Hamlet Article Response

In a posting of approximately 400 words, respond to ONE of the following two questions.  1.) What do you think? OR  2.)  In Johnston’s article, he posits eight reasons (some silly, some traditional) as to why Hamlet delays in his revenge.  Choose one of the reasons and argue why, using detail from the play and the article, this reason appeals to you the most. Use specific detail from the article and the play (do NOT use any other internet source!) and  include at least two quotations, “from the article” (Johnston 4) or “from the play” (I.ii.45-49).  Deadline for the post is Sunday, April 15th at midnight (12:00 a.m.)  Your post is worth a mark out of /15.  (10 for detail, thoughtfulness, and engagement with the article and the play; 5 for spelling, word choice, grammar, and MLA documentation.)  Have fun with this; you’ve got lots to talk about.


~ by Ms. Cox on April 13, 2012.

31 Responses to “Hamlet Article Response”

  1. The reason that appeals to me the most about why Hamlet has such a delay in carrying out his revenge for his father is simply the fact that he is too good, too sensitive, too finely attuned to the difficulties of life and too philosophically speculative to proceed. I find this reason most appealing since, s reading, it is how I believe Hamlet is portrayed. Hamlet continuously gives moody poetical reflections of the meaning of life, and seems to spend a great deal of time by himself reflecting on things. This is shown best when Hamlet is thinking to himself “To be, or not to be? That is the question-/ Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer/ The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,/ Or t take arms against a sea of troubles,/ And by opposing, end them?” (III.i.57-61). This speech is Hamlet debating the meaning of life and whether he should act or not. Hamlet can not act unless he has a philosophical debate with himself. When Hamlet Sr. first tells Hamlet what had happened Hamlet decides of course he will revenge his father’s murder. When Hamlet leaves the shocking setting though he takes time to stop and think. Now he is not so sure as to what he will do. Hamlet does not take immediate action, he delays for so long, because he is actually incapable of simply jumping to what needs to be done. Hamlet drags everything out for so long because he needs to internally decide what he should do externally. Hamlet is not like his father, who was all about war and action. Hamlet would like to be the man of action, but the reality of it is that he cannot be. In Johnston’s article it is said that “Shakespeare meant to represent the effects of great action laid upon a soul unfit for the performance of it. Impossibilities have been required of him; not in themselves impossibilities, but such for him” (Johnston 5). At the beginning of the book Fortinbras is preparing to take back Denmark for his father. Fortinbras needs to revenge his father and he jumps right to making it happen. The revenge in the play is not impossible, it is just Hamlet’s revenge is impossible for him. Hamlet’s delay is the result of a lovely, pure, noble and moral nature. It is not Hamlet’s fault he delays for so long, he simply needs to get his thoughts in order before he can act.

  2. The method that is most appealing to me, that Johnston’s article highlights is convention. In the article it says:

    The delay is simply a convention, something we are not suppose to be hung up on, because if there’s no delay, there’s no play (obviously the carrying out of the revenge is going to be the final action of the story, so if that occurs very quickly, the play will last only a few minutes).(Johnston 3)

    This statement makes sense because there has to be suspense leading up to the actual deed. Without pressure and many obstacles leading up to the murder of Claudius the act doesn’t seem as climactic. During the play Hamlet does not go forth with the deed until the very end where everything falls together at once. He is presented with many opportunities to avenge his father. For example, during the Gravedigger scene Hamlet says in his soliloquy:

    Now might I do in pat, now he is praying; and now I’ll do’t: and so he goes to heaven: and so am I revenged. That would be scann’d: a villain kills my father; and, for that I, his sole son, do the same villain send to heaven (3.iii.74-79)

    This quotation shows that Hamlet is delaying the kill because he doesn’t want Claudius to be forgiven for his act of betrayal and go to heaven. Throughout the play we are able to tell what Hamlets motives and thoughts are through his soliloquies. This provides us with detailed emotions and why Hamlet continues to delay the deed. Hamlets soliloquies act as a convention to delay and add more drama to the play. This method of delay is very effective because it makes the play more suspenseful and the ending acts more dramatized. By using the method of convention it captures the audiences attention and furthers the plot, as well as adding a dramatic effect to the work.

  3. This article suggests several reasons as to why Hamlet delays his revenge on Claudius such as the external obstacles he must overcome, and that “Hamlet is a coward and that his delay is a manifestation of his fear of getting hurt” (Johnston 4). The reason that to me stood out the most was that “he cannot kill Claudius because of his relationship with his mother” (Johnston 7). Ian Johnston writes that “he has a classical Oedipus Complex: he is incapable of killing the man who sleeps with his mother because that would mean that he would have to admit to himself his own feelings about her” (Johnston 7). I feel as though Hamlet is jealous of his uncle/step-father, Claudius, because he has carried out Hamlet’s unconscious wish to kill his father and marry his mother. This is shown when Hamlet says, “She married. O most wicked speed, to post With such dexterity to incestuous sheets! It is not nor it cannot come to good, But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue” (i.ii156-159). Here hamlet is saying that his mother jumped into a bed of incestuous sheets because she married the brother of her deceased husband. He then says he must hold his tongue and not show is real feelings. His real feelings could be that he feels love for his mother in the same way his father did.

  4. The reason why Hamlet delays his revenge in Johnston’s article that appeals most to me is that it is all a convention. I feel as though there is no real reason why Hamlet delays his revenge. I think it is only a convention that has to be there for the play to even exist. In the play Hamlet does take a while to get his revenge in killing Claudius and has many opportunities to do so but never does. Hamlet had a perfect chance to kill Claudius when he was praying, “Now might I do it pat. Now he is a-praying. And now I’ll do ’t. And so he goes to heaven. And so am I revenged” (III.iii.74-76). Hamlet than decides not to kill Claudius while he is praying because he wants him to be murdered the way his father was; unable to confess his sins. I think it is a convention that he waits so long to get revenge because if Hamlet got his revenge at that moment when Claudius was praying the main story line to the play would be over and the play would end. I think they have to drag out the revenge to give depth and content to the play. In Johnston’s article it says, “Others maintain that, as in many conventional revenge dramas, Hamlet has external obstacles to overcome in order to carry out the revenge” (Johnston 3). I do not believe Hamlet had any external obstacles to overcome throughout the play. He could have gotten revenge at any time and had nothing in the way of him doing so. The delay in Hamlet’s revenge is a convention to make the play exist and not just end abruptly.

  5. Question: What do you think?

    Language is the main structural element that constitutes the classic revenge play Hamlet. Composed of a number of soliloquies and various dialogues between characters – Hamlet is a play of talking. The problem with language is that it can very ambiguous, and so a number of questions arise from the text. The most problematic question that Hamlet presents is: why does Hamlet delay his revenge so long as opposed to simply carrying out the act? Hamlet himself struggles to answer this question with the passage of time.

    Scholars have presented a number of reasons for Hamlet’s delay ranging from silly to traditional. Initially the most logical argument appears to be that Hamlet is too good for the world. People argue that because Hamlet is a scholar, he must weigh every decision carefully. This explanation, however, does not consider Hamlet’s fast action when killing Polonius. If he indeed is too good for the world, he would look behind the curtain to ensure it was Claudius before taking action.

    One particularly thoughtful explanation comes from Ernest Jones who says that it is this particular task that Hamlet is incapable of fulfilling. This argument is more logical than many – for it considers the fact that Hamlet has made quick decisions and taken actions at other points in time including killing Polonius. Jones expands his point by presenting an argument as to why Hamlet cannot carry out this particular task:

    “He has (now wait for it) a classical Oedipus Complex: he is incapable of killing the man who sleeps with his mother because that would mean that he would have to admit to himself his own feelings about her, something which overwhelms and disgusts him.” (Jones 7)

    Although initially this argument does support the fact that Hamlet cannot carry out this particular task, it does not consider the contrasting ways in which Oedipus and Hamlet act (or the lack thereof). When Oedipus discovers that he has married his mother, he rips out his eyes in horror. His action is spontaneous and lacks deep contemplation. If Hamlet was subconsciously attracted to his mother, the reader would expect the reaction to be similar. Hamlet, however, delays his action; therefore, it is incorrect to compare Oedipus and Hamlet.

