Hamlet's Procrastination Essay Example

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Throughout the whole play of Hamlet, the constant hesitation and procrastination is represented through Hamlet’s character; he is deeply reflective, delays his revenge numerous times, and is cursed with having to commit acts he struggles with consciously. The play Hamlet,  “... is the most self- conscious literature figure ever created” (Rosenblum). He as a character struggles with the act of committing revenge. Hamlet's father was murdered by his father’s brother. A ghost visits Hamlet giving him the message to get revenge. Hamlet is portrayed to be procrastinating more often than anything else. 

Hamlet isn’t only hesitant about the revenge. He also carries the dread of taking his own life. In one his most famous soliloquies, “To be or not to be”,  he proclaimed:

Fear of death makes us all cowards, and our natural boldness becomes weak with too much thinking. Actions that should be carried out at once get misdirected, and stop being actions at all. (Hamlet 3, 1, 83-89). 

He has so many questions without answers, “Hamlet is haunted by unanswerable questions and mortality and death” (Themes and Construction). This thought was short lived as he had realized that you don’t know what death is like and taking your own life is a sin. He was not sure if he would go to hell or heaven. Hamlet also would not have given his father his wishes of revenge.  When waiting to get revenge he was challenged with an extreme amount of troubles. 

Being in his own head had made him lose the sense of life and his duties. Some may believe he is crushed, “The cost of Hamlet’s infinite self -reflexivity is incapacity of action. Such is the curse of self- consciousness” (Critchley. Webster 12). Hamlet has experienced a great deal of troubles, he is very self- reflexive. It is almost like a curse. Hamlet is still a young kid, so taken on the pressure of wanting to get revenge for his father makes him over think. So much of the pressure leads to, “His tendency to overanalyze his options, thus paralyzing his own ability to act” (Themes and Construction). Being that he thought about it too much causes a major delay. 

All the people that Hamlet knew to be close to him, turned out they were betraying him, at least he thought. Hamlet ran through every scenario in his head about revenge. The beliefs from philosophers, psychoanalysts, and crites have diagnosed Hamlet with procrastination. They exclaimed that because of his waiting and hesitation it drove Hamlet to go mad (Critchley. Webster 12). Having to commit such a big task is scary.  In an article that refers to Hamlet as the avenger states, “Revenge delayed and an avenger who breathes himself for procrastination” This article also mentions, “Among these are a ghost calling for revenge, a secret crime that must be confirmed” (Rosenblum). No one knew of the obstacles Hamlet was facing. They assumed he was going mad for other reasons, not for his sinful thoughts. 

The amount of opportunities he had to kill Claudius is countless. He was extremely strategic when it came to planning the revenge and even getting confirmation. Seeing a ghost of your dead father is not realistic. He was not sure if it was real. So he arranged to put on a play. This play was based of The Murder of Gonzago. The play was put on to resemble the murder of Hamlet’s father.  The reason Hamlet did this was to watch how Claudius would react. Hamlet and his good friend Horatio worked out a plan, “Watch him closely. I’ll stare at him too, and afterward we’ll compare notes on him” (Hamlet 3, 2, 78-79).  If the ghost was real and was telling the truth, Claudius would show some sort of sign. The plan of Hamlet and Horatio worked. Hamlet’s father was killed by poison so when they got to the part of the play where they talked about poison Clauidus shouted, “Turn on the lights. Get me out of here”  ( Hamlet 3,2, 252). That was the sign they wanted. They got confirmation that the ghost was telling the truth. But in the mix of getting revenge, Claudius caught on to Hamlet's devilish notion. He sent Hamlet to England where he wrote a note to the king telling him to kill Hamlet. Well Hamlet saw this note, and the ones that were supposed to be the messengers did not know what it said, but Hamlet thought that they knew. They were Hamlet's good friends, but he wrote a note to kill them. Hamlet gets the perfect chance to kill Claudius but he was praying, “I could do it easily now. He’s praying now… And there he goes, off to heaven” (Hamlet 3, 3, 74-76).  He didn’t want to take the chance of Claudius going to heaven. Since he was praying he is in a state of grace so he would go to heaven not hell. Hamlet wanted his revenge to make an impact and that Claudius would end up in hell. He missed the chance of killing him. Hamlet wanted it to be perfect. He never could settle for anything less. 

After all the obstacles and let downs he waited too long, “Desiring revenge, Hamlet struggles with inner uncertainty and takes action too late, leading to devastating    consequences, including his own downfall and death” (Themes and Construction). Hamlet fought to avenge his father but he had waited too long. He ended up dying, but so did Claudius. His prostration and hesitation affected his quality of life. He was living a normal life before the death of his father, and before taking on his revenge. Hamlet went mad, he lost his father and his sense of life. It all went away when committing the revenge. It was dragged out because he was procrastinating. 

Works Cited 

Critchley, Simon, and Jamieson Webster. "He Knew Too Much." New York Times, 10 July 2011, p. 12(L). Gale In Context: High School, link-gale-oh.orc.scoolaid.net/apps/doc/A261008383/SUIC?u=nysl_ce_wcs&sid=SUIC&xid=72d5a8b1. Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.

Rosenblum, Joseph. “Hamlet.” The Facts On File Companion to Shakespeare, Facts On File, 2020. Bloom's Literature, online.infobase.com/Auth/Index?aid=19540&itemid=WE54&articleId=483593. Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.

Shakespeare, William, and John Crowteher. No Fear Shakespeare: Hamlet. SparkNotes,2003. 

"Themes and Construction: Hamlet." Gale In Context Online Collection, Gale, 2018. Gale In Context: High School,link-gale-oh.orc.scoolaid.net/apps/doc/LSFBYN936642438/SUIC?u=nysl_ce_wcs&sid=SUIC&xid=c2c2e9c9. Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

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Hamlet's Procrastination Essay

In William Shakespeare's literary masterpiece, Hamlet, the protagonist Prince Hamlet is faced with the task of avenging his murdered father. The King of Denmark was assassinated by his brother Claudius to obtain the crown and Hamlet's mother, Queen Gertrude, as his wife. Hamlet is accosted by his father's ghost one night and is asked to kill Claudius to bring justice to Denmark. Hamlet swears to fulfill his father's request and murder Claudius but procrastinates to such a degree that the audience begins to wonder if Hamlet means to follow through with his plan at all. Ian Johnston, a Malaspina-University College professor in Nanimo, BC commented on the theme of revenge in his essay, Introductory Lecture on Shakespeare's Hamlet and wrote (2001), “Revenge is something we all, deep down, understand and respond to imaginatively…The issue engages some of our deepest and most powerful feelings…” (p.2). Shakespeare seemed to have known this because Hamlet is one of the most passionately debated plays of all time. The question of whether Hamlet defers his revengeful act is at the top of the list of literary controversies. Although there are many arguments and ideas of why Hamlet delays the avengement of his father which includes psychological obstacles, morals and sensitivity and his Oedipus Complex, it is certain that he does have conflicting thoughts and feelings of whether or not to perform the act which are revealed in his soliloquies and emphasized by the contrasting behaviors of Laertes and Fortinbras and the Ghost's possible intentions; therefore, Hamlet does procrastinate.

Hamlet's Soliloquies

Though some critics argue that Hamlet did attempt to murder Claudius at the most opportune moment, the theory is severely undercut by the content matter of Hamlet's soliloquies. The audience finds evidence of Hamlet himself constantly calling attention to his worry and delay. Johnston reported (2001), “…the delay is not a concept of our imagination, something we impose on the play; it is, by contrast, an issue repeatedly raised by the play itself” (p.3). Later he wrote, “Hamlet himself agonizes over his inability to carry out the deed and is constantly searching for reasons why he is behaving the way he is…he is in the grip of something that he cannot fully understand, no matter how much he rationalizes the matter” (Johnston, 2001 p.6). Clearly if Hamlet recognizes and speaks repeatedly of his procrastination, the audience is meant to take notice and can confidently conclude that he is delaying.

Contrasting Behaviors of Hamlet, Fortinbras and Laertes

The play contains two other avengers, Fortinbras and Laertes, who retaliate because of the murder of their fathers. These two characters act in an immediate, effective and resolute manner, unlike that of Hamlet's. Johnston agreed that (2001), “…it would seem that we are invited to see Hamlet's response to his father's murder something quite different from what a normal prince with a sense of honour might do. Hence the play itself puts a lot of pressure on us to recognize in Hamlet's conduct an unusual problem”(p.3). The obvious contrast in demeanor between Fortinbras and Laertes and Hamlet serves as evidence alluding to Hamlet's procrastination.

The Ghost's Revenge

There also exists a theory that exhibits Hamlet must have delayed because of the Ghost's real intention. As Anne Ridler from the Oxford Press explained it (1962),

…the Ghost of Hamlet's father knew his son's nature perfectly well, and intended Claudius to be, not directly killed but worried out of his mind by having Hamlet's gloomy and threatening figure continually about him. A reproduction of the Ghost's own purgatory around Claudius would be… a much more satisfying revenge than mere straightforward death….it is possible that we have missed the point of the whole play by our failure to attribute sufficient intelligence to that paternal intimate spectre (pp.200-201).

In other words, it could be the will of the Ghost to utilize Hamlet's guaranteed procrastination to better avenge himself. If this were to be proven, there could be no opposing argument that Hamlet did not delay.

