The play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare is likely the most well-known dramatic work in the English language. It follows the story of a Prince of Denmark, Hamlet, who discovers that this father, the King, was murdered by his uncle, the King’s brother. His mother, Gertrude, than quickly marries his uncle. Hamlet struggles with this information throughout the play. His father’s ghost returns to him one night and demands that Hamlet avenge his murder. However, while Hamlet knows he must murder Claudius, the new king and his uncle, he finds that he cannot act upon this desires. Rather than following the orders of his deceased father, Hamlet hesitates throughout the play. Hamlet’s inability to act upon his desires stems from his tendency to overanalyze many events. Hamlet’s predisposition to thinking creates the struggle for his character throughout the work.
Hamlet remains one of the most difficult characters in literature due to his indecisiveness and morose attitude. Throughout the play, he struggles, not only with his feelings towards his uncle, but also a sexual tension with his mother. He resents that she married so quickly after the death of his father. He also has a difficult romantic relationship with a young maiden, Ophelia. His treatment of her eventually leads her to commit suicide. He also wrestles with his own depression and obsession about death. In all of these situations, he tends to overthink and overanalyze. This is the most difficult aspect of his character: he struggles to reach a decision. For this reason, he hesitates to kill his uncle for the regicide of his father.
Hamlet’s struggle with overanalyzing the various situations is apparent in a number of scenes. In one scene, Hamlet reacts to his nemesis, Polonius. Polonius spies on Hamlet for Claudius, the king and Gertrude. He is also the father of Ophelia; as such, he has a particular interest in the behavior and personality of Hamlet. Hamlet refuses to answer Polonius directly. Obviously, he knows what Polonius means with his line of questioning. Hamlet reads a book and Polonius asks him what he reads. Hamlet merely replies, “Words, words, words.” He is intentionally vague with his actions. This is not normal behavior. He is morose in this scene. He does not wish to engage in conversation with Polonius, so Hamlet attempts to antagonize him. When Polonius states that he would take his leave, Hamlet responds in a dark and melodramatic way. He tells Polonius,
“You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I will more willingly part withal: except my life, except my life, except my life” (II.2).
Obviously, this is not a normal response; an individual with a healthy mental attitude would not essentially ask to have his life taken from him. However, Hamlet does engage in this line of repartee with Polonius. This indicates that the concept of death is on his mind. However, he overanalyzes it and cannot act upon it.
In one of the most important scenes in the topic, Hamlet has an opportunity to kill Claudius. In this regard, though, he hesitates for an excellent reason though. He does not kill his uncle/king because he finds Claudius at prayer. He hesitates to kill the king at prayer because he believes that Claudius would have a clean soul at the time of his death.
This would allow Claudius to reach salvation. Hamlet does not want this; he wants his uncle to pay for his sins into eternity. At this moment, Hamlet’s actions are actually wise; at this time in history, religiosity was quite important for individuals. As such, Hamlet would have needed to take this aspect quite seriously. Still, while Hamlet might have a good reason with regard to his spiritual beliefs, his hesitation still indicates that he is overthinking the situation. For most people, if they were quite angry (as would occur if a person’s parent were murdered), they would not consider if the murderer were praying or not when they discovered the perfect opportunity to take revenge on the person. Hamlet, however, cannot overlook this fact. Hamlet considers the situation closely.
“Now might I do it pat, now he is praying; /
And now I’ll do’t. And so he goes to heaven; /
And so am I revenged. That would be scann’d: /
A villain kills my father; and for that, /
I, his sole son, do this same villain send / To heaven” (III.3).
Hamlet engages in significant internal dialogue as well as his external dialogue. The way he plays with the other characters, such as Polonius, does not appear to be manipulative of Polonius and the characters. Rather, it just appears to be Hamlet. Hamlet engages in this same difficult rhetoric with himself.
Hamlet’s inability to follow through is apparent in the most well-known soliloquy. In the “To be or not to be” soliloquy, Hamlet debates whether or not he should commit suicide. He questions if this is a wise choice of action. He recognizes that he does not know what occurs on the other side of death. Rather than face the unknown, he chooses to stay in an unhappy life. His significant internal debate (which is obviously vocalized for the audience) indicates that he cannot even make decisions regarding the taking of his own life. It is therefore quite unlikely that he can make an easy decision about the murder of another person, even if the person is responsible for the murder of his father, the King.
In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, the title character struggles with killing his uncle, the king. His uncle committed regicide, which resulted in the death of Hamlet’s father. While Hamlet desires revenge and also wants to please his father’s ghost, he cannot act against his uncle. This lack of action stems from Hamlet’s tendency to overthink and overanalyze all situations in the play. These tendency is seen in a number of instances, including a scene between Hamlet and Polonius. It is also seen in Hamlet’s tendency to engage in morose internal and external conversation, in which he desires his own death, but cannot act upon this desire. Furthermore, when Hamlet is given the best chance to kill his uncle, he also debates the merits of the timing.