    A more logical argument as to why Hamlet cannot carry out this particular action comes from one of the main themes of the play – family relationships. This theme is first seen when the ghost says to Hamlet, “If thou didst ever thy dear father love” (I.V.23). In this quotation Hamlet Sr. asks his son to help him by using the classic parent phrase – if you love me. Hamlet’s loving relationship with his father may also be found with his mother; therefore, his delay may be because of his motherly love towards Gertrude.

    The ghost instructs Hamlet to leave Gertrude be when he says, “Against thy mother aught; leave her to heaven / and to those thorns that in her bosom lodge / To prick and sting her” (I. V. 87-89). This instruction may be what is delaying Hamlet’s revenge. Killing Claudius would mean Gertrude would no longer have a lover or the riches of the kingdom. It is possible that similar to the reader, Hamlet is unsure of Gertrude’s role and knowledge in the killing of Hamlet Senior. As a result, Hamlet struggles with deciding whether or not Gertrude is to blame for killing Hamlet Senior, how much she will suffer from Claudius’ death, and his motherly love towards her.

  6. *(Johnston 7)

  7. Ian Johnston goes over many ideas as to why Hamlet delays killing Claudius. The ideas range from very silly to reasonable, but the one that appeals to me the most is, “the idea that he is just too weak willed to make the decision to undertake the revenge” (Johnston 6). Hamlet is very indecisive which is why he delays carrying out the deed. In his attempt to find out whether or not the ghost was speaking the truth he puts Claudius under a trial: “Observe mine uncle: if his occulted guilt/ Do not unkennel in one speech/ it is a damned ghost we have seen” (III, ii, 79-81). However, even after Hamlet finds out Claudius did in fact commit the murder, Hamlet still doesn’t kill him. This shows that Hamlet is too weak willed to kill his father’s murderer. Also, when examining the play one realizes that Hamlet is a complete contrast of Laertes. Both characters have lost a father to a murderer, but Laertes is able to immediately confront Claudius about it. This is because Laertes is more direct. He demonstrates this in act I, scene iii, when he tells Ophelia what he thinks about her relationship with Hamlet, regardless of how Ophelia would feel. While Hamlet tells people how he feels in such a round-about way. He shows this in the closet scene with Gertrude, when he starts hinting at the fact that Claudius killed her husband. This shows that Hamlet is too weak to go through with the act because he doesn’t have the strength to face Claudius head on.
    Hamlet’s weak will would also explain why he is so easily manifested by rage and madness. The pressure to defeat his uncle could have been too much for him to handle, which consumes his sense of judgment. While speaking to Gertrude, Hamlet kills Polonius; “How now! a rat? Dead, for a ducat, Dead! …Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!” (III, iv, 25-33). He kills Polonius without actually finding out whether or not it was Claudius. Hamlet also doesn’t show any feeling of regret, or think about the ways it would affect Laertes and Ophelia. In turn, Hamlet ends up causing himself more problems than he needs.

  8. To me, the most compelling reason why Hamlet delays in his revenge is the one which argues that Hamlet is “too finely attuned to a [the] difficulties of life, [or] too philosophically speculative” (Johnston 4). He has several monologues about the value and worth of his own life, usually with a negative outlook. Johnston points out that Hamlet also spends much of his time reading books while wandering the castle, which further supports the perception of Hamlet as an intellectual.
    Conversely, Johnston also reminds us of the many instances when Hamlet does not behave as an intellectual: “He is very gifted at dissembling, at playing the Machiavelli-like figure. … In addition, there is a violent streak in Hamlet” (Johnston 6). The very clear evidence for this can be found in events such as the guiltless murder of Polonius or the reckless duel with Laertes. Thus we have a dilemma: how can Hamlet be so philosophically inclined and yet be so impulsively violent. I would argue that the simplest resolution to such a dilemma is the most correct: that Hamlet is insane, though only subtly so.
    I believe that Hamlet’s mind has cracked under the pressure of events. Hamlet’s life is abruptly overturned by the death of his father, and his subsequent reappearance as a vengeful ghost. Hamlet tried to cope by internalizing and pondering everything that has happened, as in the first monologue of Act 1, scene 2: Hamlet clearly says that he must keep his ruminations to himself. Unfortunately, such a process is intrinsically flawed when trying to deal with emotions, for the emotional is fundamentally divided from the rational. To rationalize emotions, one must in effect change the very definition of rationality itself, and thus what may seem irrational to an observer seems in fact completely rational to the instigator. The latter is then perceived as insane, because the world can no longer follow his chain of logic. As an insane person, Hamlet’s actions need no longer be logically explained; his actions escape the conventional logic we would apply to them.
    This sort of explanation for a person’s behaviour strongly appeals to me because it is logical and simple, yet simultaneously convoluted enough to describe the intricacies of a human being. Additionally, I also feel that I can emphasize with the issue of over-rationalizing that Hamlet is undergoing. Most importantly, I like this explanation of Hamlet because I perceive it as a reflection of my self in many ways.

  9. I found the Introductory Lecture on Shakespeare’s Hamlet to be intriguing and insightful. I’ve been wondering why Hamlet has been taking so long to carry out his act of revenge over the course of the play, and this article gave great insight into the possible reasons for his delay. So far in the play, there have times where it would have been easy for Hamlet to get revenge, for example, in Act 3 when Claudius is praying for forgiveness. In a blink of an eye, Hamlet could of killed Claudius. He had the chance to, but chose against it when he sees Claudius praying and realizes that he would be “fit and season’d for his passage”(3.3 87), meaning that because of Claudius’ praying, he was more likely “fit” to go to heaven than hell. He decides that there is a better time to fulfill the act; “when he is drunk asleep, or in his rage, or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed,” (3.3 90-91). Hamlet’s decision makes me think. If he really wants revenge, why can’t he just go for it and get it over with? Out of all the reasons given in Johnston’s article as to why Hamlet has trouble in carrying out his revenge, I think the reason of Hamlet being “too good for this world” appeals to me most. Hamlet is a student who is driven to learn. He is curious about life and is constantly questioning the nature of human beings. As Johnston mentions in the article, Hamlet talks about how he “dislikes the dishonesty of the world, the hypocrisy of politics and sexuality and so on.” Johnston goes on to suggest that Hamlet is possibly too “sensitive” and “idealistic” to kill. I think this reason appeals to me the most because I believe that it’s the most reasonable and realistic when compared to other reasons such as, “Hamlet is really a woman raised as a man,” or, “Hamlet cannot kill Claudius because of his relationship with his mother.” I believe that Hamlet is a very complicated character, and you can tell in his actions and through the way he speaks that there is a lot going on in his head. Maybe he is having trouble understanding himself. Overall, I think the fact that Hamlet is such a mystery is what makes him such an interesting and complex character. It gives him substance. Sure, it would be nice to be given a straight answer as to why Hamlet acts the way he does, but at the same time, wouldn’t that ruin the wonder?