Psychological Obstacles

Critics have contemplated many theories of why Hamlet postpones his task. One theory blames Hamlet's analytical and philosophical mind for the hindering of the mission. “…it is the reasoning that Hamlet uses to justify his delay that becomes paramount to the reader's understanding of the effect that Hamlet's mental perspective has on his situation” (Hamlet as a comment on humanity, 2001 p.1) When the ghost confronts Hamlet at the onset of the play and assigns him his task, Hamlet accepts it enthusiastically, “Haste me to know't; that I, with wings as swift As meditation or the thought of love, May sweep to my revenge” (Shakespeare, 1992 pp.57-58). Hamlet does not question the validity of the Ghost until later when mulling over the task in his head. Hamlet says, “The spirit that I have seen May be a devil, and the devil hath power T'assume a pleasing shape” (Shakespeare, 1992 p.119). All conviction evaporates, and he lapses into the engagement of meaningless activities such as arguing points to ridiculous lengths and asking absurd questions (Hamlet's Procrastination and Cowardice, 2006). To prove the Ghost's validity and Claudius's guilt, Hamlet composes a play to be performed reenacting the murder of his father. After it's successful, he finds Claudius alone praying. Although the perfect opportunity to do the deed arises, he again fails to act, “Up, sword; and know though a more horrid hent: when he is drunk asleep, or in his rage” (Shakespeare, 1992 pp.167-168). With the audience exasperated at this point, Hamlet turns to his inner self and begins to analyze every detail concerning broad philosophies about life to the point of a psychotic breakdown. “Hamlet becomes a prisoner of his own mind, a man stuck in the imaginary world, an irrational thinker, in a rational society.” (Character Analysis of Shakespeare's Hamlet and Othello, 2002 p.3) By becoming entangled in the thoughts dwelling in his own mind, Hamlet inhibits himself from taking action. It isn't until the final scene of the play, when all caught in the crossfire along with himself are dying that he kills Claudius, at last understanding the consequences of his delay.

Hamlet's suicidal state of depression is another psychological factor that contributes to his procrastination. He ponders if avenging his father's death is worth the effort or if he should end his own life, avoiding moral dilemmas associated with taking action (Hamlet's Procrastination, 2005). “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all, And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pitch and moment With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action.” (Shakespeare, 1992 p.129) There are critics who deem this condition a state of melancholy and label Hamlet as bi-polar. Author Peter Leithart described melancholy as (2006), “a temporary depression that paralyzes him in contempt for everything-the world, the flesh, and himself, not just a habitual excess of reflectiveness” (p. 3). Being melancholic for what he had been through before meeting with the Ghost, Hamlet is said to have been emotionally incapable of responding with normal vigor to the ghost requests although he spoke as though he did. Hamlet's experiences forced him to feel as Shakespeare critic AC Bradley worded it, “Disgust at life and everything in it, himself included-a disgust which varies in intensity, rising at times into a longing for death, sinking often into wearing apathy” (Leithart, 2006 p. 4). This theory accounts for many of the extreme emotions Hamlet feels and for the fact that he does not understand his own inaction and reprimands himself in dismay over his unwillingness to avenge his father.

Hamlet's Idealistic Nature

In contrast, there is another well supported theory that maintains Hamlet has trouble carrying out his act of revenge due to his idealistic nature. Johnston believed (2001), …he is too good for this world, he is too sensitive, too poetical, too finely attuned to the difficulties of life, too philosophically speculative or too finely poetical. This line of criticism has often been offered by people who feel themselves rather too finely gifted to fit the rough and tumble of the modern world. (p.5)

Hamlet communicates his dislike for the dishonesty of the world, the hypocrisy of politics and sexuality. Therefore, a legitimate reason for Hamlet's delay could be that he's too sensitive and romantic for the corruption of the court, proving his procrastination stems from his distaste at condescending to their level. Additionally, Hamlet realizes that killing a King is a great crime. “In seventeenth century, kings have divinity about them, and hurting a king from that period cannot compare to hurting a politician today (Hamlet's Delay, 1996 p.3). Hamlet does not want to be found guilty of such a crime, therefore concern for himself is a contributing factor to his procrastination.

Oedipus Complex

Another theory is born from the fact that Hamlet only postpones Claudius's murder. Hamlet readily slays Polonius and puts his two friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to death without a second thought. He proves that he is fully capable of making decisions and following through with them. However, with the specific task that the ghost assigns him, he undoubtedly falters. Professor Ian Johnston references Ernest Jones, the famous disciple of Freud, and wrote (2001), “It's not that he [Hamlet] is by nature irresolute, too poetical, or philosophical, or suffers from medical problems or a weakness of will. It is, by contrast, that this particular assignment is impossible for him”(p.6). Why this specific murder?

It is a widely accepted theory that Hamlet suffered from Oedipus Complex, meaning he was in love with his mother, Queen Gertrude. Some critics believe that he couldn't immediately kill Claudius because he knew if he were to actually go through with it, he would be no better a man than his murderous uncle (Hamlet's Delay in Shakespeare's Hamlet, 2005). Another theory is that by killing the man who sleeps with his mother, he would be forced to admit to himself his own feelings about her, a confession that would overwhelm and disgust him (Johnston, 2001). It is evident in the play that Hamlet is only able to murder Claudius after Gertrude is dead, and he is about to die. It is at that point that his sexual confusion is resolved, and he is finally able to act. Johnston pointed out (2001),

Hamlet does have a very particular inability to carry out this action and that this inability is not a constitutional incapacity for action but stems from some very particular feelings within Hamlet, feelings which he himself has trouble figuring out and which he often thinks about in explicitly sexual terms…terms which insist upon a pattern of disgust with female sexuality (p.7).

This revulsion to female sexuality is evident when Hamlet speaks to his mother or Ophelia. The outlook provides a further realistic and logical explanation for his procrastination. Hamlet undoubtedly delays as evident by his soliloquies which continually target his procrastination. Also the presence of Laertes and Fortinbras create a noticeable contrast between their resolute manner and Hamlet's faltering one. Although there are many possible explanations of why Hamlet delays, whether his idealism is to blame, his psychological state or his Oedipus Complex, it is apparent that they are all well supported and legitimate theories that prove more likely than not that Hamlet does postpone the avengement of his father; he is, therefore, a procrastinator.

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Hamlet's Intelligence is The Factor of His Procrastination Nature

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hamlet essay on his procrastination

Hamlet Research Paper & Essay Examples

hamlet essay on his procrastination

When you have to write an essay on Hamlet by Shakespeare, you may need an example to follow. In this article, our team collected numerous samples for this exact purpose. Here you’ll see Hamlet essay and research paper examples that can inspire you and show how to structure your writing.

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  • Psychiatric Analysis of Hamlet Genre: Essay Words: 1899 Focused on: Hamlet’s mental state and sanity in particular Characters mentioned: Hamlet, Claudius, Ophelia, Laertes, Polonius
  • Hamlet and King Oedipus Literature Comparison Genre: Essay Words: 587 Focused on: Comparison of Hamlet and Oedipus Characters mentioned: Hamlet

Thanks for checking the samples! Don’t forget to open the pages with Hamlet essays that you’ve found interesting. For more information about the play, consider the articles below.

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A Critical Analysis of Hamlet’s Constant Procrastination in Shakespeare’s Hamlet Essay

1. introduction.

The play Hamlet, penned by William Shakespeare, is a tragedy concerning a melancholic prince, his father's death, and the corruption in Denmark. In the play, the ghost of Hamlet's father appears to him and tells him that the former king was murdered by Hamlet's uncle, who is now the current king and was holding both the queen and the crown. The ghost implores Hamlet to derive revenge for his death, and this is the foundation for the sequence of events that take place in Hamlet. However, Hamlet is often not able to act, to be regularly seen meandering about the Danish castle in his disheveled clothing. This emotional and physical torment suffered by Hamlet, combined with the repayment of his father's needing him to avenge his death, illuminates the significant nature of Hamlet's constant procrastination. It is this virtue of indecision that brands Hamlet as a typical Elizabethan avenger and serves as perhaps the main bond that unites the play under the popular revenge tragedy form. And as this introduction will show, Hamlet in particular is subject to the binds of this enduring quality in his seminal piece, such that any form of decisive revenge serves only to perpetuate the neoteric and elevate the tragedy from bloodbath to catastrophe.

1.1 Background of Shakespeare's Hamlet

The play "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare is considered one of the best plays in the English language. This play is full of intrigues, a lot of revenge, and a whole lot of procrastination. All the major and important actions happen because of the main character's procrastination. This leads us to the very first question that strikes our mind when we talk about Hamlet. Why does Hamlet delay for so long in achieving his revenge? Well, that is very much debatable, but in this essay, we will try to focus on Hamlet's procrastination and attempt to explain it, primarily through his psychological complexity. We will provide a critical analysis of Hamlet's constant procrastination in Shakespeare's play. First, we will look at the historical background and the political implications of the play. Then, the focus will shift to the significance of Hamlet's procrastination in the progress of the entire work. After, we will look at possible reasons for Hamlet's behavior, moral and pragmatic, caused by his very own life experiences. Next, we will discuss the psychological approach that explains his habit to delay actions and to analyze the situation. Penultimately, the consequences of Hamlet's procrastination will be mentioned in order to have a valid and solid groundwork for the audience to understand the thesis of the essay: that his constant. To conclude, we will rephrase our thesis and give a review of what we have discussed on.

