Why does Hamlet struggle to avenge his father's death despite being convinced of Claudius's guilt?

Quick answer:

The play does not reveal Hamlet's reasoning. The playwright hints that Hamlet is a man of high principles, and the character's actions suggest this.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

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 poorPolonius. 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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial