First of all, Hamlet himself questions whether it is to be or not to be. In Act three, Scene one, Hamlet questions which act is more noble. Is it more noble to suffer from wrong deeds that one has done unto one or is it more noble to end the suffering by fighting? In this soliloquy, it is clear that Hamlet is torn between what is more noble:
To be, or not to be, that is the question.
Is it nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to fight against a sea of troubles,
And end them by fighting?
Hamlet has questions that are unanswered. He is not able to really think straight at the moment. Should he murder Claudius or not?
If I were to write an essay on Hamlet's indecisiveness, I would point out that it is not easy to murder someone. Unless you have killer instincts, it is difficult to murder someone. Only evil people sit around and premeditate someone's murder. It is not a natural instinct to murder someone in cold blood. Clearly, Hamlet is seeking the more noble act.
The next point I would make would be that Hamlet is not certain that his Uncle Claudius has murdered his father. Imagine, who could do such a thing? Again, murdering someone goes against natural instincts. How could Hamlet's Uncle Claudius kill his own brother. That goes against the goodness of nature and the bonds of brotherhood. Hamlet must be certain of Claudius' guilt before he can make a decision to retaliate.
When Hamlet learned for certain of his Uncle's guilt, again, murder does not come natural to Hamlet. He also is not sure how to go about the murder. Hamlet desires to avenge his father's death, but the exactness of the murder is unclear to Hamlet. One could die while murdering another. Hamlet must take into consideration that he could die while trying to murder Claudius. Clearly, Hamlet is stressed over his own father's murder, but he has to plan the right way to murder his Uncle Claudius. At one point, he thought he had murdered Claudius but it turned out to be Polonius. This murder only complicated things for Hamlet because of his love for Ophelia.
Again, murdering someone does not come natural to most people. Also, Hamlet had to be certain of Claudius' guilt, and lastly, Hamlet has to find the perfect plan and perfect time to murder Claudius. He does not desire to die in the process.
In the end, Hamlet found the perfect time and perfect way to kill Claudius. Of course, it happens as Hamlet the hero is dying himself:
But Hamlet is far more than an outstanding example of the revenge play. It is, to begin, a tragedy in which the attainment of justice entails the avenging hero's death.
Knowing that one may die in avenging his father's death is a good reason to be indecisive about murdering another. In other words, it is not easy to plan to kill someone when you know that there is a chance you may die in the process.
Indecision, Hesitation And Delay In Shakespeare's Hamlet Procrastination And Indecision
Hamlet – the Hesitation and Indecision
Is there a plausible explanation for the hesitation by Hamlet in carrying out the ghost’s request in Shakespeare’s Hamlet?
Lawrence Danson in the essay “Tragic Alphabet” discusses the hesitation in action by the hero; this is related to his hesitation in speech:
To speak or act in a world where all speech and action are equivocal seeming is, for Hamlet, both perilous and demeaning, a kind of whoring.
The whole vexed question of Hamlet’s delay ought, I believe, to be considered in light of this dilemma. To a man alienated from his society’s most basic symbolic modes, who finds all speech and action mere seeming and hypocritical playing, comes an imperious demand to speak and act – to express himself in deed his father’s son. The ghost’s stress upon ritual modes indicates that the expression demanded must not be just “a kind of wild justice,” but an expression ordered and meaningful. Hamlet’s difficulties at the linguistic level – his puns and “antic disposition,” the lack of commensurate values between him and the rest of the court – are reflected in his difficulties at the level of action (72).
In “Acts III and IV: Problems of Text and Staging” Ruth Nevo explains how the protagonist is “confounded” in both the prayer scene and the closet scene:
In the prayer scene and the closet scene his [Hamlet’s] devices are overthrown. His mastery is confounded by the inherent liability of human reason to jump to conclusions, to fail to distinguish seeming from being. He, of all people, is trapped in the fatal deceptive maze of appearances that is the phenomenal world. Never perhaps has the mind’s finitude been better dramatized than in the prayer scene and in the closet scene. Another motto of the Player King is marvelously fulfilled in the nexus of ironies which constitutes the plays peripateia: “Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.” In the sequence of events following Hamlet’s elation at the success of the Mousetrap, and culminating in the death of Polonius, all things are the opposite of what they seem, and action achieves the reverse of what was intended. Here in the play’s peripeteia is enacted Hamlet’s fatal error, his fatal misjudgment, which constitutes the crisis of the action, and is the directly precipitating cause of his own death, seven other deaths, and Ophelia’s madness (52).
The play begins on a guard platform of a castle in Denmark:
For two nights in succession, just as the bell strikes the hour of one, a ghost has appeared on the battlements, a figure dressed in complete armor and with a face like that of the dead king of Denmark, Hamlet’s father. A young man named Horatio, who is a school friend of Hamlet, has been told of the apparition and cannot believe it, and one of the officers has brought him there in the night so that he can see it for himself.
The hour comes, and the ghost walks. The awed Horatio...
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