1.2 Significance of Hamlet's Procrastination

After the introduction of the play, the significance of Hamlet's procrastination is discussed. It is seen that his "to be or not to be" (III. i. 57) soliloquy mainly reflects on the significance of his constant procrastination in the play. The soliloquy depicts Hamlet's continued instability and indecision. At this point, there is a clear shift in the approach towards life and death. Hamlet turns from fears of the afterlife to fears of what might happen to his earthly body and soul if he performs an act of self-destruction; that is, he begins to think through the consequences of his actions. This soliloquy provides significant evidence that Hamlet's procrastination is not due to laziness or fear. When the dead king's ghost appears before Hamlet and reveals the truth about his murder, it seems that Marcellus' comments help to dismiss any lingering doubt about the ghost's credibility: "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark" (I. iv. 90). The essay clearly shows that his contemporaries are politically motivated and ambitious for power; he is tested when the truth is known and the loyalty to his father's "state" is a lot more significant. The significance of Hamlet's procrastination is that it dominates the play and it is the primary motivation for the unfolding events. His indecisiveness contributes to the deaths of Polonius, Ophelia, Gertrude, Laertes and himself. The procrastination is seen as a plot by Shakespeare to create complexity, pit good against evil and to provide an insight into Hamlet's mind.

2. Factors Influencing Hamlet's Procrastination

Hamlet’s procrastination in avenging the murder of his father has been a subject of critical debate. Hamlet fails to act mainly due to his contemplative nature and indecisiveness. As a reflective and deeply philosophical individual, Hamlet is far removed from the Elizabethan "man of action". Moreover, Hamlet is torn because he is pitting his mind against his emotions. He feels the need to act according to his promise to his father’s ghost, but he is hesitant to do so – first he wants to double check the authenticity of the ghost’s words. This is evident in Act 3, Scene 2 where he uses the play to "catch conscience of the King" and observe the King’s reaction in order to verify the words of the ghost. His contemplative nature is reflected in his first soliloquy, "O that this too too sullied flesh would melt". It is a soliloquy filled with self-frustration and contempt for his inability to strongly feel, to strongly act. Hamlet views the world through his intellect and thought, not through the superficial eyes of others. He seems to show a far greater respect for human intellect compared to human passion. Passion is easily manipulated and vulnerable to the dark side of human nature, but it is one’s intellect, not passion, that leads to a successful life. However, Hamlet can only achieve this intellectual success if his mind is constantly engaged and focused. A life governed by intellectual thought can only be achieved through continuity of philosophical and contemplative activity – but this activity stands directly in the way of the impulsive, rash acts demanded of Hamlet. His indecision is exercised by his inability to do anything. His contemplative nature is exercised by his need to think about everything before he can act on something. Courage is about exercising the will to act meaningfully and purposefully. However for Hamlet, courage is extended by a steadfast belief in the philosophical and discrepancy of human temperament. In his second soliloquy, "O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!" Hamlet laments over himself for his inability to avenge his father’s death. The use of the word "rogue", a deceitful and uncontrollable character, and "peasant slave", a lowly and subservient creature, shows the sense of contempt and frustration which Hamlet feels towards his rational nature.

2.1 Hamlet's Indecisiveness

In this section "2.1 Hamlet's Indecisiveness," the writer seems to have found the root cause of Hamlet's procrastination, which is due to his indecision. The critic thinks that Hamlet really has no excuse for his delay. He compares Hamlet to Fortinbras, who is a soldier ready to act to regain his land from the enemy. Fortinbras is decisive in his every action. On the other hand, Hamlet does not have that kind of decisive mind. He is a philosopher. Hamlet is not only a curious thinker but also a man with a careful and slow thinking habit. He always thinks thoroughly before taking any action. Hamlet is a person who lives in his own thoughts and world. He trusts in his intellect and does not want to act like a fool by following his emotions. He tries to show off his knowledge by telling King Claudius that he is still mourning his father's death, but actually, within two months of his father's death, he already has enough time to mourn. Besides that, the writer thinks that Hamlet is an over-analytical person too. He mentions that Hamlet has to make sure the ghost is not a devil. He wants to get more evidence to prove that King Claudius is the murderer. All these show that Hamlet's over-analytical habit causes his delay. Although the writer seems very persuasive in proving his argument that Hamlet's delay is due to his indecision, over-analytical, and melancholic nature, he forgets that this play "Hamlet" is created by Shakespeare. Shakespeare could intentionally want to present Hamlet's delay in this play as complex and multi-faceted. Shakespeare himself is a genius in literature. He creates different rational and emotional issues that lead to Hamlet's indecision so that the audience could experience the mixed sense of frustrations as well as sympathy towards Hamlet. By doing this, the character Hamlet could be long remembered by the people. This writer just stands on one point of view, and he does not notice what Shakespeare intentionally wants to show through Hamlet's character. By having a different interpretation of this play, it helps me to have a clearer understanding now about human psychology and behavior, especially dealing with the issue of delay. I totally disagree with the writer's full interpretation of Hamlet's delay. I think there are many other possibilities that lead to Hamlet's delay. I enjoy and have great insights now to think critically with various angles when dealing with the issue of delay. This is what the writer succeeds in engaging me for critical thinking. Well done Shakespeare! Well done Hamlet! Well done, the writer too!

2.2 Fear of Consequences

In Hamlet's soliloquies (the independent speeches Hamlet makes when he is completely alone), he spends much time debating the consequences of his actions and often leads himself into a dark and depressing consideration of what will happen if he should 'take up arms against a sea of troubles' - in other words, start to act. For example, at the beginning of Act 3, Scene 1 in the famous 'To be or not to be' soliloquy, he begins by considering the prospect of suicide as a way out and weighing up the religious and moral implications. But then the focus shifts to a meditation on the possibility of action instead and the consequence of such an act: 'To die, to sleep, no more; and by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.' If this was all, and Hamlet's thoughts were purely theoretical explorations of the dark roads his intellect opens to him, we might justly suspect that his problem was indecisiveness or some other fault. However, Shakespeare leads us to believe, as I argue in my essay, that Hamlet's fear of the consequences of action is well-founded and influenced highly in creating his procrastination. Every time Hamlet has a chance to act impulsively, he lingers and waits until he has what he believes to be sufficient evidence and the backing of public opinion. Even after the player spirit has offered a very valid account of old King Hamlet's murder in a play, 'The Mouse-trap', and emotions run high - as shown even by the King himself - rather than acting immediately and killing Claudius, who he does genuinely believe is guilty, Hamlet instead puts procrastination into practice. This suggests that it is not only he that he is considering but also the political/ethical consequences of an act in the 17th-century Danish court, in which security and order may be disrupted by the court not acknowledging his view. This indeed happens, unknowingly to Hamlet, beginning with the very next scene shift. The throne room becomes a place of dissonance, signaled by the sudden outburst of playing music and the excited noise made by the court and surrounding crowds. On stage, we see Claudius's mind adrift with thoughts of guilt and consequence, so much so that he cannot engage with the words of a prayer. He admits in an aside, 'My words fly up, may thouas laude sinks down', revealing to the audience his own conscience and knowledge of the consequences of his actions, his guilt which Hamlet wishes to make apparent to the nation later. The King is snapshotted at the ends of thoughts and prayers for the conclusion that this moment of disruption and lack of order in the court is caused by a berat king's lack of concentration. All these things, including the outcome of the prayer scene, happen as an indirect reiteration of Hamlet's own internal fears.

2.3 Moral Dilemma

In the third place, Hamlet cannot find any moral grounds while he knows he will revenge. Some critics say that Hamlet's procrastination came from the moral consideration, which conflicts with reason and passion. Hamlet stands between his reason and passion; so he has an internal moral struggle in his deep conscious. However, now I advance a different interpretation. I think Hamlet's moral dilemma is contributed by the profound moral corruption of the whole state of Denmark. In other words, Hamlet delays his revenge because the world he sees is too terribly wrong. The moral disease of the whole society has made him adhering to his moral grounds for action. Hamlet used to be a student in Wittenberg; he is an enlightened and scholar and trust in the power of human rationality. He has faith that reason can help to overcome passion and solve any moral dilemmas. However, the world he has seen now is full of corruption and decadence; unreasonable gain is the fashion, moral values is meaningless, those in authority, whose duty is to protect the people and enforce the law, has involved in dirty political practices, vanity and licentiousness. Therefore, his revulsion in his mother's marriage with his uncle can lead to a more deep moral detestation towards the whole society. In addition, Hamlet's moral dilemma is also made acute by the fact that he has to act under the divine and natural laws; this is similar with the situation when he is struggling in seeking reasons to justify either he should kill Claudius while he is praying. Divine and natural laws are Western concept that refer to the rules given by God and by nature. Hamlet is conflict with himself either he should obey the command from God by wishing damnation upon Claudius or violate natural law by committing murder. The presence of the ghost showing that there is a lack of internal harmony in the nature realm. This further confuses Hamlet and deepens his moral dilemma. This also reflects the general setting of the play; spiritual wickedness and corruption in the society lead one moral at all level to be challenged. I think that Hamlet can never be mad. Rather, he is constantly in a choice between reason and passion, for which he made a moral struggle in his deep soul. He tries to obey the command of avenge his father, yet his rational thinking always comes to suppress the passionate desire to take action. However, when we deeply look to his procrastination, we may say that his delay does not come from the worry of not knowing the right action. Instead, his hesitation is largely due to his searching for an answer to the moral question—what has caused the world to be so wrong and how can I make any difference? His depression and moral doubt reflects the disheartenment of the Renaissance humanism. The corruption in the royal court of Denmark and the rejection of the value of human rationality throws cold water to Renaissance humanism and enlightens ideals. The world shown by Shakespeare is not a pleasing place; moral dilemma of Hamlet is a good example of conveying the message of the failure of human pursuit of moral rectitude in the reality.

