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Hamlet

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Hamlet’s Hesitation Roll No: Teacher: 20th October 2009 Hamlet’s Hesitation Hamlet is a tragic play written by Shakespeare in which, Hamlet who is the protagonist of the play is shown hesitant in taking action against his father’s murderer. Hamlet is a thoughtful person who ponders over the situations quite excessively and delays in taking vengeance for his father’s murder against his uncle, Claudius who becomes his step father by marrying his mother quite soon after his father’s death. Hamlet’s over reflection and over speculation are quite evident from his soliloquies. He was unable to take revenge for his father’s murder for a long time on the basis of several reasons which can be his moral scruples or conscience, moral repulsion, his over speculation and his melancholic state.
Hamlet was depressed and despondent before he met the ghost of his father. He was not happy with his mother’s marriage with his uncle. He wanted his mother to marry after some time and got in a melancholic state because of his mother’s sudden and quick decision. He considered her marriage with his uncle as a shameless act. After getting knowledge that his father was killed by Claudius, his uncle and he did not die because of a natural death, Hamlet’s melancholic state worsened1. His mother married to his father’s murderer and in such a hurry that was considered shameless by Hamlet, all these circumstances led Hamlet to deepened melancholic state that made him to think over and over about the whole situation.
Hamlet was hesitant because of his conscience. Hamlet’s main difficulty can be regarded as being internal, something that is part of his mental make-up2. It may, for instance, be supposed that Hamlet is restrained from action by his conscience or moral scruple. Hamlet assumes without questioning that he ought to avenge his father’s murder. Even when he doubts the honesty of the ghost, he expresses no doubt as to what his duty would be if the ghost has spoken truly as he says,
“If he but blench I know my course.”
He reproaches himself bitterly for neglecting his duty in the two soliloquies where he examines his position
“O what a rogue and peasant slave am I…………..” (Act II, Scene II)
and
“How all occasions do inform against me…………” (Act IV, Scene IV)
When he reflects on the possible causes of his neglect, he does not mention among them any moral scruple. When the ghost appears in the queen’s chamber, he does not plead that his conscience comes in his way. At one place in the play, Hamlet speaks as if his conscience was retarding action on his part as he says
“Does it not, think thee, stand me now upon—
He that hath kill’d my King, and Whor’d my mother,
Pop’t in between th’ election and my hopes,
Thrown out his angle for my proper life,
And with such coz’nage — is’t not perfect conscience
To quit him with this arm? And is’t not to be damn’d
To let this canker of my nature come
In further evil? (Act V, Scene II)
If this passage be regarded as correct analysis of his mind, then conscience would appear to be only one hindrance in Hamlet’s way but not the sole or chief hindrance.
It may also be asserted that in the depths of Hamlet’s nature that is unknown to him, there is a moral repulsion to the deed. But, this view is, to a large extent, contradicted by Hamlet’s sparing the King when he finds the King at prayer. The reason Hamlet gives himself for sparing the King is that, if he kills him now, he will send him to heaven, whereas he desires to send him to hell3. Now, this reason can be considered as an unconscious excuse, but it is difficult to believe that, if the real reason has been the stirrings or moral scruples of his deeper conscience, it could have masked itself in the form of a desire to send his enemy’s soul to hell. However, there can be no doubt that Hamlet has a strong moral nature and a great anxiety to do the right thing. Hamlet’s shrinking from the deed of murder is probably due to repugnance of the idea of suddenly attacking a man who cannot defend himself4.
Hamlet’s reflective attitude doubtless plays a certain part in producing Hamlet’s melancholy and is thus an indirect contributory cause of his hesitation5. The delay can be a reason of the profound melancholy of Hamlet. He showed his depressed state in his soliloquies. He was depressed because of his mother’s marriage, Claudius’ status as a king, appearance of his father’s ghost and afterwards the revelation of the truth related to his father’s murder. He continued to reflect and speculate the whole situation and got more and more depressed with the passage of time and with his continued speculation.
Works Cited
Grebanier, Bernard. The Heart of Hamlet, The Play Shakespeare Wrote. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1960.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1998.
Weitz, Morris. Hamlet and the Philosophy of Literary Criticism. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1964.

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