Why does Hamlet find avenging his father's death so difficult? Why doesn't he take decisive action as soon as he seems convinced of Claudius's guilt?

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The simple answer is that as a result of the play-within-the-play, Hamlet has definite proof of his uncle's guilt. He comes upon Clausius alone, and it would seem logical that the only thing that keeps Hamlet from killing him then and there is his scruple about sending Claudius to his...

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The simple answer is that as a result of the play-within-the-play, Hamlet has definite proof of his uncle's guilt. He comes upon Clausius alone, and it would seem logical that the only thing that keeps Hamlet from killing him then and there is his scruple about sending Claudius to his Maker when (so Hamlet assumes) he is making his confession. This makes Hamlet appear hideously vengeful - as evil an executioner as Claudius was a murderer. Nor is Hamlet afraid to act; look at the vigor with which he skewers poor Polonius. The real reason probably lies with the playwright's attempt. Hamlet is not ready to die himself, and needs to have achieved a full understanding of who he is before he can truly fulfill his tragic role. This does not happen until the last act.

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A good question, and one that has bothered audiences since the play first appeared. I'd have to say he is infected with the disease of rationalism. That is to say, he's a college boy. He likes to study, and is interested in rational explanation and evidence. Though the ghost looks like his father, Hamlet wanted evidence to confirm Claudius' guilt. Once he has it, he wants to not kill him at a time that sends him to heaven (when he's praying). At that point, though, the need for reasons becomes waffling. He's scared to act, plain and simple.

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