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HUM 310
March 26, 2014
Hamlets Battle With Revenge
Procrastination is opportunitys assassin. Many would not hesitate to avenge the death of
their loved one in return for justice; however Prince Hamlet portrays a different role. In Hamlet
by Shakespeare, a Ghost appears in the form of the dead King Hamlet and requests Prince
Hamlet, his son, to get revenge for his murder. The most shocking part to Prince Hamlet is that
King Hamlet was murdered by his own brother, Claudius. Claudius however, is now married to
Prince Hamlets mother, making him his step father. It is a twisted relationship and there are
many reasons why Prince Hamlet went through so many steps before confronting Claudius about
the murder. Prince Hamlet is delayed by a combination of internal character traits and external
obstacles because he does not trust the Ghost, he struggles to understand what the Ghost wants,
he wants to attain revenge in the most justifiable way possible, and he is sent to England.
Before doing what someone asks, the first step is to decide whether or not they are
trustworthy. It is not wise to take the advice of someone with no credibility or experience on the
matter. Although the Ghost says he is the king, there is no actual proof of that aside from his
words. The next step is to determine if what they are asking for is moral and justifiable. The
Ghost asked for a favor, but revenge was the last thing Prince Hamlet expected. It was already
enough hardship finding out that his uncle killed his father, but now he had the responsibility to
bring justice. Most of the time determining right from wrong is simple; however Prince Hamlet
struggled with this, especially since he was being ordered around by a Ghost. During the
Ghosts first appearance in the play, it fled when the cock crew at dawn. Back in the day,
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roosters singeth all night long no spirit dare stir abroad meaning that the roosters would
crow all Christmas night long to keep the evil spirits away (Act I, Scene I, line 144). So by the
Ghost disappearing at the sound of the crow, it creates suspicion about the reliability of the
Ghost. Not only did this incident occur once, but twice, which of course left Prince Hamlet
cautious. He did not want to automatically believe everything the Ghost told him and risk taking
the life of an innocent person. The constant rebuttal between whether or not the Ghost could be
trusted was a huge factor in the delay of Hamlets revenge.
Hamlet does not know what the Ghost means when he asks for revenge. There are many
forms of revenge including telling everyone the truth, or trying to separate Gertrude from
Claudius. But the Ghost is unclear with his directions, he tells Prince Hamlet howsoever thou
persuest this act, taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive against thy mother aught: leave her
to heaven (Act I, Scene V, line 80-82). The Ghost says that however Hamlet chooses to get
revenge, make sure to leave Gertrude out of it and let heaven take care of her. That is the only
instruction given to Hamlet about revenge. The whole plot revolves around the idea of getting
revenge and justice, but how was Prince Hamlet, a teenage boy suffering from so many
problems, expected to be the one to make things balanced again? He was constantly wondering
what the Ghost meant by revenge, and he had no one to confide in. This was a large factor
because Hamlet had no idea what steps to take, therefore he had to think each action through
carefully. This of course would take him much more time than if the Ghost was to give him an
exact time and date and step-by-step procedure of how to attain revenge. Also, the Ghost
specifically says to leave Gertrude alone and make sure she does not get hurt. This is another
cause for the delay because Prince Hamlet knew that by killing Claudius, he would cause an
immense amount of pain on his mother, especially since she just lost her previous husband.
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Prince Hamlet had to make sure what he was doing was in the best interests of everyone
who cared about. He wanted to get revenge in a matter that will not make him look guilty. When
Claudius was praying in the church after the play, Prince Hamlet knew for a fact that Claudius
was guilty. Prince Hamlet draws his swords and is about to kill Claudius but then says to
himself, A villain kills my father; and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send to
heaven (Act III, Scene III, line 77-78). He felt that since Claudius was confessing his sins to
God, if he were to kill Claudius at the moment, Claudius would be free of all sins and would go
straight to heaven. He wanted to wait for an opportunity to catch Claudius in the act of sinning,
that way he would not feel so guilty about killing him. Prince Hamlet is afraid of the way people
will view him after he murders his own uncle. His last words before he dies are O, good
Horatio, what a wounded name, things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me! If thou
didst ever hold me in thy heart, absent thee from felicity a while, and in this harsh world draw
thy breath in pain, to tell me story (Act V, Scene II, line 350-355). Prince Hamlet says this to
Horatio which means he is afraid of the reputation he is leaving behind because nobody knows
the truth about why he killed Claudius, so if Horatio truly loves him, to tell everyone the truth
about the situation. The only reason Prince Hamlet went after Claudius was for the Ghost, but no
one else in Denmark even knew the Ghost existed, much less that Claudius was responsible for
the death of King Hamlet. Therefore Hamlet needed to confirm before dying that Horatio would
speak honestly and honorably of him.
An external obstacle is when Claudius sends Prince Hamlet to England. Claudius admits
that he doubts the hatch and the disclose, will be some danger: which for to preventin quick
determination thus set it down: he shall with speed to England (Act III, Scene I, line 169-172).
Claudius views Prince Hamlet and his madness as a threat and begins to realize that Prince
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Hamlet may suspect something of him; therefore he does not want to take any chances on letting
Prince Hamlet discover the truth. Claudius decides to send him to England in hopes that he will
be killed, never to return or cause troubles again. By Prince Hamlet being sent away, it took
away from the time and opportunities he had to find out if Claudius was truly guilty or not,
ultimately delaying the process. Of course if Prince Hamlet was still in Denmark, he could
possibly have had more encounters with the Ghost and ask any questions or clear up many
misunderstandings. He could have also dug around for more sufficient that would prove
Claudius guilt that way Prince Hamlet would not have to kill him in the end. When Prince
Hamlet writes that he is returning from England, Claudius is startled and must quickly devise a
plan to take down Prince Hamlet. From a different perspective, if Prince Hamlet was never sent
to England, he may have stayed in Denmark and continued to brood around like a dull and
muddy-mettled rascal, peak, like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of cause (Act II, Scene II, line
592-593). It was during his trip to England when he encountered the Norwegian army and
realized that he should be taking more serious actions in terms of revenge. So although England
did cause a delay for Prince Hamlet, time-wise, it allowed him to recognize the current situation
and get his thoughts up to speed.
Despite the traits and obstacles that made it difficult for Prince Hamlet to get revenge,
Hamlet found a way to push through them and kill Claudius. If Prince Hamlet had simply done
what the Ghost instructed of him, the play would be over and we would never know if Claudius
was really guilty. The fact that Prince Hamlet did not trust the Ghost, allowed more evidence to
appear and support the Ghosts accusation. Although Prince Hamlet is confused with what kind
of revenge he should approach, he realizes that death may be the only solution. Even though
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Prince Hamlet died in fear of being judged for his actions, he trusts that Horatio will do as he
says and live to tell the great story of his revenge.