Essay about The Delay in Hamlet’s Revenge

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The Delay in Hamlet’s Revenge

Hamlet's first thoughts after learning of his father's murder are of an immediate, violent revenge upon Claudius. However, his subsequent actions do not live up to these resolutions. Over four acts he takes little deliberate action against his uncle, although the ghost explicitly demands a swift revenge. In S. T. Coleridge's words, Hamlet's central weakness is that he is "continually resolving to do, yet doing nothing but resolve".

Hamlet's first soliloquy, following a hostile conversation with Claudius and Gertrude, shows him grief-stricken, bitter and despairing. The source of Hamlet's melancholy is "his father's death" and the "o'er-hasty marriage" of his mother and uncle. He feels he
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Claudius is introduced before Hamlet, but the audience is already aware that the ghost of the old king has appeared with a message for his son. Claudius is a skilful diplomat: ingratiating, self-confident, and a good orator, he has persuaded the Danish court to accept him as king. The incestuous nature of the marriage is hinted at by Claudius himself, who calls Gertrude his "sometime sister, now [his] queen." He presents himself as someone of wisdom and good judgment: a fitting replacement for his "dear brother." The speech shows him to be Hamlet's cunning and worthy adversary.

Following the meeting with the ghost, Hamlet is both physically and mentally exhausted. In a second soliloquy, his thoughts are disorganized, and he is shocked and angry. However, the mood of this soliloquy differs dramatically from the first. No longer listless and melancholy, the ghost's wish for a great act of revenge gives Hamlet fresh hope and energy. He vows to disregard "all pressures past", and do away with the "smiling damned villain." Although deeply agitated, he has resolved to act. Indeed, his violent and passionate oaths seem to indicate he will, "with wings as swift as meditation", execute a swift revenge.

Why, then, does Hamlet delay until the final Act? The first thing he does is to feign madness, which would not appear to advance his cause in any conceivable way. It does not correspond with his previous forceful resolutions. The "antic
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