Why does it take Hamlet so long to avenge his father's death?

Expert Answers
Rebecca Owens eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One reason Hamlet takes so long may be that the opportunity has not yet arisen for him to kill Claudius before the scene in Act III.iii when Claudius seems to be praying. At that point, Hamlet refuses to kill Claudius because Claudius's prayer will win him forgiveness, and Hamlet wants him to have a worthy punishment for his father's murder.

Another reason may be that Hamlet simply thinks too continually about it. He hesitates because he looks at the task from too many angles. He is paralyzed by his own uncertainty. He is uncertain of whether killing Claudius is really the right thing to do. He is uncertain, as is evidenced in his soliloquy at the end of Act II.ii, that the Ghost is really his father.

The passage below taken from Hamlet's Act II.ii soliloquy sheds more light on the reasons for his hesitation:

... I have heard
That guilty creatures sitting at a play
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim'd their malefactions;
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ. I'll have these players
Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle: I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick: if he but blench,
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil: and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me: I'll have grounds
More relative than this: the play 's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.

The quotation above voices some of Hamlet's doubts and reasons to hesitate. The Ghost may be a devil tricking him into a murder that will damn him. He plans to test both the King and the Ghost through The Mousetrap, the play within the play. Of course, the Ghost's claim turns out to be true and this reassurance solidifies Hamlet's resolve to go through with the revenge ritual.

lcassidy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a few suppositions for this: one is that Hamlet simply wants to think about the problem carefully in order to exact justice rather than vengeance.

Another supposition is that Hamlet is troubled and depressed. He is torn between what his father wants him to do, which is in conflict with his Protestant beliefs, and what is philosophically right.

Another supposition put forth by some critics is that Hamlet is indecisive because he is actually insane, not just acting insane.

arjun | Student

This query holds two different but eminent points. Apart from it, it is the problem of writer for writing tragic play. It is a revenge tragedy and hero has to revenge is very easy, but when it is called tragedy. The hero has to be tragic.The hero is a man of great wisdom. He is dominated over by the words of Ghost that inclines to revenge. So revenge is compulsory. In religion, ghost is supposed to be the symbol of bad omen. He loves his father but he suspects that there may be another spirit adopting the face of his father for decay. For that he stages drama and confirms his uncle as murderer. Now he has to avenge.In his mind, severe and pains are echoing. One he gets chance to kill Claudius but he was praying. He avoids because the murderer will go to heaven, if he is killed. Hamlet makes mind to kill him when he is engaged in physical pleasure or any bad deed. While meeting his mother, he finds some one behind the curtain, he suspects king and kills, but it is Polonius. In this way delay happens and the circumstance turns against him.The writer is the creator of his characters. So, he makes kismet of all. Hamlet’s fate is to kill the murderer at the cost of losing his life. The play Wright brings all on the ground for fight and does as he has thought previously. If Hamlet kills Claudius as he is informed by the Ghost,Shakespeare has never been succeeded to make it tragic play. Apart from it, Claudius is his uncle and issueless.