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Procrastination of Revenge in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, the protagonist Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, is deceived by many of his former allies, including his mother, Gertrude, and his lover, Ophelia. Perhaps the most deceptive of these former allies is Hamlets uncle, Claudius. Not only does Claudius kill Hamlets father, the King, but he also proceeds to marry Hamlets mother, Gertrude, and to steal the crown from Hamlet, the rightful heir to his father. In Act III, scene III of Hamlet, Hamlet accidentally comes upon Claudius while he is alone and in prayer. Hamlet draws his sword and contemplates murdering Claudius.

However, Hamlet neglects to perform this action. The decision not to kill Claudius in these circumstances shows that Hamlet possesses an intellectual mind,which, in this circumstance, prevents him from taking decisive action. At first, Hamlet sees the circumstance as a perfect opportunity for revenge against Claudius. Hamlet knows that Claudius truly committed murder after seeing his reaction to the play within a play. Also, Hamlet must leave soon for England. Hamlet realized that if he does not act now, he may never have such a ripe opportunity for revenge again.

And now Ill dot. (III, iii, 73-74) However, Hamlets intellect provides him with a ready excuse to delay his revenge against Claudius. Hamlet does not believe that killing a man in prayer constitutes an unfair deed. Rather, Hamlet reasons that, since Claudius has purged his soul through prayer, he would go to heaven. And so am I revenged. (III, iii, 75) Hamlets father, contrastingly, had not prepared his soul for death. He suffered purgatory as a ghost. Hamlet, unsatisfied with performing an act of corporeal justice, would prefer for his revenge to have eternal consequences.

He wants to seek his revenge when Claudius sole lies in a state of unpreparedness. Hamlet puts away his sword while contemplating this future occasion. Up, sword; and know thou a more horrid hent: when he is drunk asleep, or in his rage, Or in th incestuous pleasure of his bed; At game, a-swearing, or about some act That has no relish of salvation int; (III, iii, 88-92) This procrastination shows Hamlets capabilities for intellectual reason, even in a situation involving extreme emotions. However, this decision presents Hamlets final opportunity to seek substantial revenge against Claudius.

In this scene, Hamlet shows reasoning worthy of admiration. Although Claudius prayer may evoke sympathy from an emphatic onlooker, Hamlets decision lies in reasoning. He does not feel sorry for Claudius, although his actions could lend evidence to that interpretation. His soliloquy reveals that he does not choose his inaction out of sympathy or forgiveness, but out of theological reasoning. This reasoning would not be facilitated by a person of lesser intellect than Hamlet. Claudius remains undeserving of sympathy, despite his prayer.

Although he seeks forgiveness, he continues with his immoral plots throughout the course of the play. The film version of Hamlet, starring Kenneth Branaugh, portrays this scene almost precisely in accordance with Shakespeares text. The thoughts of Hamlet become clear through not only the dialogue, but through Hamlets tone of voice and facial expression. The film shows Hamlets deep contemplation of how to go about avenging Claudius. Claudius remains unaware of Hamlets watchful eye throughout the scene. The film accurately depicts Hamlets process of contemplation and reasoning.

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