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The metaphor “prisoners” is a little harsh, in my opinion. Hamlet can make decisions – the problem is sorting out the information he is given to make decisions – is it “ocular proof” of a reliable kind, or is it “the devil” using tricks to make Hamlet act rashly or from the wrong motive? Notice, for example, how he makes the decision not to kill Claudius while he is praying, an interesting decision but one he makes without hesitation. Throughout the play the character Hamlet makes decisions – to wear “nighted colors” (black) at court, to showing up in Ophelia’s rooms improperly dressed, etc. Sometimes his decisions are based on inaccurate conclusions – stabbing Polonius thinking he was Claudius, for example; sometimes his decisions are based on brilliant deductions, such as duping Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern. But his decision to avenge his father’s death is a complicated one, taking a lot of thinking, reflecting on his emotions, etc., and his hesitations should not be seen as some character flaw in him. In our lives, too, we are, if not “prisoners,” at least subject to “judgment”, to logic and a control of our emotional reactions and all the social consequences of our decision-making. Should a college student who hesitates to declare a major be considered “indecisive,” or simply “wise” and “prudent”?
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