3. Consequences of Hamlet's Procrastination

Upon dissecting the nature of Hamlet's procrastination and determining the psychological factors that compel him to delay, the essay considers the reasons as to why Hamlet's procrastination is a tragic flaw, leading to the deaths of the principal characters of the play, and the eventual unsettling denouement. This essay maintains that Hamlet's inaction – owing to his melancholic state, the punishment of his double nature, the Oedipal complex and the need to avenge – coupled with his brash temperament and impulsive behaviour, results in the escalated tragedy in each act. It posits that Hamlet's indecisiveness and procrastination, while underpinned by mnemonic repression and the delay serving as a conflict itself for the audience's pleasure, results in the corruption of all the other characters in the play, showing a destructive domino effect. In addition, the essay investigates the consequences of Hamlet's inability to act according to the ghost's command, and the subsequent highlighting of "man's encased will" and the psychological constraints of free will, thus providing a platform for existentialism. The essay seeks to offer various explanations regarding the reasons for Hamlet's inaction, while requiring the audience or reader to genuinely consider the nature of Hamlet's procrastination: whether it is a feigned display, driven by his desire to apply the stoic visions of emotional repression, or another, external force – a tragic flaw, parallel to Aristotle's model of being a hero of higher stature. However, the mold of a revenge tragedy is reflected in Shakespeare's contemporary playwrights and predecessors, which usually follow a set course: a character sustained from a personal loss or injustice (wanted deed), the plotting of vengeance, hesitation about the necessary act, an execution, and the disorder from the aftermath. But by using Hamlet's resolutions, namely the 'rogue and peasant slave' speech in Act 2, and the unconsoled through 'thinking too precisely on th'event' in the "To be or not to be" soliloquy, Shakespeare reshapes the conventions of Aristotelian revenge tragedy to exacerbate the tragic nature of his psychologically complex, multi-layered character. This not only raises the question of "what is good in Hamlet", as Burton Hatoff perspicuously points out, but concurrently, a new theme arises: how "novel like questions are purposely raised to employ and challenge the viewer's perspectives; not just from the narrative itself, but also from the fact that Hamlet's lack of action becomes more and more frustrating.

3.1 Escalation of Tragedy

The pivotal turning point in the play is when Hamlet slays Polonius. This bridges Hamlet’s stream of consciousness and directs the audience into his thought process. Leading up to this dramatic climax, Hamlet seems to become more dejected and disturbed. For example, his snide comment to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern shows that Hamlet is becoming more and more aware of the bigger happenings around him - that they are only gulls sent by the king and they are not really there for Hamlet, but merely acting in furtherance of the king’s interests. By this point of the play, it shall be clear that Hamlet’s procrastination is only a superficial cover for a deeper, underlying anxiety and soul-sickness. However, it is also the escalation of tragedies amongst the characters. The killing is an escalation of the “revenge” as a theme in the play. Although this is the only direct killing that results in Hamlet’s action, and it can be regarded as the ultimate climax of the play, other deaths, such as the passing of King Hamlet and Ophelia’s insanity can be attributed to Hamlet’s delaying of killing Claudius. The delays of action to kill Claudius cause a snowball effect of deaths and ultimately, the tragedy is the loss among the royal family. First, King Hamlet died and King Claudius takes the throne as the new King. Then, Polonius is killed which leads to Ophelia’s insanity and eventually her tragic death. These tragedies expose the evil attributes of various characters and are only finalized with the victory of Fortinbras with the presentation of the dead bodies in the end. However, we must continue to question whether Hamlet’s procrastination potentially leads to his mother’s death as well and we cannot disregard the possibility that Gertrude might have drank it not because of intention, but out of a mother’s love to save her son. Every single character that has a royal bloodline dies in the end. It is thus safe to conclude that the procrastination of Hamlet results in the escalation of tragedy. But at the same time, it is a strong and direct plot where Shakespeare intends to lead the audience into the conclusion at the closure of the play.

3.2 Loss of Opportunities

Another significant consequence of Hamlet's procrastination is the loss of opportunities. After the play scene, where Hamlet had proven to himself that Claudius was guilty, he encountered Claudius in the chapel but couldn't kill him, providing a lot of time for his uncle to repent and be forgiven. This not only led to the delayed death of Claudius at the end of the play, but also the death of many others. For instance, Hamlet's delay in killing Claudius not only caused many other deaths including his mother's, but also denied the opportunity for Hamlet to resolve his existential crisis. Gertrude's death could have possibly been prevented and Hamlet could have had the chance to go away from the horrible place and defy his fate if he had killed Claudius earlier. Instead, Hamlet's actions always result in other people, including himself, being killed and in pain. This sense of lost chances made the play more and more a record of errors, mischances and lost opportunities. In other words, Hamlet’s missed chances are not just instances of inaction, but also signify a deeper understanding of the human condition. And this is the reason that so many of us find a fascination with this character, it is not just what he has missed, but also what he hints at in terms of a human’s soul existence. His obsession with death has led him finally to act, but the act is a suicidal one and the best to be said might be that if there was no scope for his creativity and his desire to 'find out the truth', he would live his next period of life which is not more substantially differing to what he has already experienced. His life effectively finished at the moment when his mother's complete dependence on his soon was finally seized by the new king, Claudius. He was denied of it due to the wrong conception and his both physical and mental wounds that he cannot exist in a normal human environment. The spiritual decline seems absolute from that time until the appearance of the troop led by Fortinbras, who is the Norway prince and willing to take back the land lost by his father. And the mysterious convey of young Hamlet's intention to work for the people he has met but not careful cast a somewhat dramatic hope for the regain of human spirit. So violence, served as a means underpinning the political process, also promises a future out of troubles and loss. The act is cruel but the measure is shown to be the end of uncertainties and agonies lived by the prince. However, it also marks the end of state in Denmark which should be ruled by a rightful leader. And in other people's eyes, it is too far to say that Hamlet was the perfect idealist for showing any optimism in the circumstances of such political corruption. But the essence, the core of the hope is appeared to be something substantial and being staged out in reality. And this might justify for the presentation of the play in terms of Hamlet's spiritual journey.

3.3 Impact on Relationships

The relationships in Hamlet are very interesting and diverse. Each character has a different relationship with Hamlet, who has romantic relationships with Ophelia, friendly relationships with Horatio and Marcellus, and family relationships with the late King Hamlet and his mother Gertrude. As the play continues and the plot in the play thickens, every single relationship that Hamlet has with these characters becomes more complex and more interesting. This is due to the different scenarios and it can be clearly seen in the play, as there are many different ways in which Hamlet's relationships with these characters can go about. However, because of Hamlet's persistent procrastination, his relationships with these characters become extremely strained. For example, his treatment of Ophelia in Act 3, Scene 1 and his accidental murder of Polonius affects the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia and Ophelia's perception of Hamlet. His relationship with Gertrude is also under severe strain as a result of his constant procrastination and the subsequent killing of Polonius. The way in which Hamlet continuously puts off the murder of Claudius is very indicative of the way in which people often deal with their problems in the real world. Instead of just dealing with a serious issue like murder, Hamlet finds many excuses to procrastinate and justify his inaction. This constant delay and refusal to take action has serious consequences, resulting in the relationship between Hamlet and his mother, Gertrude, to be damaged beyond repair. This goes to show that if somebody procrastinates and refuses to take action at a time of need, serious consequences and irreparable damage to relationships may occur. Another main impact on relationships due to Hamlet's procrastination is the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia. Throughout the play, Ophelia is treated poorly by Hamlet and is under a lot of emotional strain, caused by both her father's death and Hamlet's actions. This treatment is especially evident in his treatment of Ophelia in Act 3, Scene 1, where Hamlet makes scornful comments and employs vulgar puns in his conversation with Ophelia. These actions are a direct result of Hamlet's procrastination and his reluctance to take action - in this case, to directly speak about his innermost thoughts to Ophelia and explain the situation. This constant delay results in a significant shut-out in Ophelia's mind and it eventually leads to a destruction in their relationship, and severing the tie between lovers.

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Hamlet's Procrastination

  • Author: Muhammad Rafiq

A Man in Hamlet Costume

A Man in Hamlet Costume

By Nic54 from Canva

Hamlet is the most commemorated tragedy of William Shakespeare that evolves round the figure of Prince Hamlet. William Shakespeare's tragedies predominantly stay upon a particular blemish in the character of a protagonist. The point when there is some imperfection or shortcoming in the character of a protagonist, then, this defect is termed as Hamartia.

Prince Hamlet likewise experiences Hamartia. This hamartia is his procrastination or delay. Procrastination hinders the ambitions of Prince Hamlet. Hamlet is incapable to materialize his plans due to this flaw. There are explanations regarding why Hamlet experienced lingering.

There are four reasons for Hamlet's procrastination. These elements prevent Hamlet from taking action. They are explained below:

Confusion Religious Element Melancholy Strong Opponent

1. Confusion

Confusion assumes a key part in Hamlet's procrastination. At the exact start of the play, Hamlet questions the story of the ghost. He is not certain about the veracity of the ghost's story. Hamlet is not a common man to accept blindly what the ghost said about the murder of his father.

That is the reason; he defers his plans to find out whether the story of the apparition is correct or false. He believes that it is conceivable that the apparition he has seen may have tried to drive him to submit a shrewd deed. He communicates his concerns in the following lines:

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.

(Act II, Scene ii, 574-79)

Confusion and Uncertainty

Confusion and Uncertainty

By Peshkov from Getty Images

Hamlet needs to affirm the story that the ghost has told him. He states, "I'll have grounds more relative than this". To ponder the genuine killer of his father, Hamlet stages a play, called "The Murder of Gonzago". Hamlet imagines that the play will help him discovering the King’s involvement in killing his dad:

The play’s the thing

Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.

