Hamlet’s agonized worrying over his state of existence begins before his first encounter with the ghost. He reports first to his mother that “These but the trappings and suits of woe” (I,ii) do not begin to illumine his inner heartbreak over the death of his father. But it is soon revealed in his first soliloquy that he despairs more over the hasty remarriage of Gertrude than the death of King Hamlet. “…a beast, that wants discourse of reason, / Would have mourn’d longer.” (I,ii) Gertrude’s apparent disregard of his honorable late father causes his suicidal dejection.
When he hears from the ghost of his father’s murder, he does indeed vow revenge. However, that revenge never seems to materialize, he thinks and worries but commits no action to fulfill his vow. For some reason, he plays the fool and delays his revenge. Significantly, he presents the play with the scenes altered to mirror the circumstances of Claudius’ crime so Hamlet can watch his reactions with his own eyes. “For I mine eyes will rivet to his face, / And after we will both our judgments join / In censure of his seeming.” (III,ii)
Hamlet’s revenge, when it finally occurs, is the result of considerable provocation. Claudius has been exposed by Laertes as a conspiring murderer of Prince Hamlet. Claudius has caused Hamlet to be the death of several people, notably Ophelia and Gertrude. In the end Hamlet kills Claudius, and the ghost is revenged.
But truly, whose revenge has taken place? The connection among all of Hamlet’s actions is merely himself. He certainly mourns his father, but mainly he feels sorry for himself because he lost his mother and his crown the day his father died. It is possible that he misses Gertrude and Denmark more than his father the king.
Also, Hamlet cannot accept the ghost’s word for Claudius’ guilt, he arranges a situation where he can watch Claudius condemn himself. Again, this is a reaction from his self-centered motives-he requires the feeling of hatred that is only achieved when he is the victim of a crime. Although the play shows him a first-hand picture of Claudius’ guilt, it is still not enough provocation for murder. In Hamlet’s case, “self-centered” is not a fault but a way of feeling emotions. He is evidently unable to feel the necessary passion when they are related secondhand, he must have the immediate relation to his own psyche.
Finally, Claudius presents Hamlet with all the reasons for revenge and no room for reservations. A dying Laertes reveals Claudius’ plot to send Hamlet to an English death, and Gertrude is dead from Claudius’ poison that was meant for Hamlet. With such incitement, Hamlet is able to execute Claudius.
Hamlet can be deemed successful in the end, because he has redeemed the wrongs committed against his person if not his father’s. He lacks some interior ability to commit bloody revenge for some victim other than himself. However, Claudius eventually unites Hamlet’s passion to avenge the old king with his need for a primary injury, which causes Claudius’ death and the satisfaction of all Hamlet’s goals, both for himself and his father.