Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What do we learn from witnessing the downfall of Hamlet by William Shakespeare?

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The ending of Hamlet seems intended to show that procrastination can lead to disaster. Hamlet's indecisiveness has resulted in the deaths of many innocent people. They are Polonius, Ophelia, Laertes, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Gertrude. We may not feel especially sorry for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, but they did not seem to deserve such cruel and unexpected fates. We feel most sorry for poor, sweet, innocent Ophelia. Horatio almost dies himself when he tries to commit suicide. Hamlet is another victim of his own procrastination. He should have been able to take his revenge against King Claudius without creating such chaos. With his intelligence, and with all his scheming, He should have been able to figure out a plan whereby he could have assassinated Claudius and become king himself, in which case he might have married Ophelia. Laertes shows the audience how Hamlet should have acted when he storms into Claudius' throne-room spontaneously.

GENTLEMAN:Save yourself, my lord.
The ocean, overpeering of his list,
Eats not the flats with more impetuous haste
Than young Laertes, in a riotous head,
O'erbears your offices. The rabble call him lord;
And, as the world were now but to begin,
Antiquity forgot, custom not known—
The ratifiers and props of every word—
They cry 'Choose we! Laertes shall be king!'

It would have been even easier for Hamlet to lead a mob against the King than for Laertes to do so, because we are told that Hamlet is extremely popular with the people, and he has a clear title to the throne, either as his father's successor or as Claudius' publicly appointed successor. 

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rienzi | Student

What we learn has nothing to do with procrastination. Quite the contrary. The down fall is a result of giving currency to our baser instincts and not tempering them with reason. The play clearly sets up the dichotomy between our hot blooded drives and our ability for cool reason. Claudius' lust for power and lust for Gertrude; Gertrude's lust and her "bestial oblivion" contribute to both their down falls. Hamlet in a hot-blooded rage blindly strikes at what he believes to be the king and kills Polonius. That sets in motion Laertes' lust for revenge and ultimately destroys both of them.