In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the titular character struggles to engage in his desired plan of revenge. Hamlet shows throughout the play that he is inconsistent, indecisive, and unsure of himself, as well as his actions. The play focuses on Hamlet’s revenge; however, he continuously fails to happen at opportunistic moments. Throughout the play, Hamlet insists that he intends to avenge his father’s death through the murder of Claudius, but Hamlet fails to act on occasion because of his indecisive personality.
Shakespeare’s character, Hamlet, is known for his indecisive personality. It is a trait that humanizes Hamlet in the sense that every man is flawed. However, this feature is Hamlet’s main personality flaw and because of it, the play is dragged on. From the moment of encountering the ghost, Hamlet is determined to enact revenge upon Claudius. Soon after his encounter with the ghost, Hamlet begins to doubt the ghost’s existence, motives, and identity.
Hamlet fails to act against Claudius because he fears that Claudius is innocent and that it will be unjust to murder him if “the spirit that I have seen/May be the devil, and the devil hath power/To assume a pleasing shape” (p. 19). This doubt is the first example of Hamlet’s incapability to act, and shows that Hamlet’s actions are inconsistent with his motive. Shakespeare further expands upon Hamlet’s over-thoughtful and hesitant mind when Hamlet plots with Horatio to expose Claudius as the murderer by staging a play in which the actors perform a murder scene similar to the version of late King Hamlet’s death.
Hamlet sees Claudius have a guilty reaction to the scene through his abrupt exit, but even then Hamlet’s actions are inconsistent with his motive. He cannot express his emotions to Claudius’ reaction and waits for another chance to avenge his father’s, the late King’s, death. Hamlet is so confident in the ghost’s tale that he is willing to wager “one thousand pounds for its word. ” With this newfound knowledge, Hamlet finds Claudius alone, but once again he fails to enact his revenge.
Now Hamlet uses a rational “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 this same villain send/ To heaven”(p. 79). Hamlet uses this “logic” to further justify his inconsistency between his actions and his motive. Finally, during the last scene, Hamlet encounters yet another chance to avenge his father’s, and now also his mother’s murders after his fencing match against Laertes.
Claudius tries to kill Hamlet by poisoning him, and poisons Gertrude instead; this is the final breaking point of Hamlet. After the death of his mother Hamlet, can no longer hold back and strikes his foil through Claudius’s heart. Then, he forces the poisoned wine down his throat. This occurrence yet again shows Hamlet’s indecisive character. He plans out the vengeance of his father’s death so many times perfectly, but kills Claudius without a plan and everyone witnesses the murder. Throughout the play, he clearly analyzes every plan to kill Claudius.
During this analysis, not once is he concerned with what will happen to him for murdering Claudius. He considers what would happen to Claudius for killing him during prayer. He considers what will happen to Claudius for killing his father, but not once does he worry that he could get punished because his vengeance will make him a murderer too. The only instance Hamlet worries about the afterlife is during his “to be or not to be” soliloquy in which he expresses his doubts of what is to come, after death.
Similarly, to his indecisiveness to avenge his father’s death, he is indecisive about his beliefs of what will be after death. During his plans for vengeance, he believes murder for power, as Claudius murdered the King will cause one to go to hell, but also deliberates whether or not there is an afterlife, whether there is a heaven and a hell. Hamlet shows his character to be indecisive in numerous occasions throughout the play. Whether it is during the vengeance of his father, or the fear of afterlife, Hamlet is unable to make decisions and to follow through with them.