(Act II, Scene II, 600-1)

Throughout this mock play, Hamlet comes to realize that Claudius is the true killer of his father. This play likewise affirms the story of the ghost. Before the enactment of the play, he was unable to take action against the King. Nonetheless, now we understand that he is completely convinced to take revenge upon his enemy.


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2. religious element.

Religion is likewise an alternate component that gives rise to procrastination in Hamlet. Christianity has an extraordinary impact on the character of Hamlet. As the community was religious, consequently, Prince Hamlet can't live without being impacted by the community he exists in.

He is dependably tormented by the second thoughts of his still, small voice. He does not want to commit suicide mainly on account of religious reasons. He states in a soliloquy:

O that this too too solid flesh would melt, Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!

Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d

His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!

How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,

Seem to me all the uses of this world!

Fie on’t! ah fie! ‘tis an unweeded garden

(Act I, Scene II, 131-135)


By Matheus Bertelli from Pexels

Once Hamlet finds an opportunity to execute Claudius, while he was praying, but he suspends his decision on the point that he will kill him:

When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,

Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed.

(Act III, Scene III, 89-90)

3. Melancholy

Melancholy is also thought to be another hurdle in the way of Hamlet. Melancholy restrains Hamlet from taking any action against Claudius. One of the main reasons that turned Hamlet into a melancholic one is the hasty marriage of his mother with Claudius. He is so disturbed at the marriage of her mother that he begins to think of her like other ladies. He states:

Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him, As if increase of appetite had grown By what it fed on: and yet, within a month— Let me not think on’t—Frailty, thy name is woman!—

(Act I, Scene II, 143-146)

Another reason that adds to the melancholic nature of Hamlet is the murder of his father. When, the ghost reveals that Claudius has executed his father and enjoins him to take revenge upon Claudius. He immediately resolves to take revenge upon the King. He communicates his determination in the following lines:

Ay, thou poor Ghost, while memory holds a seat

In this distracted globe. Remember thee!

Yea, from the table of my memory

I'll wipe away all trivial fond records.

(Act I, Scene II, 96-99)


By Exopixel from Getty Images

His famous soliloquy “To be, or not to be: that is the question” sheds light on the introspection nature of Hamlet. The following lines from his soliloquy give us insight into his character. He is torn between the idea of life and death. He does not know whether it is a noble work to suffer the miseries of fortune. He states:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them?

(Act III, Scene I, 56-60)

4. Strong Opponent

We realize that Claudius is a strong foe as contrasted with Prince Hamlet. Claudius has everything to repress Hamlet. Hamlet knows that it is impossible for him to take revenge upon him easily. He is well aware of the fact that the King is intensely protected by Swiss bodyguards.

Moreover, Hamlet has no solid proof to justify his case. He has to back only on the words of apparition for his case. That is the reason Hamlet needs to sit tight for a chance to execute him. Hamlet chides himself for being late in the execution of Claudius. He says:

But I am pigeon-liver'd and lack gall

To make oppression bitter,

(Act II, Scene II, 577-78)

He knows, he is late, yet he has a strong determination to take vengeance upon Claudius. Thus the aforementioned elements forced Hamlet to delay his actions.

Strong Opponent

Strong Opponent

By Alphaspirit from Getty Images


  • Chan, K., & Bradley, A. (n.d.). Why Hamlet Delays His Revenge -. Kenneth Chan. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from https://kenneth-chan.com/quintessence-of-dust/why-hamlet-delays-his-revenge/
  • Dendy, E. (n.d.). Hamlet's delay. PubMed. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12102022/
  • HAMLET AND PROCRASTINATION. (n.d.). LotsOfEssays.com. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from https://www.lotsofessays.com/viewpaper/1682610.html
  • Hamlet's delay for revenge essays. (n.d.). Mega Essays. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from https://www.megaessays.com/viewpaper/39448.html
  • Hamlet's Delay In Killing Claudius Analysis | ipl.org. (n.d.). IPL.org. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from https://www.ipl.org/essay/Probable-Reason-For-Hamlets-Delay-In-Killing-FCY8U72AG
  • Hamlet's Procrastination Free Essay Example from StudyTiger. (n.d.). study tiger. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from https://studytiger.com/free-essay/hamlets-procrastination-term-paper/
  • ODell, C. (2020, July 19). Hamlet's Procrastination and Nietzsche. Thinking Cat. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from https://thinkingcatboston.com/hamlets-procastination-and-nietzsche/
  • The Problem of Delay in Shakespeare's Hamlet: A Point of View. (n.d.). Academia.edu. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from https://www.academia.edu/450413/The_Problem_of_Delay_in_Shakespeares_Hamlet_A_Point_of_View

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Muhammad Rafiq

Poornima Arora on March 22, 2019:

You've covered all the points. A nice answer.

Maryum on February 04, 2019:

Its very easy to understand..to the point..nothing is excessive in this..

Muhammad Rafiq (author) from Pakistan on March 26, 2017:

Than Glenis Rix for your comments. Yea, I agree with you, but this is the only one reason of his delay. There are many other factors as well that hinder his actions. I have already explained these factors in the article.

Glen Rix from UK on March 26, 2017:

It appears from the text that Hamlet would not kill Claudius as he prayed because Claudius' soul would have gone to Heaven and everlasting life in the hereafter, so Hamlet would not have been revenged to do the deed at that moment

" Am I then revenged

To take him in the purging of his soul,

When he is fit and seasoned for his passage?"

Muhammad Rafiq (author) from Pakistan on May 27, 2015:

Yea, inability may also be the cause of procrastinating nature of Hamlet. Thanks Glenis Rix for your comments. Have a nice time.

Glen Rix from UK on May 27, 2015:

It's interesting that you think Hamlet's tragic quality is procrastionation. In my view it may be his inability to reconcile himself to the death of his father and the changed situation at court. He seems to have several issues - the fact that his father was murdered, the fact that he himself was the rightful heir to the throne of Denmark, and the fact that his mother has been demonstrably disloyal.

A central unresolved question for Shakespeare's audience is whether or not Hamlet is mad. Sometimes he deceives others at Court by pretending to be mad, at others it seems that frustration is actually driving him mad. The turning point in his frame of mind seems to me to be after his return from England, when he appears to be thinking more clearly and is resolved to pursue revenge. The tragedy is perhaps that innocent bystanders - Ophelia, Polonius - have died as a direct result of his anger/temporary madness, which led Laertes to become involved in the plot to murder him, leaving a stage littered with bodies.

Muhammad Rafiq (author) from Pakistan on October 19, 2014:

Thanks Saddam for stopping by and commenting! I am glad that it helped you. Have a nice time!

Saddam Hussain on October 19, 2014:

Very nice and easy to understandable

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by Haven McClure. London: R.G. Badger.

The so-called Hamlet problem is presented in lines 29-31 of Act I, Scene 5: : "Haste me to know't, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge." But throughout the five acts of the play Hamlet completely fails to "sweep" to his revenge. This curious fact constitutes the crux of the plot, "the Hamlet Mystery."

Of the five classic attempts by eminent scholars and poets to solve the baffling problem of Hamlet's conduct, the first four are subjective (the fourth being purely pathological), and the fifth is objective, or based solely on external circumstances.

The first and most famous is the so-called "sentimental" theory of Goethe, leading poet of Germany, advanced in his (1795). Coming from such an eminent source, every consideration is due this opinion. Following is a free translation from the German (IV, 3-13; V, 4-1 1): "In these words, I presume, is to be discovered the the key to Hamlet's entire course of action. To me it is clear that Shakespeare attempted to disclose, in the present instance, the effects of a great deed laid upon a soul unequal to the performance of it. In this view the entire play seems composed, it appears to me. An oak-tree is planted in a costly vase, which should have borne only lovely flowers in its bosom; the roots spread, the vase is shattered. A supremely attractive, pure, noble and most moral nature, without the strength of nerve which goes to constitute the hero, sinks beneath a burden which it neither can bear nor cast aside. All duties to him are holy, — this one too hard. That which is impossible is required of him, — not the inherently impossible, but the impossible to him. He twists and turns, and tortures himself; he advances and reacts; is ever reminded and self-reminding; and at the last all but does lose sight of his purpose, yet ever without restoring his peace of mind."

In view of Hamlet's ultimate triumph over Claudius, this theory cannot be sustained. Bradley, in his epoch-making (1904), remarks acutely: "Consider the text. This shrinking, flower-like youth, — how could he possibly have done what we see Hamlet do? What likeness to him is there in the Hamlet who, summoned by the Ghost, bursts from his terrified companions with the cry: the Hamlet who scarcely once speaks to the King without insult, or to Polonius without a gibe; the Hamlet who storms at Ophelia and speaks daggers to his mother; the Hamlet who, hearing a cry behind the arras, whips out his sword in an instant and runs the eavesdropper through; the Hamlet who sends his school-fellows to their death and never troubles his head about them more; the Hamlet who is the first man to board a pirate ship, and who fights with Laertes in the grave; the Hamlet of the catastrophe, an omnipotent fate, before whom all the court stands helpless, who, as the truth breaks upon him, rushes on the King, drives his foil right through his body, then seizes the poisoned cup and forces it violently between the wretched man's lips, and in the throes of death has force and fire enough to wrest the cup from Horatio's hand ('By heaven, I'll have it!') lest he should drink and die? This man, the Hamlet of the play, is a heroic, terrible figure. He would have been formidable to Othello or Macbeth. If the sentimental Hamlet had crossed him, he would have hurled him from his path with one sweep of his arm."

