Procrastination of Revenge in William Shakespeare's Hamlet
In the play “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare, the protagonist Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, is deceived by many of his former allies, including his mother, Gertrude, and his lover, Ophelia. Perhaps the most deceptive of these former allies is Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius. Not only does Claudius kill Hamlet’s father, the King, but he also proceeds to marry Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, and to steal the crown from Hamlet, the rightful heir to his father. In Act III, scene III of “Hamlet,” Hamlet accidentally comes upon Claudius while he is alone and in prayer. Hamlet draws his sword and contemplates murdering Claudius. However, Hamlet neglects to perform this action. The decision not to kill Claudius in these circumstances shows that Hamlet possesses an intellectual mind,which, in this circumstance, prevents him from taking decisive action.
At first, Hamlet sees the circumstance as a perfect opportunity for revenge against Claudius. Hamlet knows that Claudius truly committed murder after seeing his reaction to the play within a play. Also, Hamlet must leave soon for England. Hamlet realized that if he does not act now, he may never have such a ripe opportunity for revenge again.
“Now might I do it pat,
now ‘a is a-praying,
And now I’ll do’t.” (III, iii, 73-74)
However, Hamlet’s intellect provides him with a ready excuse to delay his revenge against
Claudius. Hamlet does not believe that killing a man in prayer constitutes an unfair deed. Rather, Hamlet reasons that, since Claudius has purged his soul through prayer, he would go to heaven.
“And so ‘a goes to heaven;
And so am I revenged.” (III, iii, 75)
Hamlet’s father, contrastingly, had not prepared his soul for death. He suffered purgatory as a ghost. Hamlet, unsatisfied with performing...