  10. In Ian Johnston’s lecture notes, he briefly mentions a character by the name of Pat, who resides inside Hamlet’s imagination. Even Johnston thinks that Pat is an outlandish concept, yet proof can be interpreted from the play. The existence of Pat would explain the anguish shown by Hamlet in his delay to act.
    The imaginary friend is produced when people experience adversity in their lives, such as loneliness and powerlessness. Hamlet in the beginning of the play has his best friend away in Wittenberg and his noble transcendence surpassed by Claudius. With the colourful imagery in his speech, Hamlet has shown that he possesses the imaginative capacities as well as motives to maintain a relationship with his fictitious companion. The ambiguity of Hamlet’s age also nullifies the argument that imaginary friends are uncommon amongst adults.
    There is much evidence that supports the existence of Pat. Hamlet mentions his name twice in the play, once in act I sc. V when he swears upon his name, and again in act III sc. III when he decides not to kill Claudius. Further evidence of Pat is found in Hamlet’s soliloquy: “Am I a coward?/Who calls me villain? Breaks my pate across?” (2.2.567-68). Hamlet is unaccompanied during his speech, yet he chooses to ask many questions, which implies the presence of another being.
    If Pat did exist, his presence would justify Hamlet‘s anguish in his hesitation to kill Claudius. When Hamlet swears vengeance in act I sc. V, Pat would have been the only witness. Hamlet’s famous line “I could be bounded in a nut-shell…were it not that I have bad dreams.”(2.2.254-56) would be referring to Pat holding him to his oath. Hamlet could also be using Pat to justify his actions. The ambiguous line: “I loved you not.”(3.1.116) would have another meaning. Hamlet could be stressing the word “I”, implying that it was Pat who forced the relationship. Should Hamlet act and kill Claudius, it is likely that he will put the blame on Pat using the classic “he made me do it” tactic.
    Although probably the most unlikely scenario mentioned in Johnston’s lecture, the presence of Pat cannot be disproved as there is no factual evidence against it. Therefore, the idea must be explored as a possibility. Pat’s existence is appealing to me because the only evidence is in a misinterpreted word, yet that word could change entirely the way I view Hamlet as a character.

  11. Hamlet is a play about the struggle for revenge. Hamlet promises to avenge his father’s murder by slaying the man responsible for his death. When the ghost appears to Hamlet he does not question the validity of the ghost, but rather jumps at the opportunity to follow it’s orders. Hamlet is a philosopher, so it is natural for him to think before he acts. He takes time to create a thoughtful plan to murder Claudius. That is understandable; however, Hamlet does not just take his time he delays the actual action time and time again. There are many theories proposed by Ian Johnston as to why Hamlet prolonged killing Claudius. I believe that of those theories the most likely is that Hamlet is struggling with some internal, psychological problems. Given the fact that Hamlet has a relationship with Claudius and that he is now his step-son Hamlet should have been able to request an audience with him during which he could have acted. He did not lack opportunity, and could have created them if need be. He is a man that is educated and thinks very poorly on the people of Denmark, as well as himself, “I do not set my life for a pin’s fee” (i.iv.65). He is mentally conflicted about how to act in this situation. He has undergone many conflicts and changes over the past two months. He feels betrayed by his mother yet does not want to harm her and by killing her new husband he may fear he will cause her more pain. On the other hand by not acting he will be disobeying his father who he loves and who he wants to please, yet that will come at the price of another family member’s life. Even though Hamlet despises his uncle he is still a religious man and he is struggling with the thought of committing such a sin. He also questions who he can trust and what to believe. As a scholar the unknown is something to fear and he has no one to confide in and he feels he cannot figure out his problem logically, “breaking down the pales and forts of reason” (i.iv.29). He does not trust his friends and questions their intentions, “there is a kind of confession in your looks which your modesties have not craft enough to colour: I know the good king and queen have sent for you.” (ii.ii.279-281). The internal problems of murdering him uncle, hurting his mother, betraying his family and father, the distrust of his comrades, problems with Ophelia and the religious aspects that come along with it all play a factor as to why Hamlet delays.

  12. Although Johnston gives us many different reasons as to why Hamlet delays murdering Claudius, the most plausible excuse is that Hamlet is not delaying the murder; he is simply waiting *until “he can conveniently do so” (Johnston 3).
    There are many examples given to support that Hamlet is extremely gifted. In scene IV, act 2, Hamlet’s intelligence is proven when he toys with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet shows his brilliance when he compares Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to a sponge saying, “Ay, Sir; that soaks up the king’s countenance, his rewards, his authorities…when he needs what you have gleaned, it is but squeezing you, and, sponge, you shall be dry again” (IV.ii.16-22). By proving the intelligence of Hamlet, it shows that Hamlet would not just take the first chance he can get to kill his uncle. Hamlet is very thoughtful and would wait for the perfect opportunity before he strikes. That is why it appears that Hamlet keeps putting the murder off, even though that is not the case.
    We see Hamlet happen upon an almost perfect opportunity when he comes across Claudius praying on his knees by himself. This can be looked upon as a good opportunity because Claudius would have no idea what is about to come. What makes it even better is the fact that they are alone. Before Hamlet decides to act, he realizes that Claudius is praying. If Hamlet were to kill Claudius right then, Claudius would go to Heaven as opposed to Hell because he got a chance to have his sins forgiven. Hamlet does not want his uncle to be able to go to Heaven, especially when his father was not given the chance. Hamlet calls it off and says, “Up, sword; and know thou a more horrid hent: when he is drunk asleep, or in his rage, or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed, at gaming, swearing, or about some act that has no relish of salvation in’t: then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven and that his soul may be as damn’d and black as hell, whereto it goes” (III.iii.89-96).
    This shows us just how much thought Hamlet is putting into his father’s revenge. Even when he is given a perfect opportunity to get revenge for Hamlet Sr., he holds back because in the end his uncle’s sins would be forgiven when his father was not that lucky.

  13. 1) What do you think?

    Hamlet’s character is very complex and difficult to understand because the audience never knows when he is being himself, when he is pretending to be mad, or if he really is mad. He is introduced in the second scene of the play wearing all black clothing and mourning the loss of his father. His father’s ghost asks him to avenge his foul murder, and Hamlet delays this action for the duration of the play. Johnston’s article presents eight possible reasons that the murder of Claudius was stretched out. Johnston tries to choose one main reason for why Hamlet delays murdering his uncle for so long; however, the delay cannot be pinned on one particular reason. Hamlet’s procrastination of the murder is a result of his doubts on the ghost’s existence, his desire to plan out the murder, and his sensitive and poetical nature.

    Hamlet speaks to his father’s ghost and “entertains absolutely no doubts about the ghost’s honesty when he first encounters it, and the idea of testing it…pops into his head when he is wrestling with his own failure to carry out the deed” (Johnston 6). This statement by Johnston is true because the idea does pop into Hamlet’s head when he feels like a failure. Hamlet wants to verify the ghost’s existence at this time because he does not want to become an even bigger failure by killing someone who may be innocent. Hamlet wants to be absolutely certain that killing Claudius is a good idea.

    The guards at the castle believe that Hamlet should not follow the ghost because they do not trust it. Horatio conveys his fears to Hamlet when he says, “What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord/ or to the dreadful summit of the cliff/ that beetles o’er his base into the sea/ and there assembles some other horrible form” (1.4. 69-72). Although Hamlet trusts the ghost at this time, the guards’ opinions sway his thoughts and he starts to think that the ghost may be fake or lying. He questions his swift trust of the ghost and analyzes the situation further. His contemplation contrasts the character of Oedipus Rex who acted quickly to find out the truth about his birth. Hamlet’s analysis of the ghost’s loyalty portrays him as an intelligent man who weighs out all of his options before acting rashly. If he had been a rash decision maker, Claudius would have already be dead.

