Revenge in Hamlet

Essay by anacondaUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, March 2005

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Shakespeare's Hamlet revolves around the title character's undeniable obligation to immediately avenge his father's death by killing Claudius. Yet much time elapses before Hamlet finally does slay his evil uncle, leading to a fundamental question: what causes the hero to delay before eventually managing to salvage some retribution? The answer is that Hamlet's reoccuring state of impractical contemplation renders him incapable of any decisive action that could have brought quick revenge. A key moment in the play comes in the first act, when the ghost of Hamlet's father informs the prince of his duty: "If thou didst ever thy father love...Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder." [1.5: 29, 31] With these words, the Ghost puts the play in motion, for the rest of the story will be governed by Hamlet's quest for this revenge. Furthermore, the spirit emphasizes the need for Hamlet to act quickly: I am thy father's spirit, Doomed for a certain term to walk the night And for the day confined to fast in fires Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature Are burnt and purged away.

[1.5: 14-18] The message is clear: if the prince is to truly ease the suffering of his father's spirit, he must avenge the murder immediately. Hamlet initially meets his challenge with zeal, promising the Ghost that he will produce quick results: Yea, from the table of my memory I'll wipe away all trivial, fond records, All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past, That youth and observation copied there, And thy commandment all alone shall live Within the book and volume of my brain, Unmixed with baser matter. Yes, by heaven! [1.5: 105-111] Yet despite this stirring vow to sweep to revenge, one major obstacle lies ahead: Hamlet's impractical thinking. Our first experience with...