An Unlikely Avenger?Harold Bloom argues that "Hamlet cannot strike us as a likely avenger, because his intellectual freedom, his capaciousness of spirit, seems so at odds with his...

An Unlikely Avenger?

Harold Bloom argues that "Hamlet cannot strike us as a likely avenger, because his intellectual freedom, his capaciousness of spirit, seems so at odds with his Ghost-imposed mission."  Reflect on the choices Hamlet has or does not have in avenging his father's death and protecting himself. 

3 Answers

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Hamlet isn't sure the ghost is what the ghost says he is.  So, all the talking is the result of this uncertainty.  He is looking for proof...proof of Claudius' guilt, proof of his mother's involvement, proof that ghosts can come back and give orders as they were accustomed to do in the living world.

He is being cautious before he acts too rashly and is proven to have been mislead by the forces of evil.  Had Macbeth been less quick to act, his "end" would have been less tragic.

linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Think about Hamlet in terms of other princes Shakespeare wrote about. All of his English princes were like avenging angels, out to undo some wrong: Henry V believed he had inherited France, Bolingbroke thought Richard II was unfit to rule; Warwick thought Richard III was an evil monster (don't get me started on this fallacy!). They saw the situation for what it was, knew what they needed to do, and set out to do it. Hamlet is just stuck in the mud. He just talks, and talks, and talks. Does this have any kind of meaning??? Or tell me if I'm just out in left field!

clane's profile pic

clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

Hamlet is just too thoughtful when it comes to avenging his father's death, not that I'm condoning his vengeance plot, but Hamlet's thoughts, his capacious spirit without end is what ultimately makes this play a tragedy. He had the opportunity to take care of Claudius when he spied him kneeling alone. Hamlet of course over-thinks the matter instead of just being driven to complete his mission and decides that this death is not suitable enoughfor Claudius because Hamlet thinks he's praying and doesn't wish Claudius fair passage into Heaven. It was not stated in his mission put forth by his Ghost that the death be particularly torturous or end while Claudius has a guilty unrepentant spirit, but Hamlet feels the need to make this a requirement for his vengeance to be complete. We the readers or watchers can almost feel that Hamlet will not come away unscathed (not to mention we already know it's a tragedy) because he is over-thinking everything. It is not just because Hamlet is intellectual and spirited, but also because he is afraid and he allows his fear and intellect to dictate his actions rather than just acting.