    Unlike Oedipus Rex, Hamlet plans out his actions and analyzes his decisions like a scholar. After his encounter with the ghost, he plans to act crazy, he voices his intentions to Horatio when he states, “I perchance hereafter shall think meet/ to put an antic disposition on” (1.5. 172-173). The next part of Hamlet’s plan is to verify the information that he received from the ghost which he does by asking the Players to perform the Murder of Gonzago. Hamlet adds text to the play portraying Hamlet Senior’s death as he was told it occurred by the ghost.

    Hamlet is a student who is poetic and sensitive. In order to ensure that murdering Claudius is the right thing to do, Hamlet plans out his actions, stops to doubt himself and verifies what he knows before acting.

  14. In his Introductory Lecture on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ian Johnson puts forward eight possible reasons for Hamlet’s delay in taking revenge on Claudius. However, I only have 400 words, so since quite a few of these excuses are discredited in the article, I’m going to focus on those arguments that most interest me.
    First: the issue of madness. That Hamlet’s mad is, I concede, quite possible, and might be what’s holding him back, but surely we’ve moved on from the medieval way of separating the sane from the insane so crudely and definitely (I think the many new categories and subcategories of mental illness – ADD, borderline personality disorder, and bipolar disorder – attest to this fact). Sanity and insanity, as far as I can tell, are the layers of predilections, peccadilloes, propensities, afflictions, perversions, and genetic markers that make up our characters and anyone, sane or otherwise, is capable of killing another person, given the right circumstances. So it’s hardly fair to treat characters in fiction as being one of two possibilities, sane or insane, especially where it concerns action vs. inaction.
    Which leads me neatly to the subject of Hamlet’s character. I most firmly hold that Hamlet is not “too good for this world” (Johnson 4). As the article pointed out, he goes ahead and kills Polonius and then a slew of other people in the following scenes, so this view of a poetical, sensitive, angel is absolute tosh. Furthermore, his treatment of Ophelia – pushing her and verbally abusing her at every turn – should be proof enough that violence is not something he’ll shy away from, if the odds are in his favour.
    That he’s too philosophical and over-thinks the whole life/death fandango doesn’t convince me either; he’s philosophical, yes, but his views on life and death are already decided by Act I and stay consistent throughout the play. Both in his first meeting with the ghost (when he says to Horatio: “And for my soul, what can it do to that, / Being a thing immoral as itself?” (I.iv.66-67)) and his run-in with Claudius just prior to the closet scene (where he hestitates in killing Polonius, saying: “And am I then revenged, / To take him in the purging of his soul, / When he is fit and season’d for his passage?” (III.iii.85-87)) confirm that Hamlet believes in the Christian ideas of purgatory, Heaven, and Hell as well as all the reasons for visiting these places, so uncertainty in this area can’t be what’s holding him back.
    That he’s unsure of the ghost’s provenance I disprove thusly: if this doubt is the only thing keeping Hamlet from acting, surely he would at least attempt to suss out the ghost’s motivations/intentions, which is at least action of some sort, a step forward. But total inaction in matters concerning his father’s revenge indicates that “there’s something about this particular task [killing his stepfather] which makes it impossible for Hamlet to carry it out,” bringing up the matter of Hamlet’s feelings for his mother (Johnson 7). I personally can find no flaw with the Oedipus Complex idea as it fits the facts quite nicely and also Shakespeare’s plays are hardly chaste or innocent, not to mention Hamlet has undeniable issues with women, especially where matters of sexuality and sexual activity are concerned.
    As far as this article is concerned, this last argument is the most plausible. I’m not entirely convinced, of course, and don’t think I’ll ever come to a definite conclusion where this play is concerned, but there it is.

  15. The reason that appeals to me most on Johnston’s article is the theory that Hamlet is too good, and too philosophically speculative. I believe that this could be one of the main factors for Hamlet’s delay. Throughout the play we see that Hamlet usually refuses to act on anything unless he has a philosophical battle with himself. The problem with this debate is that Hamlet seems to have a lot of inconsistencies. Hamlet has these “battles” with himself for most of the play but when he is with his mother he stabs Polonius without thinking about it. “To be, or not to be: that is the question:” (III. i. 57). This is Hamlet’s most famous philosophical battle; he is contemplating and action and no action, and life and death. This is a very good example of him fighting with himself over whether he should or shouldn’t avenge his father. Hamlet isn’t a man of action, he is a philosopher. As was said in Johnston’s article both Fortinbras and Laertes spring right into action to try to take revenge. I think this is Shakespeare’s way of really showing us that Hamlet is more of a thinker than a doer. He is showing that would be relatively easy for Hamlet to take his revenge on Claudius. This concept is shown again when Hamlet has a very good opportunity to kill the king when he is “praying”. Hamlet is a student and is very unlike his war hero father. I believe that he struggles with really knowing who he is and that is why he delays. He wants to act and kill Claudius like his father would but he isn’t that kind of person. It is impossible for Hamlet to act as long as he is having this internal war with himself. I think war is the right term; this is a military play and Hamlet’s own internal struggle goes along with this well. Hamlet is well aware of the fact that he is delaying but he has no idea why. “Hamlet himself agonizes over his inability to carry out the deed and is constantly searching for reasons why he is behaving the way he is.” (Johnston 6). If he knew who he really was I believe that it would be quite easy for him to say that he won’t kill the king or to go through with it. Hamlet is philosophical and is inherently good in my opinion; he is not a great warrior like his father was and I believe that is the dilemma. To be or not to be could also be a reference to this; Hamlet could be debating whether he should be like his father or just be himself. When the ghost first comes to him Hamlet doesn’t doubt anything and says right away that he will kill the king. But a long time passes after that, this is because he wanted to impress his father but realizes later that it isn’t who he is.
    Kyle Hemphill

  16. The reason why Hamlet delays his revenge which most appeals to me is the possibility that “he’s not sure whether or not the ghost is from heaven or hell” (Johnson 6). The reason this theory is most appealing to me is that it makes the most sense. Hamlet is delaying his revenge because he questions that the ghost “May be the devil and… abuses me to damn me” (ii.ii 573-577) and that it is not truly his father asking for revenge, but rather the devil trying to curse him. He may also question if the ghost even exists or not. While at first he is convinced of the reality of the spirit, when his mother does not see the ghost and asks “how is it with you, that you do bend your eye on vacancy” (iii.iv 114-115) he may question if the ghost of his father could just be his imagination. Hamlet devises the plan to reenact the supposed murder told by the ghost in the form of a play to see if Claudius reacts to it. Once Hamlet observes Claudius’ dramatic reaction he then confirms that at least the ghost’s story is true and that it is likely not the devil tricking him. Shortly after this scene Hamlet is finally beginning to act. He almost kills Claudius at prayer but realizes that his revenge would not be properly fulfilled if he killed him then, “this same villain send to heaven. O, this is hire and salary, not revenge” (iii.iii 77-79). Hamlet then continues to act when he quickly kills Polonius behind the curtain believing that it was Claudius. These actions show that Hamlet is finally doing what the ghost of his father asks him to do. Another less significant but still relevant example is when the ghost appears after Polonius’ death and asks Hamlet merely to speak to his mother. Although he responds somewhat awkwardly with “How is it with you, lady?” (iii.iv 113) he immediately listens and acts upon what the ghost tells him. Therefore the delay of the murder is a “necessary part of the revenge plan” (Johnson 6) because Hamlet must first verify if the ghost is sincere and then must exact his revenge in such a way that will make Claudius suffer just as his father did. This theory makes the most sense to me out of all of Johnson’s proposed reasons for Hamlet’s delay.

