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The Reluctance of Hamlet toward Killing Essay

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The Reluctance of Hamlet toward Killing in William Shakespeare's Hamlet

The reluctant character Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, has become one of the most cited characters in history. Throughout Shakespeare's play Hamlet knows what he must do, but avoids it in his mind. The problem is: why does hamlet delay in avenging his father's death? Hamlet is afraid. He is afraid of failure. Hamlet tries to play off his fear by blaming outside circumstances, like doubting the existence of the ghost when he knows in his heart it is true, and not having the right opportunity to exact revenge. What it all boils down to is a belief in himself, or lack of, that is a lack of self confidence.

Hamlet's excuse of doubting the ghost is displayed in his actions when they meet. "Be thou a spirit of health or a goblin damned,/ bring with the airs from heaven of blasts from hell,/ be thy intents wicked or charitable,/ thou com'st in such a questionable shape/ that I will speak to thee. I'll call thee 'Hamlet',/ 'King', 'Father', 'Royal Dane'" (Act 1, Sc. 4, ln. 44-50)(51) Hamlet's words here clearly illustrate how Hamlet acts confused but honestly knows the ghost is true. Hamlet wants to doubt the existence of the ghost when he tells Horatio and the others, "Never make known what you have seen tonight."(Act 1, Sc. 5, ln. 160)(65) The mere fact that Hamlet hesitates to reveal that he has seen the ghost at all and swears Horatio and the other sentinels to secrecy, shows his want to keep the proof of his father's death secret. When hamlet says, "If his occulted guilt/ do not itself unkennel in one speech,/ it is a damned ghost that we have seen,/ and my imaginations are as foul/ as Vulcan's stithy." (Act 3, Sc. 2, ln. 85-89)(141) Hamlet h...


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...even though his heart believes. He hesitates because he is afraid of failure: failure to his father, mother, and to himself. And furthermore, the tragedy of Hamlet would not have been much of a tragedy had Hamlet not procrastinated. If he had killed Claudiuds the night of the play, Polonius, Ophelia, Gertrude and Laertes would not have died.

Some critics may say Hamlet did not delay. Some critics may ask the question, What is delay? Delay is to put off to a future time. Hamlet definitely puts off the killing of Claudius until the end of the play. Even if he has valid reasons to delay, he delays non the less. So critics who ask the question of whether he delays or not are completely wrong because there is no doubt in whether he delays or not, because he does.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. T. J. B. Spencer. New York: Penguin, 1996.


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