Can someone explain the interplay between fear and foresight within Hamlet?  Thank you

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Concerning Shakespeare's Hamlet, I'm not completely sure what you're after, but I think I have an idea.

In Hamlet's famous "O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I" speech (Act 2.2.515-572), Hamlet reacts to the First Player's speech, delivered with power and emotion, in two stages. 

In the first stage of his speech, Hamlet condemns himself for not yet having revenged his father's death by killing King Claudius.  During this part of the speech, he calls himself:

A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak

Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,

And can say nothing; no, not for a king

Upon whose property and most dear life

A damned defeat was made. 

And asks himself:

Am I a coward?

Hamlet calls himself a dull-spirited rascal, a day-dreamer with no inspiration who says nothing to stand up for a king who was the victim of murder.  He asks himself if he is a coward, and then proceeds to say that even if he were abused, he would take it because he is

pigeon-livered and lack[s] gall

To make oppression bitter [stand up for himself]

Part one of this speech might be said to present the idea of "fear."

In part two, however, Hamlet demonstrates foresight, you could say.  Beginning in line 555 with a dash--signifying a pause--Hamlet turns his thoughts toward a solution to his dilemma.  Hamlet needs confirmation and corroboration of the Ghost's story concerning Claudius' murder of King Hamlet.  He states his plan to have the actors stage a play featuring a murder scene similar to that described by the Ghost.  If the king overreacts, Hamlet says, he will know the Ghost speaks the truth, and is not a spirit that "Abuses me to damn me." 

Thus, an interplay between fear and foresight exists here.  Hamlet's immediate reaction to the First Player's speech is one of self-condemnation for his being a "coward."  But at the same time, he reveals his need to be certain of Claudius' guilt before he kills him.  And his plan to determine Claudius' guilt or innocence demonstrates foresight. 

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