The second of the celebrated subjective theories as to Hamlet's course of action in delaying revenge is the alleged "weakness of will" theory, advanced almost synchronously by Coleridge in England (in his ) and by Schlegel in Germany (see Black's translation of Schlegel's ) shortly after 1800. For convenience it is known either as the "weakness of will theory" or the Schlegel-Coleridge theory. Coleridge remarks in part: "In the healthy process of the mind, a balance is constantly maintained between the impressions from outward objects and the inward operations of the intellect; for if there be an overbalance in the contemplative faculty, man thereby becomes the creature of mere meditation, and loses his natural power of action.... In Hamlet ... we see a great, an almost enormous intellectual activity, and a proportionate aversion to real action consequent upon it."

Schlegel finds the key to the play in an identical hypothesis and quotes the hero of the drama as evidence: Further Schlegel declares that Hamlet does not believe in himself or anything else. "He loses himself in labyrinths of thought." The fatal objection to the Schlegel-Coleridge theory is that it detaches Hamlet from the drama considered as a whole, and attributes to him a personal defect of nature which may neither be justifiable nor fair to him. It ts unsafe to assume, as does Coleridge, that Shakespeare creates a character with a "faculty in morbid excess, and places himself, Shakespeare, thus mutilated or diseased, under given circumstances," Dare we assume that Hamlet, the magnificent, is mentally "mutilated or diseased?"

A third theory seeking to account for Hamlet's delay is the "conscience" theory of Ulrici (see Morrison's translation of Ulrici's ). Hamlet, says Ulrici, is restrained by conscience from putting the King to death without a trial and without justice. This theory is exploded by the fact that it does not consider the historical background of the age, which permitted and even made obligatory retaliative revenge; and Hamlet bitterly reproaches himself more than once for his lack of promptness in its execution.

The fourth theory is a celebrated one from the standpoint of historical controversy. It assumes that Hamlet, at least at times, is insane. Melancholia, hysteria, psychic epilepsy, neurasthenia, madness or whatever you will, has been presented in turn to explain Hamlet's procrastination. Nearly all proponents of the madness hypothesis admit, however, that Hamlet had lucid intervals. As a matter of fact, the only defense of this theory that can be made is that pathological research has never yet been able to draw a sharp line of demarcation between sanity and insanity. Ibsen has demonstrated this dramatically in . Not all insane people are confined in madhouses any more than all criminals are now behind prison walls. But what is a criminal? If a man steals a trifle is he a criminal? Similarly, insanity may be a constant but slight and imperceptible over-tension of the nerves as well as the wild raving of a maniac. So declares Ibsen in . But ninety-five per cent of all scholars nevertheless reject the madness theory. Hamlet distinctly asserts in the first act that he is going "to put an antic disposition on." George Henry Miles, in 1870, declared with finality: "There is never a storm in Hamlet over which the 'noble and most sovereign reason' of the young prince is not as visibly dominant as the rainbow, the crowning grace and glory of the scene. ... The most salient phase of Hamlet's character is his superb intellectual superiority to all comers."

The fifth theory commonly advanced to account for Hamlet's delay differs from the four preceding in that it attributes the prince's hesitation to objective, external circumstances and to the environment in which Hamlet is placed and is therefore unable to control, rather than to internal, subjective causes. As early as 1803 the actor Ziegler wrote and published an analysis of the play on this basis. Ziegler said that Hamlet delayed because of external difficulties, — mainly "the quick, glittering swords of the (King's) bodyguard, or the cold array of judges condemning the slayer of the King." This theory, however, was made more widely known by L. Klein (see Cohn's translation of Klein's , 1846, in Furness's ) and Karl Werder ( , Berlin, 1875). It is commonly known as the Klein-Werder theory. Briefly, it is that Hamlet fails to act because of a desire publicly to unmask the King's guilt, and thus to prevent summary justice being executed against himself who had neither evidence nor reason to offer in support of cold-blooded murder. Professor Bradley, quoted once before, disposes of the Klein-Werder theory thus: "From beginning to end of the play, Hamlet never makes the slightest reference to any external difficulties. Not only does Hamlet fail to allude to such difficulties, but he always assumes that he can obey the Ghost, and he once asserts this in so many words ('Sith I have cause and will and strength and means To do't': IV-4-45)."

Since these five theories probably are inadequate to explain Hamlet's delay, it will be necessary to advance a sixth, which we shall call the ethical theory. This theory does not take the liberty of detaching Hamlet from the play. It considers him rather as a lens through which are focussed the universal realities lying behind the action of the drama.

In solving the Hamlet problem it will now be apparent that deductive rather than inductive logic must be used. For inductive reasoning, — that of drawing a generalization from a specific instance — has led eighteenth and nineteenth century Hamlet criticism into pitfalls and blind-alleys. The general design of the play must be worked out and a specific conclusion drawn as to Hamlet's impelling motive in delaying his revenge. This is deductive reasoning. Assuming that Hamlet is abnormal in some phase of his being is manifestly unfair, as we have seen, because all evidence when assembled is overwhelmingly against such supposition.

We shall then assume that Hamlet is normal, intellectual, righteous, in full possession of his powers, and honor bound by the traditions and customs of his day, to "revenge his father's foul and most unnatural murder," Obviously the solution of the problem must rest on a perfectly normal basis.

Hear John Masefield, foremost of living English poets: "The powers outside life send a poor ghost to Hamlet to prompt him to an act of justice. After baffled hours, often interrupted by cock-crow, he gives his message. Hamlet is charged with the double task of executing judgment and showing mercy.... The task set by the dead is a simple one. All tasks are simple to the simple-minded. To the delicate and complex mind so much of life is bound up with every act that any violent act involves not only a large personal sacrifice of ideal, but a tearing-up by the roots of half the order of the world. ... Hamlet is neither 'weak' nor 'unpractical,' as so many call him. What he hesitates to do may be necessary, or even just, as the world goes, but it is a defilement of personal ideals, difficult for a wise mind to justify. It is so great a defilement, and a world so composed is so great a defilement that death seems preferable to action and existence alike."

In other words, a high ethical motive constantly restrains the Prince of Denmark from carrying into execution his promise to the Ghost. At the climax of the play, as the King kneels in prayer and Hamlet relinquishes his supreme opportunity to commit the act of murder, it is, says Masefield, because of "the knowledge that the sword will not reach the real man, since damnation comes from within, not from without."

In fact, Hamlet's supreme characteristic is morality. He is constantly arrested in his impulses to do the deed by a superior code of ethics. Masfield advances the concept of idealism, which is to the point.

Hamlet is essentially a religious character, using that somewhat unctuous and oversentimentalized word in its broadest, best, and sanest sense. In this respect he is "humanity individualized," since religion is man's supremest characteristic, and man everywhere is the child of God if he so wills. This religious essence of Hamlet's nature is evidenced by two facts. The first is that the language of parallels that of the Bible, and is almost as familiar by quotation in common speech. The second is that Hamlet everywhere weighs the Divine Will against human volition, as was anciently done in Gethsemane. This is particularly true in the long soliloquies: is the consideration which restrains him from suicide in the First Act. In Act 1.2.298-303: Compare with Hebrews 2:6-8 (a redaction of Psalm 8:4-6): In Act 2.2.585-592 Hamlet cannot bring himself to trust the integrity of the Ghost on account of religious scruples: Again, the immortal, beautiful soliloquy of Act 3.1.ll.65-88, repeats the sentiment of that of Act 1, scene 2. Suicide is not a true solution for the ills of humanity because of The climactic soliloquy of Act 3, scene 3, whereby Hamlet misses his best chance to kill Claudius, we have noted before in the quotation of Masefield. In scene 4 Hamlet urges his mother: At the grave of Ophelia Hamlet further meditates on the mystery of death. In the brawl with Laertes he offers to outvie Laertes in "drinking eisel", — to out-rival the agony of the Crucified One.

Finally, the Prince believes his deliverance into the hands of the pirates an act of Providence: In the last hours of Hamlet's life, when danger is instinctively felt to be impending, the following dialogue takes place: : "It is but foolery; but it is such a kind of gaingiving as would perhaps trouble a woman."
: "If your mind dislike anything, obey it. I will forestall their repair hither, and say you are not fit."
: "Not a whit; we defy augury. There's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow." ( Hamlet's faith teaches him that Divine Providence circumscribes and controls in their final issues the affairs of men. Thus, just previous to the preceding dialogue, Hamlet has come to look at Claudius' deeds from the relative as well as the absolute standpoint: For "canker of our nature" read "cancer of humanity." That is Shakespeare's meaning. It is now a duty to slay Claudius for a broader reason than merely a personal reason. The social welfare demands it. The King must be brought to justice. If Hamlet is the instrument of Divine Justice, since God operates in this world through human agencies, he is satisfied. The chance occasion of a fencing-bout opens the way. As Masefield remarks:

. John Masefield: (Henry Holt & Co., 1911), pp. 160-162. An exceedingly brilliant treatise in style and thought.

McClure, Haven. . London: R.G. Badger, 1922. . 15 Sept. 2013.


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Hamlet's madness is an act of deception, concocted to draw attention away from his suspicious activities as he tries to gather evidence against Claudius. He reveals to Horatio his deceitful plan to feign insanity in 1.5: "To put an antic disposition on."