  17. Option 1) What do I think?

    One question must be answered before the validity of these lecture notes can be determined, what are they evaluating? The answer to that question is a play. Plays are written for the entertainment value, not for the interpretations that are taking place four hundred years later. The majority of the reasons behind the structure of this play are being over thought. Though they could all be valid in one small way or another, they are also all interpretations that have been placed upon the play after it was written. The only argument mentioned in Johnston’s lecture notes that Shakespeare likely had in mind when he was making the script was that there had to be some suspence and length to this play, so the revenge could not take place immedeatly. Though Johnston talked about this he went on to say “The delay is simply a convention, something we are not suppose to be hung up on, because if there’s no delay, there’s no play (obviously the carrying out of the revenge is going to be the final action of the story, so if that occurs very quickly, the play will last only a few minutes)”(Johnston 3). If this cannot be considered the reason why Shakespeare created a delay in Hamlet’s revenge on Cladius, neither can the others. The point of analyzing a piece of literature is to try and figure out what the author was thinking while writing. By coming up with all of these reasons for the delay, one is going past the thoughts of the writer, and is starting to treat this like an investigator in the murder of Cladius rather than entertainment. It is because of this that his lecture notes are merely an over analysis of a play. Hamlet being a fictional character did not have to think about the revenge the way the lecture notes make it seem he did. Throughout the play events take place that stop him from murdering Cladius such as when he found Cladius praying. “And am I then revenged, to take him in the purging of his soul, when he is fit and season’d for his passage? No”(III.iii.85-88). It was for reasons like these that Hamlet did not murder Cladius for such a long time; he simply did not feel like it was the right time. All in all this article is over looking the fact that this play was written as a form of entertainment, meaning that the events that transpire are to make the play more entertaining, not because of some inner feeling deep inside of Hamlet.

  18. Johnston’s Introductory Lecture on Shakespeare’s Hamlet delved into the complex mind of Hamlet. The article questioned Hamlet’s continual delay of Claudius’ murder. I thought that the questions asked seemed to be more than appeared on the surface. It was insightful and made me question topics that I would not have originally touched. Many of the questions Johnston asked cannot be answered easily, nor may there truly be a single answer.
    One idea that I thought was emphasized by Johnston was the parallel between Hamlet and life. Many of the reasons he discussed as to why Hamlet delayed the murder are comparable to the lives of people all around the world. He says that Hamlet’s “delay is simply a convention” (Johnston 3). This quote draws a similarity to some people in life who put on a show for everyone. They make life more interesting and exciting. In all, they are a convention themselves. Another idea for Hamlet’s delay is that he is simply a coward and that “his delay is a manifestation of his fear of getting hurt” (Johnston 4). The preceding quote shows a great similarity in many people today. So many are afraid of risk and adventure for they fear that they will be injured in some way or form. Throughout the article, Johnston discusses many more theories as to why Hamlet delayed the murder. Every single idea can be applied to people’s lives. This leads me to the idea that Hamlet symbolizes life. He is so complex and hard to understand as he is always questioning heavy topics. Yet he never reaches a solid answer to his problems. Just as life is complex and there are no real answers to the questions asked. Each quality that Johnston touched upon in Hamlet is found in the people all around us. Essentially, Hamlet is Shakespeare’s interpretation of life.
    In addition, I thought that the answer to Johnston’s question lies in not only Hamlet’s actions, but also Shakespeare. Hamlet is after all a play and to question a characters action is to question the author as well. He is a creation of Shakespeare and to know the true reason behind the delay is within the authors mind. As a result of this, it will never be known why Hamlet delayed the murder. However, I feel the closest possible answer is to look into the nature of the situation as Johnston does. The circumstance in which Hamlet is placed is a strange twist to the typical revenge story. Personally I do not think that there is anything wrong in Hamlet’s mindset, physical capabilities, or valor. The situation he is placed in is a difficult one, which is why he delays. People should not question his delay because murder should not be looked upon lightly. It is a horrific thing to be in control of another human’s life, particularly when that life is your stepfather’s.
    In sum, Johnston draws a perceptive analysis of Hamlet’s possible reasons for delaying Claudius’ murder. Each reason shows a strong similarity to the lives of people around the world. These characteristics that are thought to be found in Hamlet symbolize life. Furthermore, there will never be a concrete answer to Johnston’s question. Nor should there be a final answer. The endless possibilities as to why Hamlet delay’s the murder is part of why Hamlet is such a well liked play.

  19. The reason that most appeals to me is that the delay is just a convention. This makes sense because, although Hamlet seems afraid at times, there no real reason that Hamlet is delaying his revenge.
    “The delay is sinply a convention, something we are not suppose to be hung on, becasue if there’s no delay, there’s no play” (Johnston 3)
    This statement basically says that the delay is essentially just a filler for the play. This statement is saying that there needs to be something before the main event in order to grab the readers attention and keep the play suspenseful.
    Hamlet has countless opportunities to avenge his father but does not do so until the end.
    “Now might i do it pat, Now he is a-praying. And now I’ll do ’t. And so he goes to heaven. And so am I revenged” (III.iii.74-76). Hamlet has a good opportunity to kill Claudius while he uis praying but does’nt go through with it because he wants Claudius to die as his father did, without forgiveness for all of his sins. He doesn’t want Claudius going to heaven.
    I do no believe that Hmalet has any obsecticles that he needs to overcome before he can avenge his father, I believe that Hamlet’s hesitation and delay is simply for suspense.

  20. Johnston’s Introductory Lecture on Shakespeare’s Hamlet focuses on the many different reasons why Hamlet delays murdering Claudius for so long. I found this article very interesting to read. Johnston did a great job of staying unbiased. When presenting the more outlandish theories, such as Hamlet being a woman, he provides good evidence and does not rule out any one idea completely. Hamlet leaves much interpretation up to the audience, making way for endless possibilities as to why Hamlet takes such a long time to carry out the revenge. What we do know, as the article suggests, is that the delay is there for a reason. Hamlet getting revenge is the main purpose and final action of the play, so if there is no delay, the play would be very short and pointless. The theory that the delay is simply a convention is the only theory in the article that Johnston rules out. There is good reason for this. Hamlet expresses his discontent that he is delaying the revenge. After watching a speech delivered by one of the players Hamlet gives his second soliloquy. “O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!/ Is it not monstrous that this player here,/ But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,/ Could force his soul so to his own conceit / That from her working all his visage wann’d,/ Tears in his eyes, distraction in’s aspect,/ A broken voice, and his whole function suiting / With forms to his conceit? and all for nothing!” (2.2.545-552) Hamlet questions why an actor can bring himself to tears over a character that is not real, while he can’t bring himself to act for his very real father. All the other reasons had great proof, although some of the evidence was not clear to me, because I have not read the entire play yet. I quite enjoyed the idea of Hamlet having an imaginary friend named Pat. While I think it’s unlikely that was Shakespeare’s intention writing Hamlet, It’s entertaining and is a great explanation why Hamlet has so many soliloquies. I enjoyed the idea of the Oedipus Complex: that “he is incapable of killing the man who sleeps with his mother because that would mean that he would have to admit his own feeling about her.” (Johnston 7) This idea that Hamlet loves his mother is something I will keep in mind while finishing the rest of the play. Especially after watching the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet. I thought the article was well written, easy to understand, and unbiased. It gave me many theories I look forward to exploring while reading the rest of the play.

