What are the reasons for Hamlet's hesitation to kill Claudius in Hamlet?

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In act 3, scene 2 of Shakespeare's Hamlet, the "play-within-a-play scene," Hamlet observes Claudius's reaction to the play and decides that the ghost of his father was telling the truth. Claudius murdered Hamlet's father.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern come to Hamlet to tell him that Gertrude , Hamlet's mother,...

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In act 3, scene 2 of Shakespeare's Hamlet, the "play-within-a-play scene," Hamlet observes Claudius's reaction to the play and decides that the ghost of his father was telling the truth. Claudius murdered Hamlet's father.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern come to Hamlet to tell him that Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, wishes to speak with him. Hamlet engages in some witty dialogue with them about a recorder, but they're interrupted by Polonius, who's also come to tell Hamlet that his mother wants to see him.

Hamlet has some nonsense dialogue with Polonius about the shape of clouds, then he sends everyone away.

HAMLET. ... 'tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on. (3.2.371-375)

Hamlet is on his way to his mother's rooms when he encounters Claudius on his knees, seemingly deep in prayer. Hamlet has just remarked how he could drink hot blood and that he's prepared to do whatever is necessary to avenge his father's murder.

HAMLET. Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;
And now I'll do't. (3.3.75-76)

We can imagine Hamlet quickly raising his sword over Claudius's head to bring it down through Claudius's body,or taking a preparatory backswing before plunging the blade into Claudius's back or cutting off his head.

Than Hamlet suddenly stops moving, frozen in time.

HAMLET. And so he goes to heaven... (3.3.76)

In that split second, is it possible that Hamlet suddenly realizes what he's preparing to do and realizes the consequences of his actions? But Hamlet doesn't say anything about realizing that he's about to kill a man. He spends the next twelve lines talking himself out of killing Claudius, and the following eight lines justifying his decision to himself.

Hamlet's stated reason for not wanting to kill Claudius is that he would be sending Claudius to heaven with his sins forgiven, rather than condemning Claudius's soul to hell for killing his father.

The real reason why Hamlet doesn't kill Claudius now—or at any other time in the play except in the last scene—is due to Hamlet's dual tragic flaws of indecision and inaction.

Throughout the play, Hamlet doesn't initiate any action. Hamlet only reacts to the circumstances in which he finds himself. At this moment, even with Claudius kneeling in front of him unaware and unprotected, there is nothing and no one prompting Hamlet to kill Claudius. So Hamlet does nothing, then he rationalizes his inaction to himself. Indecision and inaction are part of Hamlet's nature, part of his character, and ultimately lead to his tragic death.

What's remarkable is that at the end of this short soliloquy, after Hamlet decides to wait for a better time to kill Claudius, he simply dismisses the matter from his mind!

HAMLET. ...And that his soul may be as damn'd and black
As hell, whereto it goes. My mother stays.
This physic but prolongs thy sickly days. (3.3.96-98)

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There are several reasons as to why Prince Hamlet hesitates to kill King Claudius throughout the play. Initially, Hamlet is unsure that Claudius is responsible for his father's assassination. He even questions his father's ghost and wonders if the spirit has been sent from the devil. Hamlet also attempts to confirm Claudius's participation in his father's murder by reenacting King Hamlet's murder on stage in order to analyze Claudius's reaction. Being that Hamlet is a Christian prince, he is also concerned about his own soul and fears that he will be damned for eternity if he unjustly assassinates his uncle.

When Hamlet has the perfect opportunity to murder Claudius in act 3, scene 3, he unsheathes his sword only to contemplate his decision further. Hamlet says,

"Now might I do it pat. Now he is a-praying. And now I’ll do ’t. And so he 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. Oh, this is hire and salary, not revenge." (3.3.74-80)

Hamlet once again reveals his religious mindstate by mentioning that he would be doing Claudius a favor by murdering him while he is praying. Hamlet believes that Claudius will go to heaven if he kills Claudius while he is confessing his sins.

While one could speculate that Hamlet also does not want to be accused of attempting to usurp power or to have Claudius's supporters attempt to harm him for assassinating the king, Hamlet's inability to act is most likely a combination of his moral and religious beliefs. He struggles to decide whether enacting revenge will doom his own soul or save King Claudius from eternal damnation.

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Hamlet hesitates to kill Claudius because he wants to be certain that Claudius is guilty.

Hamlet reenacts a murderous scene, searching for a visible sign of guilt from Claudius.

Hamlet cautiously searches for a definitive, visible sign of guilt.  He wants to be absolutely certain of Claudius' guilt.

This is a tragic flaw for Hamlet.  His insistence upon finding visible guilt from Claudius delays his action of killing Claudius, thus delaying the avenging of his father's death.

Hamlet's procrastination is well reasoned in that he desires to know the truth in reference to his father's murderer.

Nonetheless, Hamlet's procrastination allows Claudius time to suspect Hamlet's actions of avenging his father's death.

Claudius has Hamlet banished in a plot to have Hamlet killed.

Although Hamlet's hesitation to kill Claudius is an honorable quality, it is a tragic flaw that costs Hamlet his life, ultimately.

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