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Hamlet's procrastination: a study on his failure to act essay

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Hundred River Review -

  • Name, Vol. 7 No. 1
  • Letter from the Editors
  • Faculty Introductions
  • The Editorial Board
  • Acknowledgement
  • Art Submissions

Hundred River Review -

Procrastination and Tragedy in Hamlet

Image Credit: Ferwa Razzaq

Read the Faculty Introduction

Procrastination – the bane of college students across the globe. The tantalizing pleasures of Youtube and the immediate social gratifications of Facebook are all too alluring for the average student, especially when the alternative is a five to seven page essay about that old drab Shakespeare. And yet the title character of what most people believe to be Shakespeare’s crowning achievement, Hamlet , is probably the best-known procrastinator of all. In her paper, “Tragic Flaw in Shakespeare’s Hamlet ,” scholar P. Indira Devi argues that “Shakespeare’s tragic hero Hamlet’s fatal flaw is his failure to act immediately to kill Claudius, his uncle and murderer of his father” (2). Although the ghost of Hamlet’s father orders Hamlet to kill his uncle Claudius in Act I, our hero waits until the king is undeniably guilty before he ends his uncle’s life. Despite Hamlet’s eventual success in killing Claudius, Devi argues that his “procrastination, his tragic flaw, leads him to his doom along with that of the other characters” (2).

This judgement upon Hamlet is easily made from the perspective of an omniscient reader who knows of Claudius’s guilt, but falls short when viewed from Hamlet’s perspective. According to Aristotle in his Poetics , a tragic hero is someone who falls not because of vice or depravity, but falls “because of some mistake” (57). While Devi is quick to pinpoint Hamlet’s mistake in his delay to kill Claudius, I would like to pause, as Hamlet does, on the reasons for why he does not immediately kill Claudius. Departing from the popular view of faulting Hamlet’s procrastination, I wish to argue that Hamlet should not receive full blame for the misfortunate events that befall Denmark. Instead, I argue that much of the fault lies outside our hero and that a consideration of these external forces is important to any understanding of Hamlet’s tragic situation. In this paper, I want to focus on how the dubious reality of the ghost of Hamlet’s father, as well as the political situation of Denmark, complicates the significance of Hamlet’s measured acts of procrastination.

Hamlet breaks the classical model of an Aristotelian tragic hero in both his characterization and his revelation. While most authors give their protagonists an overbearing tragic flaw to balance their talents, Hamlet lacks a unique and strong tragic flaw because he has no amazing talents to balance out. Aristotle notes four important aspects of a successful tragic character, one of which “is to make the character lifelike, which is something different from making them good and appropriate” (60). Unlike the abilities of well-known tragic heroes such as Odysseus and Oedipus, Hamlet’s amazing intellectual ability provides little to no assistance and at times prevents him from being decisive. One might expect in another story that if Hamlet were told of the injustice against his father, he would boldly and heroically battle his way through the kingdom’s forces to claim his rightful place on the throne. This is the exact opposite of what our protagonist chooses to do. Instead of heroically battling his fate, he laments “that the Everlasting had not fixed his canon ‘gainst self-slaughter” (1.2.131). Referencing the belief that suicide would lead the religious to hell, Hamlet rather unheroically wishes to kill himself before even learning of his fate. There is no need to give Hamlet a tragic flaw to humanize and help the reader to empathize with him because Hamlet’s abilities and actions are well within the scope of human capability.

Shakespeare’s twist on the reversal and recognition of the elements of Aristotle’s model explain the complex thoughts which, I argue, absolve Hamlet of any guilt. These moments of reversal and recognition happen for Hamlet when he meets his father’s ghost. After Hamlet talks with the ghost, his life undergoes Aristotle’s reversal, defined as “a change from one state of affairs to its exact opposite,” since now he cannot run away from home lest guilt slowly eats away at him (56). He also reaches Aristotle’s recognition stage, described as “a change from ignorance to knowledge,” when he learns of the potential truth behind his father’s death (56). Although Shakespeare’s recognition of Hamlet already deserves praise from Aristotle as Aristotle remarks “the best form of recognition is that which is accompanied by a reversal,” Hamlet’s recognition is also an incomplete one as he is unsure of the ghost’s credibility (56).

Although the play does later prove the ghost’s accusations to be true, the characters in the play rightfully doubt the ghost as spirits hold the possibility of evil intentions. Horatio immediately reveals to the readers that “it must be either an evil spirit or a good one” (Joseph 495) and warns Hamlet of the ghost potentially leading Hamlet to death or to madness (1.5.69-74). Ironically, the ghost’s credibility does lead to both Hamlet’s death and madness as his inner conflict troubles him for the rest of his life. Other tragic heroes like Oedipus receive rather direct confirmation of their relevant fact, but Hamlet changes from ignorance to uncertainty rather than to knowledge. This uncertainty causes Hamlet’s delay, and it is therefore the dubious reality of the ghost that causes his delay. The shift of blame from Hamlet to the dubious reality of the ghost causes a stronger sense of pity for Hamlet’s tragedy as he suffers not because of some personal mistake, but because of his uncertainty over which he has no control.

Aristotle’s tragic hero is typically characterized as one who falls after the consequences of some action, but Hamlet does not appear to act much at all. After receiving his father’s command to kill Claudius, Hamlet promises to him “thy commandment all alone shall live / Within the book and volume of my brain” but does not do much until Act II when the opportunity presents itself (1.5.102-3). It is natural then to view Hamlet’s decision to do nothing as the action leading to his demise. From there, jumping to the conclusion that his inaction – his delay – must be his tragic flaw also comes naturally. In the book Stay, Illusion! , Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster reference Hegel’s claim that Hamlet “eventually perishes owing to his own hesitation and a complication of external circumstances” (qtd. in Critchley and Jamieson 92). Although Critchley and Jamieson reference Hamlet’s delay as another factor of his demise, I wish to focus on the external circumstances of the prince. While much time does pass between Hamlet receiving his duty and enacting it, he does not waste it pondering. As he does not possess any exceptional gifts to help him combat the world, Hamlet makes a traditionally unheroic decision: he looks for help.

The first person who seems capable of trusting and helping Hamlet is Ophelia. Lamenting his fate and delaying his duty, Hamlet does at one point turn to Ophelia for assistance. Ophelia reports to her father, Polonius, that Hamlet went to her with “a little shaking of [her] arm …[and] He raised a sigh so piteous and profound that it did seem to shatter all his bulk / And end his being” (2.1.93-97). This sign of weakness shows that Hamlet trusts Ophelia, perhaps because he loves her and knows that she has feelings for him as well. He tries to rely on somebody else because his fate is too much for him to bear alone, but Hamlet’s repeated distress calls for Ophelia fail because “as [Polonius] did command / [She] did repel his letters, and denied / His access to [her]” (2.1.109-11). Due to Polonius’s erroneous foresight and advice, Hamlet is unable to request assistance, or even talk to, the only person in the play in whom he could confide. He completely loses faith in Ophelia during their next encounter in the castle as he questions her: “are you honest? … Are you fair?” (3.1.104-06). In the 2009 film adaptation of Hamlet , directed by Gregory Doran, this scene repeatedly shows Hamlet staring into the camera revealing his knowledge that both Claudius and Polonius are listening in from afar. Assuming her to be a supporter of Claudius, Hamlet concludes that he cannot trust Ophelia with his burden and quickly severs their ties. As he parts from his only sure confidant, Hamlet asks Horatio – his one friend – for minimal assistance.

Horatio is introduced as the best friend of Hamlet, easily seen from Hamlet’s animated lines when they first reunite. However, while Hamlet addresses Horatio as “Sir, my good friend”, he does not actually confide in him as a good friend would (1.2.162). Critchley and Webster also reveal in their analysis the possibility that Horatio is spying on someone else’s behalf is not improbable, given how little we know of the character (47-49). When we look at the situation in Denmark, it becomes clear why Hamlet cannot shake the feeling that Horatio might be just like Ophelia, a pawn in someone else’s game. Hamlet realizes early on that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, also friends of his, were charged by Claudius to spy on him as in their first conversation he questions “Were you not sent for? Is it your own inclining [to visit me]? Is it a free visitation” (2.2.238-9). For our wary protagonist, it is not difficult to also take Horatio’s loyalty with a grain of salt.

Once we remove the last trustworthy person from the list of potential confidants, it becomes clear that Denmark’s current situation of turmoil and espionage causes Hamlet’s downfall. Every character in the play is watched by someone else. Comparing Hamlet to his foil Laertes, we see that Laertes’ father, Polonius, orders a servant to “make inquire of his behavior” and to look for actions like “drinking, fencing, swearing, [and] quarreling” (2.1.4-26). Although Polonius’s watch over his own son may be filled with good intentions, it clearly shows that he does not trust his son. This lack of trust amongst the main characters of the play permeates their relations, creating an atmosphere of doubt and wariness between all residents of the castle. An excellent illustration of this comes from Doran’s Hamlet where certain scenes are viewed through a security camera. Although the primary use of this camera is to show that the ghost of King Hamlet does not appear on recordings, the cameras also reflect the spying and lack of trust throughout the castle of Elsinore, explaining Hamlet’s beliefs that the current “Denmark’s a prison” (2.2.242).

Hamlet tries and fails to recruit assistance from others, leaving him with no choice but to tackle his fate alone. As fortune would have it, a group of performers stroll into Denmark giving Hamlet the idea to probe Claudius’s guilt. He instructs the performers to act out the circumstances of his father’s death and judges Claudius based on the usurper’s reactions, believing “For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak / With most miraculous organ” (2.2.514-515). After the Mousetrap succeeds, Hamlet is presented with a golden opportunity to kill a vulnerable, praying Claudius. Although the reader knows earlier that Claudius confesses, “My offense is rank…It hath the primal eldest curse upon’t, a brother’s murder” (3.3.36-8), Hamlet enters only after Claudius finishes his own soliloquy, leaving him still in the dark about Claudius’s culpability (3.4.36). While many rush to fault Hamlet for not stabbing Claudius in the back here, Hamlet assesses the situation as one where “A villain kills my father and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven” (3.4.76-8). In this moment, he is still unsure of Claudius’s sin, so from Hamlet’s perspective it is rational to wait until a time when Claudius is proven guilty. Devi argues that all deaths after this point were due to Hamlet’s delay in killing Claudius; however, murdering Claudius here would not have been very honorable or heroic. Although certain lives may have been saved, those lives have already been ruined by the events of the play: Ophelia and Laertes are left fatherless while Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, must reckon with her own sin after the confrontation with her son. Perhaps death is the best ending for them as they could also escape with Hamlet from the tragedy that is Denmark – especially as Fortinbras’s army marches outside the castle doors.