  21. The reason that appeals to me the most in Johnston’s argument about Hamlets delay in the murder of his uncle is the internal obstacles that Hamlet is facing.
    There is one point in the play where Hamlet has the perfect opportunity to kill Claudius, but decides not to because he is praying. My argument that goes with this decision is not that the problem for Hamlet killing him because he was praying but rather the fact that he is too perfect and scared of the effect it will have on himself, if he does kill Claudius. While Claudius is so called praying Hamlet walks in on him but what does not make sense is that Claudius is not really asking for forgiveness. He says “My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer can serve my turn ‘forgive me my foul murder?’ that cannot be since I am still possessed of those effects for which I did the murder. My crown, mine own ambition and my queen. May one be pardon’d and retain the offence” (3.3.52-57)? So if Claudius was not really praying then there should not have been a problem with Hamlet killing him, but instead he ran away and didn’t face the revenge when he had the opportunity, and because he didn’t use the opportunity that he was given this is why I believe that there are internally many more obstacles that we as readers at this point are not aware of.
    Also, Hamlets ability to speak so poetically to Ophelia, to say what she wants to hear, as her dad put it, “Do not believe his vows; for they are brokers, Not of that dye which their investments show, but mere implorators of unholy suits, breathing like sanctified and pious bonds, the better to beguile” (1.3.127-131). By saying this, Claudius is saying that Hamlet will tell you whatever he knows you want to hear, and will say it in such a way that you are convinced. Johnston’s argument is that one of Hamlets internal obstacles is that he is “too good for this world, he is too sensitive, too poetical, too finely attuned to a difficulties of life, too philosophically speculative or too finely poetical” (Johnston 4). Maybe the fact that he is so sensitive and poetic doesn’t give him the drive to murder the person he wants to murder.
    Johnston has many arguments, some good, some with good proof, and some not good. But I believe that his best argument is the internal obstacles that Hamlet is having to face.

  22. Hamlet: Why The Delay?

    The most appealing explanation as to why Hamlet delayed in his revenge is that he was waiting for an opportunity. In Hamlet’s first soliloquy, he sings his father’s praises, and demonstrates his admiration for the late king: “So excellent a king; that was to this, Hyperion to a satyr: so loving to my mother, That he might not beteem the winds of heaven Visit her face too roughly.” (1.2.139-142). Knowing that Hamlet held his murdered father in such high regard forces us to change the way that we evaluate the requirements of his revenge. Hamlet, being the immense intellectual that he is, as evidenced by his razor sharp wit and the planned complexity of his insanity, would not be satisfied by a quick, simple act of justice. While he may have had gratuitous opportunity to kill Claudius silently and cleanly, his own subconscious rejected the idea of the treasonous king getting off so easily. Hamlet himself is probably unaware of these subtle restrictions, and that is why his inability to act is causing him such grief. His intelligence forces him to try to analyze and justify his actions, and that leads him to create excuses, such as his mistrust of his father’s ghost and the religious dilemma of attacking Claudius after he has just confessed: “A villain kills my father; and, for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send To Heaven.” (3.3.77-79). While these obstacles are evidently contrived, Hamlet believes them to be real, and therefore believes that he must clear them from his path before he may continue. Thus, the process is lengthened and the revenge delayed even further. As Ian Johnston states in his Introductory Lecture, Hamlet can only kill Claudius when he knows he is going to die, and after his mother is already dead. At this point, Hamlet cannot continue waiting for an opportunity that will please his feelings of grandeur surrounding his father. He realizes that if he does not act at that moment, he will not be able to act at all, and his father’s murder will go not be revenged. So, the reason for Hamlet’s delay is the absence of an opportunity for revenge worthy of the memory of his father.

  23. With Ian Johnston’s introductory lecture notes on Hamlet and the possible reasons as to why Hamlet delays taking action in seeking revenge for his late father, I was really enlightened and interested in the many theories there were to explain the character of Hamlet and the actions, or lack of, he makes throughout the play. I had not really considered the delay itself prior to reading the lecture in that I had just thought Hamlet was delaying due to the lack of an opportune time to kill Claudius. But searching more in depth, and understanding as Johnston says, “…we are not going to arrive at anything like a firm consensus on what the play is about and how we should understand it” (Johnston 1), I found it intriguing to search all the several explanations there could be to the questions of Hamlet’s delay.
    One thing I particularly liked about the article was that Johnston did not disregard some of the sillier explanations. After all, no one really knows why Shakespeare decided to have such long delay in the play; therefore it is important to not completely cancel out any possibilities. Even while comparing some initial ideas such as “Hamlet is a coward and that his delay is a manifestation of his fear of getting hurt” (Johnston 4), to Hamlet being “too good for this world…too sensitive…too poetical…” (Johnston 4), the explanations can be linked through the same evidence found in the play. With the several excuses Hamlet uses to delay the killing such as Claudius praying and taking the time to confirm the ghost’s accusations through manipulation in the Mousetrap play, maybe Hamlet is a coward in that he needs to continuously find excuses before he can finally face his fear of killing Claudius. Perhaps Hamlet is just paranoid about the killing and questions whether the ghost is real or not, especially when his mother does not see it. His paranoia may have continued after the accidental killing of Polonius. The fear of failure in the execution of killing Claudius may be the reason for Hamlet’s excuses.

    Although those points connect rather well in the lecture, other explanations, such as a medical condition or the idea that he is actually in love with his mother, leave a lot to the imagination and take some serious research. I found it hard to consider these two specific explanations because I do not think that Shakespeare necessarily cheeped out on the play by giving Hamlet a medical condition, or implying that Hamlet has feelings for his mother. I found that there is more supportive evidence in the psychological reasoning and self-confliction that Hamlet may have that leads to the delay as opposed to a slight implication in the scene of Polonius’ death that he may be in love with his mother.

    Overall, the lecture was very interesting because it opened many possibilities to consider when analyzing Hamlet as a character and how the events of the play provide evidence to the reason why the revenge is delayed. All of Johnston’s points were both insightful and helpful in exploring Hamlet as a character.

  24. The reason for Hamlet’s delay that I find the most possible is his uncertainty of the authenticity of the ghost. It is entirely possible that the “ghost” in the play is in fact a devil that wishes to cause chaos for Hamet and the people of Denmark. While its objective may not be directly linked to killing Hamlet, it may be using him as a tool in its plot. In order to kill Claudius, Hamlet must first eliminate, to the best of his abilities, the possibility that the apparition was not, in fact, a demon or devil.

    The first time that he is told about the ghost, Hamlet is warned by Horatio that it might not be his father, but a devil, attempting to lure him to his death: “What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord/ Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff … And there assume some other horrible form” (Shakespeare 1.4.69-72). Initially, it seems as though this is not the case, for it tells the truth (to the extent of the knowledge of everyone in the play). It may, however, still be a devil, simply lying in wait for Hamlet to kill Claudius in an act of revenge, and plunge the country of Denmark into a panic. Hamlet considers this possibility, and thus attempts to find a flaw in the “ghost’s” story by throwing a play outlining the ghost’s recount of how Hamlet Sr. died. Finding no flaws in the ghost’s story, he is still hesitant, but does conspire to finally put an end to his Uncle.

    In the play, Polonius, who is a vital asset to the management of Denmark, is killed by Hamlet by accident while hiding behind an arras. If Hamlet were also to succeed in the murder of Claudius, the already crumbling government of Denmark would collapse, leaving it open to infestation from one of its enemy countries. Being at war with Norway, and with Norway’s troops inside of Denmark’s borders, it would be a simple thing for Fortinbras Jr. to seize the throne amidst the political turmoil of two recently dead kings and a prince who is quite possibly insane. While Hamlet may not have thought as thoroughly into the scenario, it is plausible that this was, in fact, the prime objective of the devil disguised as Hamlet Sr. in the very beginning of the play.

