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... him in his quest to avenge his fathers most foul death. Although feigning madness does buy Hamlet time in his quest for revenge, he is still restrained from killing Claudius for many reasons. If one is going to truly understand why Hamlet did not delay, it is necessary to explore these reasons and discuss them fully. First of all, the ghostly apparition gave Hamlet three tasks, all of which that can be completed in two simple actions: killing Claudius and sparing Gertrude from pain. Superficially, these tasks seem independent of one another, and thus both can be completed without affecting the completion of the other.
But if one thinks about the second task from an emotional point-of-view, then Hamlet is really in a tricky situation; for it is impossible to kill Claudius and spare Gertrude from pain, because she has an emotional attachment to him. Thus, Hamlet cant kill Claudius until Gertrude has either died or rejected her love for the king, which is exactly why Shakespeare had Hamlet kill the usurper just minutes after the queens death. As a result, there was really no delay at all. Hamlet had to wait until after his mothers death, which is the precise reason why he spends three and a half acts methodically preparing for, but not looking forward to, that very moment. Hamlet also naturally has a sensitive nature, and as a result he is distraught by melancholy.
His melancholy runs deep and comes from a multitude of emotionally shattering events, namely his fathers unnatural death, his mothers hasty remarriage, his rejection by Ophelia, and what he believes to be his weakness that bars him from his duty of killing the king. Hamlet not only feels distressed by all of the recent events in his life; but he also feels sadness from the fact that he is unable to voice his opinions and emotional distresses to anyone. He states, O, most wicked speed [in regards to the remarriage]It is not, nor it can come to good. But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue.
Clearly Hamlet is deeply distressed by the fact that he cant say anything about his disapproval of his mothers marriage, and as a result, he tends to dwell on his mothers incestuous decision throughout the play. This is especially apparent in the mousetrap scene, where the focus is on the player queen and not the player king; and in the closet scene, where Hamlet has become so blunt in his disapproval that the ghost has to reappear to set him straight. Hamlet is going through a lot of emotional trauma, and he is unable to voice that trauma to anyone. So he becomes very depressed and focuses on his problems instead of the necessary tasks at hand.
This melancholy even begins to grow, for when one dwells upon their problems, they tend to become more emotionally distressing, which explains Hamlets mood swings and depressing soliloquies. Only after Hamlet has been assured of his mothers innocence during the closet scene, and only after Hamlet has been spurred back into action by Fortinbras sense of duty, is he free from his burden of melancholy and able to act against the usurping king. Thus he is not delaying, but rather acting in the way a person in his circumstances would act- methodically, rationally, and emotionally driven. Hamlet is also a Christian prince, instilled with Christian beliefs and a Christian moral standpoint. When the ghost tells the young prince that he must seek revenge, the request of course shocks young Hamlet. He states, Heaven hath please it so, to punish me with this, and this with me, that I must be their scourge and minister (3. 4. 176 - 178).
He fears having to be the judge of a man, and if he kills Claudius, that is passing judgment on his soul. According to the Christian faith, passing judgment on and murdering a fellow man are two of the most evil acts and thus must be avoided at all cost. Therefore, Hamlet must overcome his moral scruples if he wants to kill Claudius, which means he must prepare for the perfect time to perform his deed. Also, one must remember that the task is not just murder, but cold-blooded, eye-for-an-eye revenge, the basest of all crimes that stems from Cains jealousy over Abel.
Just as Cain was denied salvation and entrance into Gods kingdom, so too will Hamlet be denied if he chooses to take Claudius life into his own hands and complete his revenge. As a result, Hamlet prepares himself to take the kings life by waiting for sins to add up on the usurpers soul. Thus, only when the perfect moment shows itself (one in which Hamlet will not be held morally responsible in any way, because it was the necessary action to take) will Hamlet act, which is the key reason why he awaits Laertes exclamation of Claudius guilt in the final act. Until the final scene of the final act, the reader also notices a fear that lies within Hamlet. He fears for his souls salvation, he fears for his reputation, he fears for his country, and he fears the situation in which he was put. Although this fear is justified, it does cause Hamlet to think the entire situation through; and thus he adopts a madness to buy him time to do so, which many Shakespearean scholars interpret as his delay time.
Within the context of the play, though, there is no way that his fear can be interpreted as delay. A ghost (which may be heavenly or hellish) gave Hamlet a message about the unnatural death of his father, and then asked the young prince to seek out bloody murder for his revenge. Would that situation not strike fear in the hearts of all moral men? Hamlet has a duty he is obligated to fulfill; yet at the same time his code of ethics tells him that the task at hand is sinful and wrong. So Hamlet seeks justification to help pacify his fear. If he had acted without the fear of his actions being unjustified, then his name would have been disrespected, and he would appear to be an easily persuaded and manipulated fool.
The Prince did not seek private revenge that would tarnish his name, but rather public justice that would glorify it. To maintain this justice, he knows that he must kill Claudius; but he must make sure that his actions are completely justified, not only in his eyes, but in the eyes of the Danes as well. So the noble hero, with the appearance of a madman, ventures forth into the Danish court in search of complete justification. This search begins with the mousetrap scene, which seems to be more aimed at Hamlets personal justice than the justice of his fathers ghost.
If one notices closely, the aim of the play is not the player king, but rather the player queen. Because Hamlet swore to his fathers ghost that he would not seek revenge against Gertrude, he tries to find other means to attain his personal justice. From what happens in the mousetrap scene, the hero does obtain fairly good evidence of Claudius guilt, which is his intention. But the noble prince also notices that his mother takes the plays situation rather lightly, which is why when we see Hamlet in action next, he has recently refrained from killing his fathers rival and is inside his mothers chambers.
Only after the hero gets a warning from the spirit once again, and only after Gertrude is completely torn apart by her sons accusations, is Hamlet able to get his mothers remarriage out of his mind and focus on his fathers task. He finally comes to the realization in the closet scene that his Uncle is the reason for his fathers death and mothers hasty remarriage, and this realization spurs the hero back into his search for concrete evidence that will incriminate the King. (Claudius storming out of his nephews play is not really concrete evidence). This search for concrete evidence takes time, ...
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