"I do not know / Why yet I live to say, 'This thing's to do'" says Hamlet in act 4, scene 4. Who else has accused him of delaying? Look back at the end of act 2, scene 2. Compare the events that prompt the earlier soliloquy with the one in this scene. Does Hamlet seem to feel that the two events are similar?

In act 3, scene 4, Hamlet's father's Ghost suggests that Hamlet has delayed in killing Claudius. He failed to do in the previous scene. Hamlet repeatedly wonders why he is indecisive. In the “rogue and peasant slave” soliloquy in act 2, scene 2, Hamlet wonders that an actor can appear purposeful and passionate. In act 4, scene 4, he similarly marvels at the decisiveness of another man, Fortinbras, regarding a real-life situation.

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Although Hamlet vows early in the play to take revenge on Claudius, he delays doing so until the very end. Wondering frequently about his reasons for being so indecisive, Hamlet criticizes himself for cowardice and compares himself to bolder men. In act 3, scene 3, he was unable to kill Claudius at prayer, believing that in doing so he would send Claudius’s soul to heaven. In the next scene, while Hamlet is arguing with his mother, the Ghost of his father appears. Hamlet immediately assumes he has come to “chide” his “tardy son.” The Ghost encourages him to act:

Do not forget. This visitation
Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.

Early in the play, Hamlet had criticized his own lack of resolution, calling himself a “rogue and peasant slave” (act 2, scene 2). This soliloquy was prompted by his reaction to the players’s performance. He thinks it “monstrous” that that one actor could invest so much passion in his performance, even though the situation was fictional. Musing about his own inaction, he asks “Am I a coward?”

In act 4, scene 4, after he hears about Fortinbras’s military overtures, he similarly marvels at this young man’s decisiveness. Fortinbras is a real person and “a delicate and tender prince” much like himself. Hamlet again compares his own profound reasons for action to the other man's. Even a contest over territorial control seems less substantial than his own reasons. He concludes that Fortinbras is exposing his army to

what is mortal and unsure
To all that fortune, death, and danger dare,
Even for an eggshell.

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