  25. Johnston explains many plausible reasons as to why Hamlet keeps himself from killing his uncle/stepfather, Claudius, at the beginning of the play – some more reasonable than others. One of the suggestions for his delay is due to the fact that Hamlet is “too sensitive and idealistic” (Johnston 5). This reason proposes that Hamlet’s delay may actually be a struggle. Hamlet being idealistic, understands that in order to get his full satisfaction in killing Claudius, he must do so at an appropriate time. Hamlet has the opportunity to kill his uncle when he sees him praying; however, Hamlet wants to kill Claudius the same way Claudius killed his father – without forgiveness for his sins. Hamlet does not want Claudius to die free of sins, or else it would be “hire and salary, not revenge” (III.iii.80), which would not be what the ghost wants. It is evident that Hamlet wants to avenge his father’s death, and make the spirit happy; however, it seems as though Hamlet does not want to kill Claudius, which demonstrates Hamlet struggling. He is thinking too much about how to take on this murder, instead of just acting. Hamlet might be considering the fact, even though he does approve, that Claudius is king and he has responsibilities, which he would be taking over. To be the king of Denmark is a big responsibility, which the young and emotional Hamlet might not be ready to take on. There is potential that he is concerned with who will take the throne, should he refuse. Will Hamlet decide to give up the throne in order to kill Claudius? Aside from Hamlet’s idealistic side, he also appears to be sensitive about the situation he is in. He might consider what will happen to his mother when she learns that her son killed her husband, or, as previously stated, he might consider what will happen to Denmark without the king. An unpopular opinion as to why Hamlet delays killing Claudius might be due to the fact that Hamlet simply enjoys seeing his father’s ghost. Hamlet does not listen to his friends when they tell him to not follow the ghost, but instead he tells them “it is an honest ghost” (I.V.139), which shows that Hamlet trusts it. Killing the present king does not even come to Hamlet’s mind until the ghost tells him to do so, and the only other time he sees this figure is when he is being reminded to avenge his father’s death. It is possible that Hamlet enjoys seeing the ghost, because it portrays his father. This idea might indicate that Hamlet is worried that once the deed is done, he will not see his father’s ghost anymore. Clearly Hamlet is not afraid to kill, as we see him do so to Polonius, so what other explanation can there be?

  26. Ian Johnston’s notes add a new perspective to not just Hamlet, but all of Shakespeare’s work. Johnston brings up the topic of how Shakespeare was a student when he wrote all of his plays and how that the student trait affects the characters that he makes. The main characters all have some trait that makes them greater then the commonwealth. Hamlet is a king, Macbeth becomes king etc. Johnston states that “he (Shakespeare) is a student and therefore by definition too good for this world” (Johnston, 5). That statement is for the most part true. As stated before Shakespeare’s characters all have some trait within them that make them more important then the average Joe.
    The interpretation that Hamlet has an Irish best friend named Pat and that Hamlet himself is also a women is an interesting point. As hard as that is to believe, it adds that depth to Shakespeare and it makes you ask yourself if what you have thought is really the truth. Although the lines don’t seem to say that “Pat” is Hamlets imaginary friend the first time you read the play, It could easily be interpreted that way if you single out that line like Johnston has.
    The way Johnston talks about Hamlets inability to commit his revenge is pretty accurate. Hamlet has many opportunities to kill Claudius. None however are more glorious then, as stated in Johnston’s notes, when Cladius is praying. Hamlet stands over Claudius while he is praying and says: ” O, this is hire and salary, not revenge.”. This part of the play is frustrating because it seems like Hamlet is coming up with reasons why he shouldn’t kill Claudius. As stated by Johnston, Hamlet always seems to have something that stops him from avenging his late father. Whether it’s a guilt issue or not knowing whether the ghost of Hamlet Sr. is from heaven or hell, there is always something there. Johnston takes not of this multiple times on page 6, taking about the flaws of Hamlet and how he always seems to talk himself out of doing what needs to be done.
    Overall I enjoyed reading Johnston’s notes. They added a new depth to Hamlet that I probably would not of been able to comprehend on my own. His notes made is plain the reasons why Hamlet cannot kill Claudius, but at the same time they make you choose a path that you believe through the story. Either Hamlet does not want to kill Claudius or there is something mentally/physically stopping him.

  27. This lecture is very interesting in that it is one of the most curious ways of presenting conclusions that I have ever come to experience. The lecture works off of several different angles of considering Hamlet’s delay with his revenge, presenting the points, then, surprisingly, attacking each one, so as to prove that there isn’t a single theory that is so perfect so as to explain away Hamlet’s clear inability to act. Or rather than attacking the theory, its clear opposite will be presented, with its own proofs to shows that it is just as valid. Working off of the opening statement, we can formulate our own opinion on Hamlet’s reasons (or rationalizations), which leads to one very open ended question: what one reason is there that perfectly explains why Hamlet delays his revenge? Indeed, it could be any one of those reasons given: from something as simple as saying “the delay exists for story purposes; to elongate the story so as to have something to work with,” to something as complicated as saying that Hamlet has an Oedipus complex (which, admittedly, makes for an intriguing theory, albeit a disturbing one, since it adds a whole new level of subtext into the play, something that can be searched for and examined). What I find very questionable is that some theories are eliminated simply because they make Hamlet less of an interesting character, ie. he has a medical reason for his madness, or the delay exists to create some story or drama. These lecturers, or researchers, absolutely seem to require an answer that satisfies THEM, rather than just the character Hamlet portrays, because they will consider the result boring otherwise. This is evidenced as shown in the following: “If he is clinically abnormal, then so far as I am concerned he is of little interest to me … to paste a convenient abnormal label over Hamlet is to explain nothing” (Johnston 4). Because of such a lack of open-mindedness, because of requiring a complicated answer where a simple one would serve our purposes just as well, this implies a bias in this lecture, which completely contradicts with what I discussed in my opening statements of presenting a set of theories and their arguments, then allowing our own minds to untangle a solution (or a set of questions) that is satisfactory to us. This lack of consistency interests me immensely because now we are moving in a slightly more linear train of thought towards a final point (or set of specific points), whereas we began with a very open-ended train of thought. The lecturer describes the lecture as introductory: “In this introductory lecture (and I stress the word introductory)” (Johnston 1), and so is supposed to simply present the topic, not to immediately impress which theories are and are not credible based on his own preference, because this limits the creativity the students might have taken advantage of in order to formulate yet more theories. So this is therefore an impressive lecture in its content, but extremely limiting in its method of eliminating theories that were deemed unsuitable simply because they didn’t impress the lecturer.

  28. Hamlet is a one of the greatest revenge plays of all time. Revenge is seen within many different characters such as Fortinbras, Ophelia, Laertes, and finally it is mainly seen in Hamlet for the duration of the entire play. In Johnston’s article an Introductory Lecture on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, he states eight different reasons to why Hamlet delays the revenge on Claudius, who is the man that killed his father. The theory that appeals to me the most out of the eight is that Hamlet struggles with internal problems that will not allow him to go through with the murder right away. Under that category Johnston states that: “Hamlet has great trouble in carrying out this revenge because he is too good for this world” (Johnston 4). The reasoning behind this is that Hamlet is “too sensitive, poetical, too finely attuned to a difficulties of life, and too philosophically speculative” (Johnston 4). Hamlet has had many of chances to kill Claudius during the entire play, but yet it seems to take him a while to finally get the revenge that he wanted. Where the hesitation is beginning to show is in act 3 scene 3. In this scene Hamlet has a huge debate with himself on if he should actually do it or not. Claudius is praying for forgiveness when Hamlet enters the scene, and starts off one of his soliloquies; “Now might I do it pat, now he is praying; \ And now I’ll do’t: and do he goes to heaven: \ And so am I revenged” (iii.iii.74-76). Hamlet does not want to give Claudius the satisfaction to have all of his sins forgiven when he dies. Hamlet believes that if his father never had the chance to ask for forgiveness for all of his sins before he died, then why should Claudius? Hamlet then states “When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage, \ Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed, \ At gaming, swearing, or about some act” (iii.iii.90-92). He has taken initiative and had decided when he would finally commit the crime. When Claudius was praying, Hamlet could have just killed him if he really wanted to do it. He is too smart and does not want Claudius to be at peace with what he has done when he passes; Hamlet would rather have him suffer. The different theories that say Hamlet is incapable of committing a murder are not very logical. This is because he had no problem killing Polonius when he thought that he was Claudius. For me the theory that Hamlet is too good for this world is the most logical. I believe that he really believes that he is too good for this world because of his intelligence. He is smart enough to wait for the right moment to kill Claudius, and to not give him the satisfaction of asking for forgiveness before he dies. No one will truly ever know the reason why there was a delay, but it is always nice to have a little bit of mystery in life.

