Hamlet's DelayWhy do you think Hamlet delays in killing Claudius?

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is possible Hamlet is too much of a thinker and not enough of an actor.  He does have an almost excessive desire to reason everything through thoroughly.  In normal situations, as well as in a crisis, this can be an extremely valuable asset and a positive character trait.

I'd suggest that Hamlet has specific reasons throughout much of the play for waiting.  At first, he isn't sure of the Ghost's identity.  He worries that the ghost could be a demon in disguise trying to get him to kill an innocent king.  He uses the play within the play to determine whether or not Claudius is guilty. 

Then he finds Claudius at prayer and seems ready to kill him, but stops because, since Claudius is praying Hamlet assumes Claudius is confessing, and his death would send him to heaven.    Hamlet doesn't want to send Claudius to heaven. 

Of course, when Hamlet neglects to kill Claudius while he is praying he is, in a sense, playing God, and this is a real mistake (probably the climax of the play).  Hamlet is also mistaken:  Claudius never actually confesses and repents and his soul would still be damned, according to the beliefs of the day and play.

But these two instances show that at least some of the time, Hamlet has specific reasons to not kill Claudius.  There's nothing wrong with a mind that doesn't want to kill an innocent man.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Most people would say it is because Hamlet is not really a decisive personality.  It is not in his nature to know what needs doing and just go out and do it.  So instead of acting, he delays, waiting to motivate himself to do what he knows he should do.

nusratfarah | Student

If we would stand at the point where Hamlt does stand, we also would have done almost the same. Since the situation is clearly against him and out of his control, and he has been just betrayed by his blood relations, it is, therefore, very diffficult time for him to take any decision. He can not show haste. Moreover, he has gone through a big trauma. He has to be, as the post # 4 says, careful before taking any decision. But, he should have been a little more self-confident and courageous. Then, perhaps, the question of delaying would not have arisen.

epollock | Student

I don't think he delays anything at all. He is meticulous, calculating, and has a very sophisticated plan in place. He has every intention of going through with his plan, and he executes it effectively. He is also, above anything else, careful not to be found out.