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Hamlet: No Delay, No Play

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William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, title character in the play of the same name, has been criticized for centuries due to his delay in killing his uncle Claudius and the consequences that occurred as a result. But as one critic once pointed out, “No delay, no play” (Jenkins 137). The entire plot of Hamlet is based on the events that occur due to Hamlet’s waffling as to whether or not he should, and when he should, avenge his father’s murder. Hamlet, who appears to be a Christian man, would be committing a murder regardless of the reasons. This is not something that most would take lightly or rush in to under any circumstances. This discussion will defend Hamlet’s continuous delays by analyzing certain situations in the play which affect his decision to wait to kill Claudius.

Let’s begin this discussion by taking a look at what some of the critics have had to say over the years about Hamlet’s delay. One critic points out that Hamlet would be damning himself by fulfilling the ghost’s demand and “it is understandable that he will not immediately react to its orders until he has tested out the accusations for himself,” (Cowling) a point which will be elaborated later in this discussion. This same critic points out that in Elizabethan times, any ghost that appeared in the context in which the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears would have been considered evil. The ghost moves under the stage, which in Shakespeare’s time was “a theatrical creation of Hell” (Cowling). Should Hamlet so readily believe the words of an evil ghost? This is another point which will be further elaborated later in this discussion. Another conundrum that existed with Elizabethan audiences that modern audiences may have a hard time grasping, is the Elizabethan’s perce...

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