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Hamlet: A Moral Man Essay

1133 words - 5 pages

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the titular hero and tragic figure of the play constantly finds himself unable to act on the Ghost’s instructions to take revenge on King Claudius despite the compelling reasons he realizes for doing so. The reason for this delay is Hamlet’s tragic flaw – his tendency towards thought and introspection rather than impulse and action. Because of this flaw, Hamlet is unable to ignore the moral aspects of his actions and “thereby becomes the creature of mere meditation, and [he] loses his natural power of action” (Coleridge, 343).
Hamlet is not a man of action; rather, he is a man of thought. Passion and extreme anger are simply not natural emotions for Hamlet, and ...view middle of the document...

This, ironically, is the last sign we see of action or passion from Hamlet for a great while; his promise to “sweep to revenge” falls flat before the scene ends, as he declares, “The time is out of joint. O cursed spite / that ever I was born to set things right” (1.5.210-1). Hamlet already feels weighed down by the burden that has been placed on him by the Ghost, and he regrets the fact that it is he who must act on the Ghost's command.
The Ghost’s appearance troubles Hamlet again in a different way at the end of Act Two, when Hamlet questions whether or not the apparition he has seen is really the ghost of his father. He believes that it is likely that what he saw was really an evil spirit trying to trick him into sinning, for, as he says, “the devil hath power / T’assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps…abuses me to damn me” (2.2.628-32). His concern is legitimate; however, it causes him to delay further due to his worries about sin and what could happen to him should he decide to take action if the Ghost is in fact evil. When Hamlet attempts to work himself into a frenzy by insulting himself and climactically cursing Claudius with caustic epithets, he is incapable of maintaining his emotion and he orders his brains to turn about, bringing himself back down to logic and reason. He feels that he cannot act without some sort of proof of the truth of what the Ghost has said, and therefore he arranges to “catch the conscience of the King” (2.2.634) by putting on a play which he is sure will so deeply trouble Claudius that he will reveal his guilt.
Once Hamlet observes Claudius's reaction to the play, he finally has the proof he has been looking for that confirms that the Ghost was right and that Claudius is guilty of the murder of his father. At this point, he feels like he could take action; he could “drink hot blood / And do such bitter business as the day / Would quake to look on” (3.2.421-425). However, instead of immediately seeking the King so that he may take his revenge, he decides that he will first speak with his mother, thus delaying once again and losing the passion of the moment. The most obvious example of Hamlet...

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