Hamlet by William Shakespeare tells the story of Prince Hamlet who desires to avenge for the death of his father, whose throne was inherited by his uncle Claudius, who married the kings widow, Queen Gertrude. The ghost reveals to the man that Claudius is the murderer and urges him to act. The ghost pours oil on flames of Hamlets internal desire to revenge; however, the man is hesitant because of his thoughtful and contemplative nature and desire to understand the issues and prove the guilt of the suspect that drives him into deep sadness and apparent insanity.
The main external force that causes Hamlet to seek vengeance is his fathers ghost that comes to him and asks him to revenge for his murder. This external force appears first in the play when the ghost of Hamlets father is met by watchmen and later on by Horatio, a friend of the Prince. These people bring Hamlet to see the ghost (Frye 31). The ghost speaks to the man and ominously declares that it is the spirit of his father whose life was taken by Claudius. It tells Hamlet that the king was stung by a serpent while he was sleeping in his orchard and that the serpent that took away his life now wears his crown. A lot of details regarding the incident are revealed in the dialogue. Hamlet also gets to know that Denmark is corrupted by Claudius just like his wife Gertrude, whom he seduced. Hamlets father does not want the revenge to extend to the widow since she will be punished in her own way when the thorns in her bosom prick and sting her (Frye 33). While being the main catalyst of revenge, the ghost delays the Princes actions at the same time. The information that it provides requires a detailed investigation and contemplation that make the man hesitant.
Hamlet is pressed by a set of external conditions and circumstances that make his vengeance impossible. Claudius is a strong and shrewd king who is always surrounded by bodyguards and courtiers. It is not easy to pass all of them without being noticed and fulfill the plan. Hamlet does not want to fail; thus, he has to think it through carefully, and such preparations require time. Even if he had an opportunity, he would have to kill the king in the presence of many witnesses. It is almost impossible for Hamlet to get people to his side and make them support his reason for vengeance since it is not easy to convince them that the words of the ghost are true (Tobin 53). This fact discourages the man from getting revenge right away since he is almost sure that people would turn against him. Therefore, they only option is meeting his pray one on one.
Hamlet looks for the perfect occasion for his revenge. In Act III, Scene III, there is an opportunity to kill Claudius. However, Hamlet finds the king praying, and it makes him rethink his decision. He believes that if he kills the murderer at that moment, he will go straight to heaven since he could be praying for forgiveness. Such thoughts prevent Hamlet from committing the act (Tobin 39). He considers it is wise to wait for the right moment when Claudius is found committing an offense. He wants his uncle to suffer both on earth and in the afterlife world.
The main internal force that delays the revenge is the inner conflict that takes place in Hamlets conscience. The ghost asks him to kill the uncle, while his soul resists the murder; thus, Hamlet is torn between his moral duty and pang of conscience. The Prince demands justice; thus, without any solid proof that Claudius is guilty of the offense, he cannot act. First, he has to rely on the message from his fathers ghost. He has to fully trust and act on the basis of what his father tells him assuming that it is the truth. However, this reason is not enough for him to kill the new king. In the play, the Prince compares a man to a god (Shakespeare Act I Scene II). Thus, for him, the only right decision is to trust rather a man whom he can see than a ghost. In addition, he is not sure whether his father talks to him or whether it is someone else trying to play with his mind. Hamlet does not want to be deceived and suffer disappointment; he wants to check the information and be sure. In Act II Scene II, Hamlet assumes,
The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil, and the devil hath power
T’ assume a pleasing shape. Yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me. Ill have grounds
More relative than this. The plays the thing
Wherein Ill catch the conscience of the king (Shakespeare).
The ghost that talks to him can be his father, a demon, or any other spirit that wants vengeance on Claudius. Therefore, he arrives at the conclusion that he cannot act without a thorough investigation. He wants to kill the murderer but not to become the murderer of the innocent on his own.
The external force, the ghost of Hamlets father, takes the stage in various instances in the play in order to remind Hamlet of his duty and commitment he made. The thought of his father wanting him to seek vengeance has never left Hamlet since the moment of his death; thus, he designs ways to execute that act skillfully and successfully (Erlich 44).
One of the internal forces that caused Hamlet’s delay was the fact that he was afraid of the inner consequences that would befall him for committing such an offense. The act requires him to reevaluate his morals and judgments on what is right and wrong. Christianity was rife at the times, and seeking revenge went against the Christian teaching. On the one hand, he is a Christian; on the other hand, he has an obligation. At some point, he is so sad and frustrated that he even contemplates suicide (Frye 71). However, the knowing that such an act is a mortal sin makes him rethink his decision. In a similar manner, he delays his vengeance because he fears facing the consequences that would befall him in the world after death. Obviously, Hamlet is a very religious person and this fact is one of the reasons as to why he is hesitant in executing the revenge. In Act I, Scene II, Hamlet asserts,
Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God, God!
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world! (Shakespeare).
Thoughts of taking his own life always drive Hamlet into great sadness. Suicide for whatever reason is unacceptable since grief consequences are associated with this act. On the basis of the idea, one can confidently assume the man has a deep respect for humanity. Thus, he finds it difficult to do simply what the ghost commands since it is not easy to give up on what the Christian teaching has made him believe.
The Princess does not want to be controlled by his anger and sadness. Thus, he has to think over everything before executing his revenge. Hamlet is also afraid of what will happen to him if he dies right after committing the act of vengeance without the confession. In Act I Scene II, the man laments and assumes that conscience does make cowards of us all. Christian doctrine makes him hesitate and be afraid not for his family honor but the future of his soul,
Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of? (Shakespeare).
This passage proves that the Prince was afraid of what would befall him after his death if he executed the revenge. Thus, he delays his decision while trying to settle with own consciousness.
In the play, there are some internal and external forces that prevent Hamlet from executing his revenge on his uncle for the fathers death. Hamlet is a Christian, and he knows the consequences of going against the Sixth Commandment, Thou shalt not kill. Thus, he cannot simply go ahead and execute his fathers desires since he knows that there will be consequences that he will have to face in the world after death. Even when he gets an opportunity, he is still hesitant because of some external forces. He cannot kill Claudius at the moment he is praying since he does not want his soul to go to heaven. Hamlet believes that Claudius has to spend eternity with sinners. Additionally, it is not easy for him to kill Claudius in the absence of witnesses. Some people always are with the king. Since the Prince has no proof of the uncles sin except for the words of a ghost, he cannot perform a public revenge. Hamlet is torn between his moral duty and pang of conscience. The man desires justice and has both to investigate the issue and to settle with own hesitations.