Hamlet is a very complicated character with many sides and many faces, making him one of the most analyzed characters in all of literature. His emotions shift about throughout the play, some emotions true to our own, and others, more far fetched and wild emotions. Hamlet’s complexity makes it hard to put a finger on the exact motive to many of his actions. In the story of Hamlet, the question also comes up: What is the exact motive of his inaction? Shakespeare presents to Hamlet some very traumatic and unusual circumstances. Hamlet’s father, King Hamlet, is supposedly killed in his garden by a snake. Not two months go by before Queen Gertrude has married the former king’s brother, Claudius.Order now
At this point Hamlet is not in a very healthy or happy state of mind, but just to add to his confusion, the ghost of his father appears. The ghost tells Hamlet that he did not die of snake poisoning, but rather of the poisoning of Claudius. Upon hearing news of your father’s murder, the natural instinct would be to want brutal revenge. Hamlet, however, in spite of his rage and anger, knows that a fast and furious killing of Claudius would do no good. He first had to have a plan devised to prove that this ghost was real and spoke the truth.
This delay in action shows Hamlet’s strength in a controlled mind, and his ability to think rationally in an intense situation. If Hamlet listens to the ghost, and it turns out to be a demon telling a lie, or a figment of his imagination, he will have committed a sin and gone to purgatory for no reason at all. Hamlet’s main plan to trap the king comes when a group of players come to town. He asks them if they would enact a play titled “The Mouse Trap,” which, bottom-line, is a re-enactment of the murder of Hamlet’s father. Hamlet watches the King very closely for any signs of guilt or nervousness through the play.
When the King finally catches on to what’s going on, Hamlet gets a little more than just a hint of the King’s guilt. Claudius actually stands up and throws a fit for fresh air. Now Hamlet has the King caught, so Hamlet should be revenging his father’s murder at the first chance he gets, but are there still morals about killing and other lingering circumstances that will keep Hamlet from acting on his discovery? Hamlet gets his chance to stab Claudius in the back when he walks by the alter, and Claudius is openly crying to God and praying for forgiveness of his sins. The scene is set perfect for the once-and-for-all killing of the murderer, King Claudius.
Something still stands in the way though. As Hamlet gives a soliloquy while standing behind Claudius, we gather that the reason he can’t kill him now is that he is in confession and would go to heaven if he died clean of sins. King Hamlet was killed in sin and sent to purgatory, so Hamlet wants the same for Claudius. The decision to wait for a better time to kill Claudius was rationally worked out in Hamlet’s head, but that reason may have just been hiding some other feelings and moral implications.
Killing another person is not an easy thing to do. There are so many things to think about when you take someone’s life away from them, that they may have gotten in the way, in Hamlet’s mind, of making the real right decision. So did Hamlet delay in acting once again because the time wasn’t right like the first time, or did he simply chicken out of killing another person? These are the kinds of questions that arise when trying to figure out Hamlet’s many sides. In this case, Hamlet had a good reason to not kill Claudius at that very moment, but it was really just a good excuse to not have to go through with driving the sword through Claudius just yet. We can tell from other instances in the story, such as being the last griever of his father’s death, that Hamlet can be a feeler, and the type of person that would have a hard time killing someone. This decision, although justified from all sides in Hamlet’s mind, would prove to be a mistake that cost him the life of several other loved ones and his own life as well.
Hamlet is finally driven to kill Claudius in a fit of rage after a sword match in which he, Laertes, and the Queen are all poisoned. These are all lives that could have been saved if Hamlet would have acted on his plan sooner. Hamlet’s delay in acting was justified in both cases, but the second time there were some morals and some fear that kept him from seeing that that was the right time. Hamlet has so many sides, and his so complex that he has the ability to have the right frame of mind in any type of situation, but when those different sides of him cross, then danger lies ahead.