Procrastinators all over the world only boldly admit their fault in delay because, for the most part, they do ultimately complete their assignment. Although the quality of work may not be ideal, the goal is attained. While Hamlet may not be remembered as the conquering hero of his time like his father, he still receives credit for killing Claudius. However, this credit pales in comparison to the effort and suffering Hamlet needed to endure before reaching his journey’s end. He was not gifted with abilities like superhuman strength to quickly avenge his father, but in the absence of an act of heroism, we gain a sense of his humanity, a quality of which is captured so well in his thoughts. He asks his friends for help like any normal human would when faced with insurmountable odds, but finds no solace as no one deserves trust. His downfall comes not from a personal tragic flaw, but from what Aristotle defines as hamartia, a class of mistaken acts “due not to vice or depravity, but to ignorance of some relevant fact or circumstance” (95). In following this fate, Hamlet finds himself fulfilling Aristotle’s construction of “the finest kind of tragedy from an artistic point of view” (58). As each character in the play slowly drifts further away from Hamlet, Shakespeare’s greatest character finds himself to be great only in solitude.

Works Cited

Aristotle. Aristotle’s Poetics . Translated by James Hutton. W.W.

Critchley, Simon, and Jamieson Webster. Stay, Illusion!: The Hamlet Doctrine . Pantheon Books, 2013.

Devi, P. Indira. “Tragic Flaw in Shakespeare’s Hamlet .” IUP Journal of English Studies , Vol. 9, No. 4, Dec. 2014, 93-97.

Hamlet . Directed by Gregory Doran. BBC Two, 2009. TV Movie.

Joseph, Miriam. “Discerning the Ghost in Hamlet .” PMLA . Vol. 76, No. 5, 1961, 493–502.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet . Edited by Robert S. Miola. W. W. Norton & Co., 2011.

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Hamlet’s Tragic Flaw Procrastination Essay

Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most renowned plays, and its title character has been the subject of much analysis over the years. Hamlet is widely recognized as a tragic hero – but why? Many would say that Hamlet’s tragic flaw is his indecisiveness.

Hamlet spends most of the play agonizing over his next move, and this causes him to make some bad decisions that lead to his downfall. Hamlet also has a tendency to over-think things, which often leads to him making the wrong call. These flaws ultimately cause Hamlet’s death, and make him one of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters.

It is better not to put off till tomorrow what you can do today. When individuals delay, various negative effects may occur. The example of this may be found in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which the protagonist is depicted. Despite being courageous, brave, loyal, and intelligent, Hamlet is overwhelmed by his own sense of guilt. A tragic flaw is one that causes a hero’s downfall. Hamlet’s failure to act on his father’s murder, his mother’s marriage to Claudius, and his uncle Bernardo taking the throne are all examples of his fatal flaw: delay.

Hamlet continuously puts off taking action until it is too late, which leads to his ultimate downfall. Hamlet’s tragic flaw is what makes the play interesting and complex. It causes him to hesitate and doubt himself, which ultimately leads to his death. Hamlet could have prevented his own downfall if he had acted on his feelings and impulses sooner. Hamlet’s Tragic Flaw is a perfect example of how procrastination can lead to disastrous consequences.

Hamlet’s tragic flaw is his lack of action. Hamlet’s inability to commit suicide, his inability to come to terms with murdering his mother, his failure to put on a play as a delaying tactic, and his incapability to kill Claudius while he’s praying all reveal that he does nothing.

Hamlet often talks about how he wants to take action, but when it comes time to do so, he backs down. Hamlet’s tragic flaw is his unwillingness to act, which leads to his downfall.

Hamlet’s uncle poisoned his father and then murdered him, bringing the ghost’s words back to life: “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.” (Act I, Scene 5, line 23) Hamlet is enraged and perplexed by the fact that his own uncle could kill his father. Despite Hamlet’s knowledge of Denmark’s issues, he begins to question everything the ghost has told him. In situations where quick decisive action is required, Hamlet is too involved in thinking. For example, during Act III when Hamlet has a knife over Claudius’ head about to behead him but stops himself just before it happens because

Hamlet’s tragic flaw is his inability to take action when it is needed most. Hamlet can be seen as a man who is unable to act, even when faced with what he believes to be an injustice. Hamlet’s ineffectiveness in dealing with his problems leads to his downfall. Hamlet’s Delay also causes him to suffer from another Tragic Flaw, which is Hamlet’s overthinking.

Hamlet’s soliloquies such as “To Be or Not To Be” show Hamlet deeply thinking about life and death. Hamlet also overthink things like whether the Ghost was really his father or if he should take action against Claudius. If Hamlet did not overthink things, he would have been able to take action and save himself from his downfall.

Hamlet’s Tragic Flaw is also his Hamartia which is his fatal flaw. Hamlet’s tragic flaw is what leads to his death in the end. Hamlet’s Tragic Flaw could be seen as a lack of decisiveness, which causes him to suffer from many problems. Hamlet also has issues with trust, as seen when he does not believe that Gertrude was faithful to his father. Hamlet’s Tragic Flaw can be seen as a problem that ultimately leads to his downfall.

Another perplexity in Hamlet’s status as a tragic hero emerges from his tragedy flaw. Given that Hamlet himself fault himself for being tardy in taking justice, readers frequently cite this as his indecision, which is understandable.

Hamlet’s fatal flaw, then, is twofold: he is too reflective and he fails to act when action is called for. Hamlet’s Hamartia of overthinking leads him down a dark path of inaction and despair.

Hamlet instead creates a play in which the actors reenact the same tale that the ghost tells him. His strategy is to observe Claudius’ reaction to the play in order to determine his guilt. Even after Hamlet decides his uncle is guilty, he fails to act immediately. This was an excellent moment to confront Claudius, but Hamlet appears more focused on himself than taking vengeance. Throughout the play, Hamlet suffers from his mother’s choice to marry his uncle again.

Hamlet’s relationship with his mother is one of the main sources of Hamlet’s delay. Hamlet is so distraught by her disloyalty that he can’t bring himself to kill Claudius when he has the chance. Hamlet’s tragic flaw is his inability to take action, which leads to further pain and suffering. Hamlet’s inaction stems from his indecisiveness, cowardice, and preoccupation with revenge. Hamlet’s tragic flaw ultimately destroys him and those around him.

The phrase “Frailty is woman’s name” emphasizes the inherent weakness of women and Hamlet’s conclusion that “women are frail.” The reader understands her actions cause Hamlet to despise women altogether (Act 1, Scene 2, Line 146). Claudius and Gertrude question Hamlet’s sadness in the first Act. They push him to accept his father’s passing and move on with his life.

While Hamlet should acknowledge his hatred of their marriage, he hides it. As Hamlet grows more enraged at their attempts to calm him, Gertrude takes notice of his feelings for Ophelia. She utilizes this as an excuse for Hamlet’s conduct.

Hamlet is aware of the trap his mother set for him and says “the lady doth protest too much, methinks” (Act 3, Scene 2, Line 290). Hamlet knows that Gertrude loves him and wants what is best for him. Hamlet does not trust himself to kill Claudius because he does not want to become like him. Hamlet’s tragic flaw is his inability to act on his thoughts and feelings. Hamlet waits too long to take action which leads to his downfall.

Hamlet could have easily killed Claudius while he was praying but instead he waited until later that night when Claudius was asleep. Hamlet also allowed Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to live which gave Hamlet’s enemies more time to plan his capture. Hamlet’s tragic flaw was his inability to take immediate action and this cost him his life.

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hamlet essay on his procrastination

Procrastination of Revenge in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

And now Ill dot. (III, iii, 73-74) However, Hamlets intellect provides him with a ready excuse to delay his revenge against Claudius. Hamlet does not believe that killing a man in prayer constitutes an unfair deed. Rather, Hamlet reasons that, since Claudius has purged his soul through prayer, he would go to heaven. And so am I revenged. (III, iii, 75) Hamlets father, contrastingly, had not prepared his soul for death. He suffered purgatory as a ghost. Hamlet, unsatisfied with performing an act of corporeal justice, would prefer for his revenge to have eternal consequences.

In this scene, Hamlet shows reasoning worthy of admiration. Although Claudius prayer may evoke sympathy from an emphatic onlooker, Hamlets decision lies in reasoning. He does not feel sorry for Claudius, although his actions could lend evidence to that interpretation. His soliloquy reveals that he does not choose his inaction out of sympathy or forgiveness, but out of theological reasoning. This reasoning would not be facilitated by a person of lesser intellect than Hamlet. Claudius remains undeserving of sympathy, despite his prayer.

Although he seeks forgiveness, he continues with his immoral plots throughout the course of the play. The film version of Hamlet, starring Kenneth Branaugh, portrays this scene almost precisely in accordance with Shakespeares text. The thoughts of Hamlet become clear through not only the dialogue, but through Hamlets tone of voice and facial expression. The film shows Hamlets deep contemplation of how to go about avenging Claudius. Claudius remains unaware of Hamlets watchful eye throughout the scene. The film accurately depicts Hamlets process of contemplation and reasoning.

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