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Why does it take Hamlet so long to avenge his father's death?

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erich12 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 13, 2007 at 11:41 PM via web

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Why does it take Hamlet so long to avenge his father's death?

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lcassidy | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted June 13, 2007 at 11:48 PM (Answer #1)

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There are a few suppositions for this: one is that Hamlet simply wants to think about the problem carefully in order to exact justice rather than revenge.

Another supposition is that Hamlet is troubled and depressed. He is torn between what his father wants him to do (which is not an easy task) and what he thinks is right. Some critics believe that Hamlet is indecisive because he is actually insane, not just acting this way.

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rowens | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted June 14, 2007 at 1:40 AM (Answer #2)

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The link below suggests several reasons for Hamlet's hesitation.

One reason may be that that opportunity has not yet arisen for him to kill Claudius before the scene in Act III scene 3 when Claudius seems to be praying. At that point, Hamlet doesn't want to kill Claudius because he believes doing so will send him to heaven, since he appears to have been praying, and Hamlet feels that heaven is not a worthy punishment for his father's murder.

Another reason may be that Hamlet simply thinks too much about it. He hesitates because he looks at the task from too many angles. He is paralyzed by his own uncertainty. He is uncertain if killing Claudius is really the right thing to do. He is uncertain, as is evidenced in his solioquy at the end of Act II scene 2, that the ghost is really his father.

The passage below taken from Hamlet's solioquy at the end of Act II sheds more light on the reasons for his hesitation:

"I have heard
That guilty creatures, sitting at a play,
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim'd their malefactions;
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ, I'll have these players
Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle: I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick: if he but blench,
I know my course. *The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil: and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,--
As he is very potent with such spirits,--
Abuses me to damn me:* I'll have grounds
More relative than this.--the play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

The quotation above from the soliloquy at the end of Act II scene 2 voices some of Hamlet's doubt and reasons to hesitate. The ghost may be a devil tricking him into a murder that will damn him. He plans The Mousetrap, the play within the play, to test both the King and the ghost. Of course, the ghost's claim turns out to be true, and this reassurance solidifies Hamlet's resolve to go through with his revenge.

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bobqzzi | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted June 14, 2007 at 6:16 AM (Answer #3)

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Issac Asimov, the hyper-prolific author of books on a wide variety of subjects, dismisses the ideas of madness or indecision as Hamlet's reasons for delaying. Instead, he posits that not only does Hamlet want to kill Claudius in revenge for his father's murder, but also to do so in a way that would allow Hamlet to seize the crown. The difficulty is not in killing Claudius, but doing so in a way which doesn't result in Hamlet being branded a murderer. Such a circumstance would require that Hamlet prove Claudius killed the former king;thus, justifying Hamlet's vengeance. That proof does not come until the play within a play "catches the conscience of the king."

While other interpretations are certainly valid, this is the one which I subscribe.

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arjun | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted July 7, 2007 at 9:24 PM (Answer #4)

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This query holds two different but eminent points. Apart from it, it is the problem of writer for writing tragic play. It is a revenge tragedy and hero has to revenge is very easy, but when it is called tragedy. The hero has to be tragic.The hero is a man of great wisdom. He is dominated over by the words of Ghost that inclines to revenge. So revenge is compulsory. In religion, ghost is supposed to be the symbol of bad omen. He loves his father but he suspects that there may be another spirit adopting the face of his father for decay. For that he stages drama and confirms his uncle as murderer. Now he has to avenge.In his mind, severe and pains are echoing. One he gets chance to kill Claudius but he was praying. He avoids because the murderer will go to heaven, if he is killed. Hamlet makes mind to kill him when he is engaged in physical pleasure or any bad deed. While meeting his mother, he finds some one behind the curtain, he suspects king and kills, but it is Polonius. In this way delay happens and the circumstance turns against him.The writer is the creator of his characters. So, he makes kismet of all. Hamlet’s fate is to kill the murderer at the cost of losing his life. The play Wright brings all on the ground for fight and does as he has thought previously. If Hamlet kills Claudius as he is informed by the Ghost,Shakespeare has never been succeeded to make it tragic play. Apart from it, Claudius is his uncle and issueless.

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