakness of will theory. The theory is linked to the many thoughts and the analysis of the entire situation. Hamlet finds himself surrounded by labyrinths of thoughts that do not allow him to move ahead with his mission of avenging on King Claudius. For instance, he doubts the visit of the ghost and moves forward to dramatize his father’s death (King 57). He does not believe the voice and the instructions he receives from his father’s ghost. The numerous thoughts about the events leading to his father’s death delay his action. In the play, he analyzes the factors related to the death of his father, but does not find an appropriate way to take his revenge. The enormous activity of thought and analysis is exhibited by the words: “And thus the native hue of resolution is sickled over with the pale cast of thought” (Williamson 398). This implies that Hamlet faces challenges in terms of coming up with a tangible resolution after finding out that King Claudius was the murderer of his father. All these thoughts play an instrumental role in weakening his will to kill the King. There appear the massive thoughts and analysis of the situation that affected his personality hence preventing a rapid action on his part. It would have been easier for him to complete the mission of avenging if he had not thought about and analyzed the entire situation after the ghost visited him.
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Thirdly, the theory of the lack of a perfect opportunity explains Hamlet’s delay and indecisiveness in carrying out the revenge. Hamlet could not find a clear cut opportunity to kill his father. Everything seems to be going against his intentions to kill him. He finds the opportunity to kill the King when he comes closer to him during the prayer. However, this opportunity slides away, because Hamlet realizes that King Claudius is repenting his sins (Bloom and Foster 68). He avoids engaging in any form of murderous activity “as this would have given the King a direct ticket to heaven while his father languishes in purgatory” (Ryken 37). The prayerful situation that the King is in makes it difficult for Hamlet to kill him. He also misses the opportunity to revenge within the required time, as the King sends him to
The last significant theory explaining Hamlet’s delay is the conscience theory. It is worth noting that Hamlet was hesitant to put the King to death without an adequate trial and justice relating to his alleged actions. His conscience restrains him from moving ahead with the plan to kill a man he has not proved engaged in the killing of his father. For instance, he asks himself, “Would it be executing judgment, to kill a man who did not know he was about to be killed?” (Levy 110). This is indicative of the conscience theory, as he tries to think about the best way of handling the matter. His conscience gave him the opportunity to take some time to think about the matte before undertaking the revenge. This also explains why he decides to organize a play in front of the judges. It would have been easier for him to complete the mission if he had not been driven by his conscience. However, he reproaches himself at some point for having failed to revenge on King Claudius. It was not prudent to be guided by conscience, because it was clear that the King had a direct relation to the death of his father (Clutton-Brock and Robertson 81).
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In conclusion, Hamlet’s indecisiveness and delay to the revenge was motivated by diverse factors. The melancholia theory explains that he was highly depressed and lost his mind that made it challenging for him to complete the task. It distracted him from sticking to the plan suggested by his father’s ghost. More so, he was overwhelmed by many thoughts and analysis of the matter. With such thoughts in mind, it was difficult for him to revenge immediately, as he still tried to believe his father’s ghost. People are always guided by conscience, and Hamlet was no exception. He had to get to the bottom of the matter and ensure that King Claudius was justly killed for his actions. The lack of clear opportunities also delayed his revenge as he did not want the King to go to heaven while his father suffered in purgatory. Overall, Hamlet regretted not taking a prompt action against the King after he had been visited by his father’s ghost.