WHY DOES HAMLET DELAY HIS REVENGE?
Hamlet was written in the year 1600 by William Shakespeare. Hamlet is a tragic tale, which is about Hamlet losing his noble father who was killed by his evil, cold-blooded uncle Claudius. He then married Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, his sister-in-law, straight after the late king’s death. Therefore, Hamlet thought his mother had betrayed him. A ghost came to Hamlet which was appearing to be his father’s soul saying, “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder”. This makes him get confused and acts madly.
Shakespeare makes Hamlet sound scared and confused by the language technique he uses. Hamlet is not sure if the ghost is a real spirit. He says “Be thou a spirit or health or goblin damn’d”. This means Hamlet thinks the ghost could be an evil spirit trying to confuse him. This was typical of the Elizabethan era in 1600 because people believed in the existence of devils. Therefore, he makes the audience think that he is confused and makes us feel sorry for him. This makes him think twice what he is doing which delays his revenge.
The theme revenge is important because it was the honourable duty to avenge your father (in Hamlet’s case also the king) without hesitation during the 1600’s and as well as modern times because people feel the need for revenge. We all retaliate in different ways due to our perceptions of the matter in hand. The theme of revenge was very attractive to the Elizabethan and Jacobean audiences. Revenge tragedies like “Hamlet” were popular with stage audiences. There is no point watching a play to see the hero immediately take his revenge in the opening scenes. Audiences would rather wait on tenterhooks to see how a wronged person would attempt to take the law into their own hands and then ultimately gain their ambition in destroying their enemy.
Hamlet is unsure that Claudius really killed his father. ‘If he but blench, I know my course.’ This shows the audience that Hamlet is unsure because Shakespeare uses the word if, which is a suggestive preposition. The effect on the audience is that this links back to the question because this implies if Claudius is caught in the Mouse Trap he knows what to do (kill Claudius) which delays his revenge. Even in Act 2 Scene 2 after requesting the Players to perform the Murder of Gonzago he goes through one of his indecisive moments. He states he is “Yet A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause And can say nothing”. He asks himself in a rhetorical question “Am I a coward? By this self-questioning Hamlet was not ready to kill Claudius.
In the play, Shakespeare uses religious language by making Hamlet scared of the consequences, if he kills his uncle Claudius when he is praying. He says “And so’ a goes to heaven and so am I reveng’d, that would be scann’d”. This shows that he is very religious like princes you would expect in those days; therefore, he does not want Claudius to go to heaven as a victim of murder. This makes the audience think that he is not that cruel to kill someone when they are praying, which as showing a bit of Hamlet’s good side. This certainly shows another reason what puts off his revenge.
Another reason that may have delayed Hamlet’s revenge was Ophelia’s death. He said “I lov’d Ophelia forty thousand brothers could not with all their sum quantity of love make up my sum”. This showed that he was over reacting therefore exaggerating a lot. This would shock the audience in the 1600 because they would expect real, brave royalty and not acting like a coward. Hamlet is avoiding taking his revenge but he is making the audience become very tired of his excuses. The audience in the 1600 will have even more less patience because they expected royal families should do their action straight away instead of talking nonsense.
Hamlet is a renaissance prince and a thinker not a violent man. ‘To be or not to be.’ This shows the audience he is over thinking and hesitating and stalls for too long where as any other prince would have avenged his father without a thought. This effects the audience This links back to the question because it shows that he isn’t violent and is observing how to retaliate which is time consuming which delays his revenge.
Furthermore, Hamlet is still waiting for the right moment; however, something goes horribly wrong. When he thought he got the exact right moment he says “How now ? A rat! Dead for a ducat, dead” when he is meeting his mother. This tragically shocks the audience because he has killed the wrong person, Polonius. This makes Hamlet furious because he certainly thought the man hiding behind the curtain was the evil uncle Claudius. Therefore, his hateful revenge continues to be planned.
Another theme in Hamlet, which shows that he is delaying taking his revenge, is the theme of madness. When the ghost asks Hamlet to take revenge on him Hamlet tells his friends that he is going to “to put an antic disposition on” which suggests that he is deliberately putting on an act. This something all revenge heroes do. If he can persuade Claudius that he is a mad man who will do no harm, it will be so much easier for him to kill him when he least suspects it. However, Hamlet has got to be really convincing as Claudius is beginning to suspect that he is not his previous self “So I call it, sith nor th’exterior nor the inward man resembles that it was”. Hamlet gives appearance of madness because he is the only one grieving for the death of his father. Claudius tells him that his grieving “To reason most absurd”. By appearing different to everyone else Hamlet can use his outward sign of madness to protect him as he plans his revenge. The audience can see through this facade which the other characters can’t. At the end of the play the prince tries to confess to Laertes that he has been mad.
In conclusion, Hamlet’s revenge for his father takes much longer than he expected are often because of reasons beyond his control or because of his conscience that won’t let him. Claudius at prayer brings out the good side of Hamlet. Even his method of killing Claudius was not his original plan. Claudius is killed by being made to drink the deadly poisoned wine that he had intended Hamlet to drink. Hamlet eventually has gained his revenge after many set backs or obstacles. The tragedy is that he is not long for the world either as he too takes the wine.