In Hamlet, what would you do if you were Hamlet?
King Claudius already suspects you of plotting to kill him. Then you find out that he killed your father and usurped the throne. Now you are obliged to kill him. How would you go about it?
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It is very easy for the modern day reader to judge Hamlet rather harshly for his procrastination. He does take a long time to work out what he is going to do, and then it is only in the final scene that he takes his vengeance. It is, however, vital to remember contextual views, thoughts and feelings about death and the afterlife, and the way that there was real fear in Shakespeare's time about death and what came next. This "undiscovered country," as Hamlet refers to it in Act III scene 1, together with the uncertainty about the true identity of the Ghost in the play, means that Hamlet wants to establish the veracity or otherwise of the Ghost's claims about his father's murder. This is of course why Hamlet delays his revenge and plans the Mousetrap. Note his reasoning for this in Act II scene 2:
I’ll have groundsMore relative than this. The play’s the thingWherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.
I remember that when we were in my AP Literature class discussing this, we were judging Hamlet for taking so long to actually make a move, but now that I think about it, it is not such an easy task. I would definitely want to avenge my father, but going about killing a person is a completely different ordeal. I would make sure that Claudius is the murderer and make sure the entire kingdom is aware of this fact and then possibly humiliate him and then if needed still I would use an executioner to finish off the job.
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