In Hamlet, how does the Ghost's revenge contribute to Hamlet's procrastination?

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Hamlet's hand is stymied for a couple of reasons, most of which are laudable. While the young prince beats himself up for not taking immediate action as the Ghost demands ("Conscience doth make cowards of us all" 3.1.82), Hamlet believes he must have definitive proof before carrying out the Ghost's commands, which are to kill the usurper (Claudius) and let his mother (Gertrude) stew in her sin: 

If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not.
Let not the royal bed of Denmark be
A couch for luxury and damnèd incest.
But howsoever thou pursuest this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge
To prick and sting her (1.5.81-88). 
Hamlet is aware that ghosts can falsely take the shape of a loved one in order to carry out their heinous plans and is reminded by Horatio that there may be fates worse than death if one believes a ghost without proof. Horatio admonishes:
What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord, 
Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff 
That beetles o'er his base into the sea, 
And there assume some other horrible form, 
Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason 
And draw you into madness? think of it: 
The very place puts toys of desperation, 
Without more motive, into every brain 
That looks so many fathoms to the sea 
And hears it roar beneath (1.4.69-78). 
For Hamlet, revenge and murder go against his character and beliefs, even deserved murder. He must verify the veracity of the Ghost's accusations. Therefore, he devises the plan to act mad, to throw off Claudius's suspicions, then sets up the play to entrap Claudius. The Ghost must return to remind Hamlet of his duty: 
Do not forget. This visitation
Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose (3.4.111-113). 
The Ghost does push Hamlet to act and to enact the Ghost's longed for revenge against regicide. The results, however, yield tragedy for nearly every character. 

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