Hamlet knew his duty but shirked it at every opportunity and suffered in consequence the most intense remorse.  Discuss.Answer in detail.

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Concerning Shakespeare's Hamlet, I suggest that your statement is false.  I suggest that it demonstrates a surface knowledge of the play, rather than a thorough knowledge.

Until the play within the play, Hamlet is unsure of the truthfulness of the Ghost's story.  He is intelligent and insightful enough to know that the Ghost may not really be the ghost of his father.  Macbeth could have used such healthy skepticism when evaluating what the witches tell him. 

Once Hamlet is convinced of Claudius' guilt, he is clearly ready to take his revenge, as he proves when he strikes through the arras and kills a person he thinks is the king.  It turns out to be Polonius, but Hamlet doesn't know that when he strikes.  Once he does that, he has no further opportunities until he actually does kill the king in Act 5.

Hamlet only really delays one time:  in Act 3.3 when he chooses not to kill Claudius when he thinks Claudius is confessing his sins.  Hamlet believes Claudius is confessing, and he also believes that if Claudius dies while or just after confessing, that he will go straight to heaven.

Thus, Hamlet doesn't constantly shirk his duty, he shirks it only once, when he is certain Claudius is guilty, but doesn't want to send him to heaven. 

This is enough to lead to a bloodbath, of course.  Act 3.3 is probably the climax of the play.  When Hamlet chooses not to kill Claudius because he doesn't want to send him to heaven he is messing where he doesn't belong.  Eternal salvation is not Hamlet's business, it is God's.  This mistake leads to deaths of innocent people, including Hamlet himself.