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Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in his essay "On Hamlet," argues, "Shakespeare wished to impress upon us the truth, that action is the chief end of existence—that no faculties of intellect, however brilliant, can be considered valuable or indeed otherwise than as misfortunes, if they withdraw us from, or render us repugnant to action, and lead us to think and think of doing, until the time has elapsed when we can do anything effectually."  Do you disagree or agree with Coleridge?  On what grounds? 

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I agree with Rene Girard, who wrote about Hamlet in a classic book on Shakespeare called The Theater of Envy. Girard argues that Shakespeare, by allowing Hamlet to think before he acts, is intentionally undercutting the whole notion of the revenge tragedy. Shakespeare is critiquing as barbaric, Girard says, the (popular) idea of seeking revenge in a supposedly Christian society. This rings true to me about Shakespeare, whose plays always advocate for a humane position.

Therefore, I disagree with Coleridge. Hamlet truly does not want to be in the situation he is in, and he suffers from suicidal ideation, but he overcomes his impulse toward taking his own life. Instead, he goes carefully and methodically about testing whether Claudius is guilty. This seems to me much more reasonable and humane than going off and murdering someone without any forethought based on the testimony of a ghost. I don't believe that making sure you know what you are doing before you act necessarily means missing the...

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