  29. In his Introductory Lecture on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ian Johnston summarizes possible reasons, plausible and unlikely, for Hamlet’s delay in carrying out his revenge on Claudius, the King of Denmark. One plausible possibility Johnston did not discuss was the delay being a product of Hamlet’s self-seeking attitude and narrow perspective.

    It should be noted that Hamlet’s love and admiration for his father can be seen as an act to gain the court’s (and perhaps, his moral consciousness’) approval just as Johnston questions the validity of Hamlet’s reasons to delay his revenge: “you have to be prepared to sort out…whether what Hamlet says on the point is sincere or whether it is just one more excuse for delay” (6).

    In Act 1, Scene 5, Hamlet resolves to take revenge against Claudius. Soon afterward, he warns his friends that his insanity will be contrived: “As I perchance hereafter shall think meet/To put an antic disposition on” (173-174). He then uses his artificial madness to avoid the consequences of his sinful path to revenge. For example, he apologizes to Laertes for insulting him and murdering his father, Polonius: “Never Hamlet./If Hamlet from himself be ta’en away./And when he’s not himself does wrong Laertes./Then Hamlet does it not. Hamlet denies it” (V.ii.220-223).

    Hamlet’s verbal reasoning behind not killing Claudius usually cites selfish motives. Take Act 3, Scene 3, when Claudius is at prayer. Hamlet has a perfect opportunity to murder a defenseless Claudius; however, he decides to wait until he can derive satisfaction from sending the king to hell: “Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent./When he …/about some act/That has no relish of salvation in ’t—/Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,/And that his soul may be as damned and black/As hell, whereto it goes” (89-90, 93-96).

    While Johnston notes Hamlet is “quite capable of swift decisive action should the need arise” (5), he still procrastinates his revenge against Claudius. Only when Hamlet learns Claudius acted directly against him in the play’s last scene does he murder the king. Polonius, who spies on Hamlet’s conversation with Gertrude, and Hamlet’s good friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who betrayed Hamlet for Claudius, suffered much quicker fates (in scenes 3 and 4, respectively) because they directly acted against Hamlet much sooner than Claudius did.

    Through his decisions to feign insanity, his reasoning against killing Claudius and his murderous desire to take revenge for himself, the audience learns that Hamlet’s narrow perspective and selfishness cause the delay.

  30. There have been countless attempts to understand why Hamlet delays the act of murdering Claudius in his devoted revenge play, some of which are depicted in Ian Johnstons lecture analysis. However, only one seems a viable excuse for such restraint by a main character that tends to act on impulse, as opposed to thinking things through. When Shakespeare wrote this play, I doubt he intended it to be analysed by professors and theorists in our time period. He most likely intended it to be exciting and suspenseful, and to make him continually successful. A ‘great’ play in Shakespeares time could be up to five hours long, and one does not achieve that length in great suspense (on the part of the audience) without averting from the main event. This is considered the basis of any good Hollywood movie today, but for reasons unknown, Shakespeare does not assist the audience in breaking down just why Hamlet would procrastinate so. Not giving away main features or specifically exposing Hamlets logic as to why he might delay and event of such importance is exactly what draws the audience deeper into the depths of the play, thus explaining why it is still being examined by writers and professors today. Some professors will go to great lengths to attempt to define Shakespeares reasoning; “consider the idea that Hamlet is really a woman raised as a man. Her troubles stem from the fact that she is in love with Horatio” (Johnston 4). This is a relatively flimsy argument given one mildly distort line, one of many bloated ideas from people who lack the ability to accept that some things cannot be explained. It is also up for debate as to whether Hamlet is crazy or not, which also can be argued either way, for example, when he argues with Polonius; “You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I will more willingly part withal, except my life, except my life, except my life” (II,ii,214-216). This controversy is a little more conclusive however; Hamlet puts up an elusive barrier, which seems to confuse Polonius, Claudius, Gertrude, Ophelia and undoubtedly, the audience. This is another of the ways that Shakespeare leaves it to the audiences’ imagination; to derive ones own opinion on the matter. This general consensus is followed in many of Hamlets pieces but is most evident in this, the revenge play of Hamlet.

  31. I believe that Hamlet delays avenging his father’s death because of his distaste for life at court and his unwillingness to take up the throne. After having to deal emotionally with his father’s death and mother’s remarriage, Hamlet is then told by Claudius that he is not allowed to return to school in Wittenburg. When his father’s ghost tells Hamlet to avenge his death, Hamlet initially agrees to do so. However, Hamlet’s self-proclaimed melancholy comes to the fore as he slowly becomes disgusted by everyone but Horatio, including his mother and his former friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Life holds no meaning for him, as he tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: “What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty!…in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world!…And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?” (II.ii.303-08). Perhaps especially now that his father is dead, Hamlet sees no beauty or nobility in anyone. He is even disgusted with himself for failing to act, calling himself a coward for not acting and reminding himself (as well as the audience) of the worthiness of his cause: “But I am pigeon-liver’d, and lack gall/To make oppression bitter, or ere this/I should have fatted all the region kites/With this slave’s offal.” (II.ii.574-76). Hamlet then questions the ghost’s validity, possibly as an excuse to delay further, and comes up with his plan to determine Claudius’ guilt. As he has expressed earlier to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he has no desire for power or for the throne and so he grasps at straws, hoping that he will not have to kill Claudius and assume responsibility.
    In his famous “to be or not to be” soliloquy, while Hamlet seems to be talking about life and death, it can also be interpreted that he is talking about killing Claudius. Whenever he talks about suicide, Hamlet’s aim seems to be peace and escape, which is accurate for someone who’s being haunted literally and metaphorically. He comments that most people would rather “bear those ills we have/Than fly to others that we know not of” (III.i.82-83) and that “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,/And thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,/And enterprises of great pith and moment/With this regard their currents turn awry/And lose the name of action” (III.i.86-89). Such enterprises could include avenging his father’s murder; Hamlet could be referring to the fact that upon reflection, the consequences of killing Claudius (such as having to rule Denmark) could be worse than having to live with his then-current situation (his father’s murderer married to his mother). After the success of his play-within-a-play trap, Hamlet is forced to conclude that Claudius is guilty. However, Hamlet decides to properly avenge his father, in that instead of simply killing Claudius, he will wait until Claudius is busy sinning, “that his soul may be as damn’d and black/As hell, whereto it goes” (III.iii.94-95).
    Therefore, when Hamlet believes he catches Claudius spying on his conversation with Gertrude, Hamlet kills him. The fact that it’s actually Polonius is not important compared to the fact that Hamlet believed he was taking action and avenging his father. Hamlet’s hesitation up to that point is the most significant to me, as after this point we know Hamlet was prepared to murder his uncle/the king, despite his lack of ambition and desire to rule Denmark and deal with problems bigger than those in his head. I believe that the main reason for Hamlet’s hesitation was his growing distaste for court life; he didn’t want to live and try to lead in a place so corrupt that nobody cares when a person as noble as his father dies, where love and marriage are political, changeable and cheap, where nobody is trustworthy and where foreign powers are constant threats. Given all this, it’s fitting that despite his intention to kill the king earlier in the play (when he mistakes Polonius for the king), Hamlet only accomplishes the deed after being told that he is going to die as well.

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