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Titre : Indecision, Hesitation and Delay in Shakespeare's Hamlet

The question of why Hamlet delays in taking revenge on Claudius for so long has puzzled readers and audience members alike. Immediately following Hamlet's conversation with the Ghost, he seems determined to fulfill the Ghost's wishes and swears his companions to secrecy about what has occurred. The next appearance of Hamlet in the play reveals that he has not yet revenged his father's murder. In Scene two, act two, Hamlet gives a possible reason for his hesitation. With this doubt clouding his mind, Hamlet seems completely unable to act. This indecision is somewhat resolved in the form of the play. Hamlet comes up with the idea of the play that is similar to the events recounted by the ghost about his murder to prove Claudius guilty or innocent. Due to the king's reaction to the play, Hamlet attains the belief that the Ghost was telling the truth the night of the apparition.

In Hamlets mind, it is now his duty to avenge his father's murder. This is where the real problem of inaction enters the play. Later that night, Hamlet has a perfect opportunity to kill Claudius, when he sees the King kneeling in prayer. He wonders if this is the time to kill him and get it over with, but decides not to. He claims that he does not want Claudius to go to heaven, so he would rather kill him when he is committing a sin. If this is the case, then why doesn't he simply wait till Claudius has completed his prayer, accuse him of the murder and kill him in his sin of denial. Instead, Hamlet goes to the chamber of his mother and passes up his best opportunity at revenge. The argument can be made, however, that it is not a fear of killing that causes this inaction. He does not display an inability to end someone's life when killing Polonius. He neither hesitates nor capitulates in sending Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their executions. Why then would the prince of Denmark hesitate to kill the one man he most justly could? Hamlet is paralyzed by an interpersonal battle resulting from over evaluation of his situation. Every time he has an opportunity to act, he counteracts with a doubt or reason for inaction.
Only in this final tragic moment does he realize that he should not have waited so long. But by the time he comes to this realization, it is too late. His father is murdered, his mother lays dying, he is mortally wounded and all he can do is finish the tragic macabre parade of casualties. With all of his pent-up rage he takes his revenge on Claudius. It seems at this point, however, that it is no revenge at all, only the last tragic fruit of lifeless indecision.

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