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Hamlet And The Issue Of Revenge In William Shakespeare's Play

2309 words - 9 pages

Hamlet and the Issue of Revenge in William Shakespeare's Play

The question of why Hamlet does not immediately avenge his father's
death is perhaps one of the most perplexing problems faced by an
audience. Each generation of viewers has come up with it's own
explanation, and it has now become the most widely known critical
problem in Shakespearean studies. A rather simplistic, yet valid
standpoint to take on this problem is that it was essential to the
tragedy's narrative progression. As Hanmer said "had he gone naturally
to work, there would have been an end to our play!". Shakespeare,
then, is faced with a problem - Hamlet must delay his revenge, and he
has to come up with reasons why. The ingenuity of his solutions in
depicting this complex and troubled man has given us an insight into
the human condition of relevance to each age. Since we are certainly
left in no doubt of the intricacy of Hamlet's character, it would
therefore seem that Shakespeare is exploring a diversity of reasons as
to why the Prince of Denmark delays his revenge.

Hamlet's delay begins as he recognises that first he must determine
the ghost's true nature. Upon doubting the authenticity of its form he
questions it's intent with, "Bring with thee airs from heaven or
blasts from hell?". Despite the ghost's pending claim of "I am thy
father's spirit", Hamlet still seems to be unconvinced, thus
presenting Shakespeare with a primary ingredient for delay.

As way of detecting the truth, the Prince decides to put on a play,
and have it performed almost as a re-enactment of the ghosts tale. The
play, Hamlet claims "is the image of a murder done in Vienna", the
foul act in this performance however is presented as a replica of Old
Hamlet's story, where the murderer 'pours poison into the King's
ears'. By doing this Hamlet hopes to receive a negative reception from
the King, thus revealing the ugly burden on his conscience. The play,
in depicting the King's guilt, does have a certain degree of success.
His wish for the lights to come on and his order of "Away!" certainly
suggest he was not feeling altogether comfortable in the situation,
but there of course could have been a number of reasons for his minor
distress. For Hamlet however it is sufficient, for in later
conversation with Horatio he says, "I'll take the ghost's word for a
thousand pound!"

Hamlet has now secured in his mind that the Ghost was telling the
truth, and so can have no doubt that revenge is what Claudius
deserves. His delay however does not subside, so what can be his
reason now?

Much of his hesitation it seems comes as a result of his own
self-doubt. He feels he lacks the powerful warrior image; the one
which his Father and so many more do possess. In this respect feelings
of inferiority paralyse him to take any action. One can see,...

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