What are all the parts in Hamlet where the theme of procrastination is displayed?

Hamlet procrastinates constantly since he is predominantly a thinker. He refuses to ask anyone for help to avenge his father's murder, yet he does not take action to kill Claudius. He does not confide his true feelings to anyone and he feigns madness, yet does nothing to act. In fact, when he has an opportunity to sneak up on Claudius, he talks himself out of doing so. Overall, Hamlet's penchant for thinking stops him from acting.

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Shakespeare utilizes a motif of procrastination throughout Hamlet. It's important to distinguish between motif and theme. A motif is a recurring word or idea that suggests theme, a statement that the author makes which is often a lesson to be learned. One related theme might be that it’s important...

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Shakespeare utilizes a motif of procrastination throughout Hamlet. It's important to distinguish between motif and theme. A motif is a recurring word or idea that suggests theme, a statement that the author makes which is often a lesson to be learned. One related theme might be that it’s important to deal with problems immediately since procrastination only makes them worse.

Hamlet is prone to thinking and frequently ponders how unhappy he is without doing anything to change circumstances. He hates that his mother married King Hamlet’s brother—and so quickly after the King’s death. Hamlet judges Gertrude and Claudius but never brings up the subject to them. Instead of talking to his mother, he remains quiet and stews about his anger. Additionally, Hamlet thinks about suicide as an option to avoid his feelings about losing his father and his mother remarrying. He considers that God has

His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter

so suicide is not an option. Hamlet convinces himself that telling his mother how he feels will do no good, so “I must hold my tongue.” His convincing himself that he must remain silent can be seen as an act of procrastination.

As another example, once Hamlet discovers that his father was murdered, it is up to him to take immediate action, according to beliefs of the time. Early in the play, he promises King Hamlet’s ghost that he will avenge his father’s death, yet Hamlet does not take action until much later in the play. In fact, Horatio presses him to reveal what he discussed with the ghost, but Hamlet does not think it proper that he tells. Fearing that word will get out prevents Hamlet from confiding in his friend, who might have helped him to put a plan into action. By keeping the truth about King Hamlet’s murder to himself, Hamlet is in fact procrastinating from the start.

Additionally, Hamlet’s decision to feign insanity is yet another attempt to buy time. He has no particular plan and he does not seem to really want to act. Acting insane only creates more confusion and problems with Polonius, Ophelia, Claudius, and Gertrude, who worry about Hamlet for different reasons.

Hamlet claims his purpose is to make Claudius pay for his vicious crime, but he allows one opportunity after another to pass without acting. For instance, when Hamlet comes upon Claudius praying, he has the chance to avenge his father. He even draws his sword, ready to pounce. Yet, he delays once again because Claudius will go to heaven since he is repenting by praying. Hamlet convinces himself that this would not be the proper time to kill his uncle; he vows to wait until Claudius is committing some act that will prevent his salvation.

Hamlet is very good at convincing himself that waiting is the best thing to do. His lack of action, however, only escalates problems and eventually causes the deaths of many.

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Procrastination is a significant theme in Hamlet. Hamlet's procrastinating (also called his "delay") is what sustains, dramatizes, and prolongs the plot of his revenge. Consider also that Hamlet delays or simply refuses to tell anyone of his plan and strategy; he essentially procrastinates telling anyone what he plans to do and why he behaves in a melancholy or crazy manner. Hamlet appeals to Horatio at the end of Act One, Scene Five, to ignore any odd behavior. Hamlet is determined to keep his revenge plot to himself. 

Hamlet remarks to the ghost that he will focus all of his efforts on revenge ("I'll wipe away all trivial fond records, / All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past," (I.v.99-100). However, Hamlet begins to procrastinate and over-think things. Hamlet is frustrated with himself about this, and yet he continues to delay: 

                                               Yet I, 

A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak

Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,

And can say nothing--no, not for a king

Upon whose property and most dear life

A damned defeat was made. Am I a coward? (II.ii.543-48) 

Just after criticizing himself for delaying, Hamlet decides to use the play to expose Claudius' guilt, thus finding a way to drag out his revenge plan. Rather than covertly killing Claudius, Hamlet feels it necessary to make this guilt a spectacle: "The play's the thing / Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King." (II.ii.581-82) 

In Act Three, Scene Three, Hamlet has an opportunity to kill Claudius and avenge his father. However, Hamlet, ever the philosopher, can not bring himself to kill Claudius while he is praying: 

Now might I do it pat, no a is praying,

And now I'll do't, and so a goes to heaven,

And so am I revenged. That would be scanned. 

A villain kills my father, and for that 

I, his sole son, do this same villain send 

To heaven. (III.iii.73-78) 

Hamlet is about to kill Claudius but he decides the situation needs to be evaluated ("scanned"). He determines that it would not be true revenge because if he kills Claudius while he is praying, Claudius might go to heaven. 

In Act Four, Scene Four, Hamlet agrees to go to England, further delaying his revenge. 

Claudius also procrastinates in dealing with Hamlet. Laertes calls Claudius on this, asking why he would not go after Hamlet considering that Hamlet has killed Polonius (Laertes' father) and poses a threat to Claudius himself: 

Why you proceeded not against these feats,

So crimeful and so capital in nature, 

As by your safety, wisdom, all things else,

You mainly were stirred up. (IV.vii.6-9) 

Claudius responds that he left Hamlet alone for the time being to avoid displeasing Gertrude and because he needs to sway public support from Hamlet to himself before doing anything drastic. At the end of Act Five, Scene Two, Laertes and Hamlet are about to fight, perhaps to the death, but Claudius urges Laertes to wait (procrastinating) in order to follow their previous plan: the duel. 

Hamlet accepts the challenge to duel despite advice from Horatio to postpone (procrastinating again) the match because he thinks Hamlet will lose. However, Hamlet finally feels like the time is right to act: 

If it be not now, yet it will

come. The readiness is all. Since no man has aught of what he 

leaves, what is't to leave betimes? (V.ii.159-61) 

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