Why Does Hamlet Hesitate To Kill Claudius

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billdelaney's profile pic

William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The most obvious place where Hamlet hesitates to kill Claudius comes in Act 3, Scene 3, where Claudius is alone, defenseless, kneeling at prayer, and unaware of Hamlet's presence. Hamlet actually draws his sword and says to himself, "Now might I do it pat, now he is praying; / And now I'll do't" (3.3.73-4). But characteristically he has second thoughts. He always has trouble making up his mind to take action, although he can act vigorously at critical moments when he doesn't have time to think, as when he kills Polonius, when he boards the pirate ship, when he fights with Laertes at Ophelia's grave site, and when he fiinally does kill Claudius in the last act. Hamlet tells himself that this is not the right moment because Claudius might be in a state of grace and go to heaven, whereas Hamlet's father was sound asleep and Claudius "...took my father grossly, full of bread, / With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May; / And how his audit stands who knows save heaven?" (3.3.80-82) Hamlet decides to wait and kill the king "When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage, / Or in th' incestuous pleasure of his bed; / At gaming, a-swearing, or about some act / That has no relish of salvation in't" (3.3.88-92). This may be only partially an excuse for further procrastination.

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mariedinh | (Level 1) Honors

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Hamlet could of killed the King while praying but he decided not to because if he did so, King Claudius would go straight to heaven.