Why Hamlet Delayed Avenging His Father's Murder

779 words - 3 pages

Why Hamlet Delayed Avenging His Father's Murder

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the main character continually delays acting out his duty of avenging his father’s murder. This essay will discuss how Hamlet’s nature and morals (which are intensified by difficult events) prevent him from carrying out the task.

In the opening scenes of the play, the Ghost of Hamlet’s late father reveals to him the true means by which King Hamlet died. The Ghost tells Hamlet that his father’s death was caused by Claudius pouring poison into his ear. He exhorts Hamlet to avenge the murder. Hamlet’s initial response is to act on the Ghost’s exhortation quickly. Hamlet says; "Haste me to know’t that I with wings as swift…May sweep to my revenge." Yet by the end of the same scene, his reluctance to murder King Claudius is evident. Hamlet says; "This time is out of joint, O cursed spite, that I was ever born to set it right."

Many theories have been put forward as to the reasons for Hamlet’s delay in avenging the King from hereon in. One theory suggests that Hamlet wished to determine the nature of the Ghost before acting, for he says in Act II:2 that "The spirit I have seen may be a devil." However, even after the ‘play within a play’ through which Hamlet has obtained his ‘proof’ as to the nature of the Ghost and confirmed that Claudius is guilty, Hamlet says " I’ll take the Ghost’s word for a thousand pound," but fails to act and can only contemplate the event.

Similarly, when Hamlet happens upon Claudius praying, he does not take the opportunity to kill the King, rather he makes excuses, saying he does not want Claudius to go to heaven. However, this is little more than a delay tactic, and Hamlet also does not make any further plans to kill the King.

The most plausible explanation is that Hamlet’s own nature and values continually hindered him from performing the task. Hamlet is a sensitive, introverted young man, who is naturally prone to melancholia. The Ghost’s revelation and also the fact that his mother has remarried to King Claudius, intensify his already melancholic disposition. His mother’s remarriage is an abomination in Hamlet’s eyes. This is because the marriage was soon after his father’s death, King Hamlet was "But three months dead."...

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