Something was definitely rotten in the state of Denmark. The king was dead of a murder most foul, a betrayal from his own brother, young Hamlet was thrown out of the frying pan, which was his fathers passing, and into the fire of revenge. On would think that an act of revenge such as this, retribution from an enraged son over the unjust murder of his father, would come so quickly, wildly, and brutally, driven by anger and rage. This simply was not the case in William Shakespeares Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. As the young prince Hamlet carefully thought out his plans for revenge over a rather large amount of time due to his own apparent weakness, inaction. The smallest deed is greater than the grandest intention(Stokes 90). Hamlet was full of grand ideas and intentions on how to kill the King, but he failed to act and to carry out the deed that was his revenge, the destruction of Claudius. Why did Hamlet choose and it was his choice, not to take revenge on Claudius quickly and decisively? Hamlet had his own reasons for inaction; the strategy that he felt best suited his revenge.
Hamlet was undoubtedly and incredible intellectual and throughout the play thoughts in his mind came too quickly for the actions of his body to keep up with(Stokes 92). This intellectual quality provided a roadblock for Hamlet taking a quick revenge on Claudius. Nearly all of Hamlets actions with the exception of his outburst at Ophelias grave were carefully preplanned and precisely calculated. His inborn thought process prolonged his revenge, and while Hamlet may have appeared sluggish with inaction, the wheels in his mind never stopped turning(Stokes 92). Hamlet questioned everything. He may have thought too much for his own good at times, he wrestled with many ideas, thoughts, and feeling over the course of the play, delaying any real action until the time, in his eyes, was right.
Hamlet questioned the validity of his own fathers ghost. This questioning slowed down Hamlets ability to take action. Hamlet says:
The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil: and the devil hath power
Tassume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me: Ill have grounds
More relative than this: the plays the thing
Wherein Ill catch the conscience of the King
(ActII SceneII 1490).
Hamlet was not sure if the ghost was really his father or if it was the devil trying to trick him to commit a crime. He needed to prove to himself that what the ghost said was true or not. Therefore he is going to stage a play that will reenact the killing of his father to see if the King is guilty.
Hamlet was very much a perfectionist in revenge. He wanted everything to be perfect, and this caused him to take unusual and unique steps to gain revenge on Claudius. Hamlets play within a play, a brilliant scheme in which he caught the conscience of the King. It was a prime example of the young princes need for perfection in revenge. The play definitely told Hamlet that Claudius was in fact guilty of killing King Hamlet. Inaction resulted from this perfectionist nature. Hamlet missed golden opportunities, and even passed up a chance to kill Claudius and to take revenge simply because Claudius was praying at the time. Hamlet explains this when he says:
Now might I do it pat, Now he is praying;
And now Ill dot: And so he goes to heaven;
And so am I revengd. That would be scannd:
A villain kills my father; and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge.
But in our circumstance and course of thought,
Tis heavy with him: and am I then revengd,
To take him in the purging of his soul,
When he is fit and seasond for his passage?
(ActIII SceneIII 1506).
Hamlet did not only want to kill his fathers murder; he wanted to send him to eternal punishment of damnation, so he did not want to kill him while he was praying. But, Hamlet leaves right before Claudius says, My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go(Shakespeare 1507). If Hamlet had known Claudius was not sorry and could not pray.Hamlet could have seeked his revenge right there. The quality of perfectionism, along with his intellectual aspect, caused Hamlet to move slowly and carefully in his revenge, often resulted in periods on inaction.
Hamlets mother, Queen Gertrude warrants Hamlet to come to her. She tells him that she did not like play. Queen says, Hamlet, thou hast they father much offended Hamlet replies, Mother, you have my father much offended, Queen replies, Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue (Shakespeare 1507). Polonius hiding behind the drape makes a noise, Hamlet thought it was Claudius and kills Polonius. The King then sends Hamlet to England to be killed. As Hamlet discovers what was going to happen to him he quick witted them and returned to Denmark to finish off his revenge.
When Hamlet returns to Denmark he finds a grave dug up for someone to be buried. He finds out it is Ophelias. Laertes and Hamlet get into a squabble in Ophelias grave. The attendants pull them apart. Hamlets delay of vengeance was necessary in order for his ideal revenge to come about, unfortunately Hamlets ideal plan never came to be. Hamlet had the opportunities he simply failed to act on them. Hamlets choice to remain inactive did not cause, but certainly helped bring about his downfall, his shallows and his miseries(Prosser 57).Although Hamlets intellectual qualities, perfectionist nature, resulted in inaction that prevented his taking revenge, it was action(Prosser 57). Hamlet revealed himself at Ophelias grave, which finally destroyed his plans for vengeance. Had Hamlet remained inactive, he certainly would have been able to complete his plans for revenge on Claudius. Instead, Hamlet revealed himself at Ophelias grave, losing his element of surprise on the King and causing all of his plans to unravel. In the end inaction did not destroy Hamlets revenge, his action regarding his love for Ophelia did.
Finally, at the end Hamlet may not have got his revenge on Claudius the way he wanted to, but he did kill him. Claudius arranged a duel between Laertes and Hamlet. Claudius also had a few tricks up his sleeve. He placed a poisoned drink near Hamlet incase he got thirsty during the duel. Turns out that Queen Gertrude drank it and died. Also, the sword Laertes was using had poison on it. The poisoned sword then wounded Hamlet. Hamlet somehow got the sword from Laertes and stabs him with it. Laertes exposes what Claudius and him was up to. Hamlet then turns to Claudius and stabs him with the poisoned sword and then makes him drink from the poisoned cup.
Hamlet seemed to think too much, but why? Hamlet is self conscious, while all the other characters in play are not. Maybe this is why Hamlet still remains a subject of discussion and why the play remains so popular. Although Hamlet dies in the end, it is almost for the best. How could he have any happiness in his life, with his parents and Ophelia dead?
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