Hamlet accuses himself of failing to act in act 2, scene 2, lines 544-570. What are the main causes of his delay? Do these causes lie within himself—fear, cowardice—or is his inability to act caused by other characters and or the situation around him? Is it a combination of both?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It can be argued that at this point of the play, Hamlet acts almost like a modern detective.  Since he does not have a forenics lab however, he must go "under cover" as a mad man so that the characters come to disregard him and speak freely in front of...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

It can be argued that at this point of the play, Hamlet acts almost like a modern detective.  Since he does not have a forenics lab however, he must go "under cover" as a mad man so that the characters come to disregard him and speak freely in front of him.  However, it can be argued, that like some vice cops who go into deep cover, the line between acting and becoming what you are pretending to be can be a thin line.

Hamlet doesn't seem to trust his own feelings and instincts about the other characters.  He wants (what is considered to be at the time) empirical data, for the other characters to act in a certain way to confirm what he thinks.  Which can be interpreted as restraint or cowardice, depending on your feelings on the matter.  Not wanting to act because he doesn't have all of the facts (which is just about impossible to have in any situation) is strange at the very least.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team