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Delay or Procrastination in Hamlet

Updated on September 1, 2019
Rafiq23 profile image

Muhammad Rafiq is a freelance writer, blogger, and translator with a Master's degree in English literature from the University of Malakand.

Procrastination of Hamlet
Procrastination of Hamlet | Source

Hamlet is the most commemorated tragedy of William Shakespeare that rotates round the feature of Prince Hamlet. William Shakespeare's tragedies predominantly stay upon a particular blemish in the character of a protagonist. The point when there is some imperfection or shortcoming in the character of a protagonist, then, this defect is termed as Hamartia. Prince Hamlet likewise experiences Hamartia. This hamartia is his procrastination or delay. Procrastination hinders the ambitions of Prince Hamlet. Hamlet is incapable to materialize his plans due to this flaw. There are explanations regarding why Hamlet experienced lingering.

Hamlet is going to kill Claudius, but he could not do so due to his procrastinating nature.
Hamlet is going to kill Claudius, but he could not do so due to his procrastinating nature. | Source

Perplexity as a Cause of Procrastination of Hamlet

Confusion assumes a key part in in procrastination or delay of Hamlet. At the exact start of the play, Hamlet questions the story of the ghost. He is not certain about the veracity of ghost's story. Hamlet is not a common man to accept blindly what the ghost said about the murder of his father. That is the reason; he defers his plans to find out as to whether the story of the apparition is correct or false. He believes that it is conceivable that the apparition he has seen may have tried to drive him to submit a shrewd deed. He communicates his concerns in the following lines:

The spirit that I have seen

May be the devil; and the devil hath power

To 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.

(Act II, Scene ii, 574-79)

Hamlet needs to affirm the story that the ghost has told him. He states, "I'll have grounds more relative than this". To ponder the genuine killer of his father, Hamlet stages a play, called "The Murder of Gonzago". Hamlet imagines that the play will help him discovering the King’s involvement in killing his dad:

The play’s the thing

Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.

(Act II, Scene II, 600-1)

Throughout this mock play, Hamlet comes to realize that Claudius is the true killer of his father. This play likewise affirms the story of the ghost. Before the enactment of the play, he was unable to take actions against the King. Nonetheless, now we understand that he is completely convinced to take revenge upon his enemy.

Procrastination in Hamlet
Procrastination in Hamlet | Source

Religious Element as a Cause of Procrastination of Hamlet

Religion is likewise an alternate component that gives rise to procrastination in Hamlet. Christianity has an extraordinary impact on the character of Hamlet. As the community was religious, consequently, Prince Hamlet can't live without being impacted by the community he exists in. He is dependably tormented by the second thoughts of his still, small voice. He does not want to commit suicide mainly on account of religious reasons. He states in a soliloquy:

O that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!

Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d

His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!

How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,

Seem to me all the uses of this world!

Fie on’t! ah fie! ‘tis an unweeded garden

(Act I, Scene II, 131-135)

Once Hamlet finds an opportunity to execute Claudius, while he was praying, but he suspends his decision on the point that he will kill him:

When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,

Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed.

(Act III, Scene III, 89-90)

Procrastination in Hamlet
Procrastination in Hamlet | Source

Melancholy as a Cause of Procrastination of Hamlet

Melancholy is also thought to be another hurdle in the way of Hamlet. Melancholy restrains Hamlet from taking any action against Claudius. One of the main reasons that turned Hamlet into a melancholic one is the hasty marriage of his mother with Claudius. He is so disturbed at the marriage of her mother that he begins to think of her like other ladies. He states:

Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on: and yet, within a month—
Let me not think on’t—Frailty, thy name is woman!—

(Act I, Scene II, 143-146)

Another reason that adds to the melancholic nature of Hamlet is the murder of his father. When, the ghost reveals that Claudius has executed his father and enjoins him to take revenge upon Claudius. He immediately resolves to take revenge upon the King. He communicates his determination in the following lines:

Ay, thou poor Ghost, while memory holds a seat

In this distracted globe. Remember thee!

Yea, from the table of my memory

I'll wipe away all trivial fond records.

(Act I, Scene II, 96-99)

His famous soliloquy “To be, or not to be: that is the question” shed light on the introspection nature of Hamlet. The following lines from his soliloquy give us insight into his character. He is torn between the idea of life and death. He does not know whether it is a noble work to suffer the miseries of fortune. He states:

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 to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them?

(Act III, Scene I, 56-60)


Which could be the real cause of Hamlet's delay?

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Strong Opponent as a Major Cause of Procrastination of Hamlet

We realize that Claudius is a strong foe as contrasted with Prince Hamlet. Claudius has everything to repress Hamlet. Hamlet knows that it is impossible for him to take revenge upon him easily. He is well aware of the fact that the King is intensely protected by Swiss body guards. Moreover, Hamlet has no solid proof to justify his case. He has to back upon only on the words of apparition for his case. That is the reason Hamlet needs to sit tight for a chance to execute him. Hamlet chides himself for being late in the execution of Claudius. He says:

But I am pigeon-liver'd and lack gall

To make oppression bitter,

(Act II, Scene II, 577-78)

He knows, he is late, yet he has a strong determination to take vengeance upon Claudius. Thus the aforementioned elements forced Hamlet to delay his actions.

© 2013 Muhammad Rafiq


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    • profile image

      Poornima Arora 

      10 months ago

      You've covered all the points. A nice answer.

    • profile image


      11 months ago

      Its very easy to the point..nothing is excessive in this..

    • Rafiq23 profile imageAUTHOR

      Muhammad Rafiq 

      2 years ago from Pakistan

      Than Glenis Rix for your comments. Yea, I agree with you, but this is the only one reason of his delay. There are many other factors as well that hinder his actions. I have already explained these factors in the article.

    • Glenis Rix profile image


      2 years ago from UK

      It appears from the text that Hamlet would not kill Claudius as he prayed because Claudius' soul would have gone to Heaven and everlasting life in the hereafter, so Hamlet would not have been revenged to do the deed at that moment

      " Am I then revenged

      To take him in the purging of his soul,

      When he is fit and seasoned for his passage?"

      3.4 82-85

    • Rafiq23 profile imageAUTHOR

      Muhammad Rafiq 

      4 years ago from Pakistan

      Yea, inability may also be the cause of procrastinating nature of Hamlet. Thanks Glenis Rix for your comments. Have a nice time.

    • Glenis Rix profile image


      4 years ago from UK

      It's interesting that you think Hamlet's tragic quality is procrastionation. In my view it may be his inability to reconcile himself to the death of his father and the changed situation at court. He seems to have several issues - the fact that his father was murdered, the fact that he himself was the rightful heir to the throne of Denmark, and the fact that his mother has been demonstrably disloyal.

      A central unresolved question for Shakespeare's audience is whether or not Hamlet is mad. Sometimes he deceives others at Court by pretending to be mad, at others it seems that frustration is actually driving him mad. The turning point in his frame of mind seems to me to be after his return from England, when he appears to be thinking more clearly and is resolved to pursue revenge. The tragedy is perhaps that innocent bystanders - Ophelia, Polonius - have died as a direct result of his anger/temporary madness, which led Laertes to become involved in the plot to murder him, leaving a stage littered with bodies.

    • Rafiq23 profile imageAUTHOR

      Muhammad Rafiq 

      5 years ago from Pakistan

      Thanks Saddam for stopping by and commenting! I am glad that it helped you. Have a nice time!

    • profile image

      Saddam Hussain 

      5 years ago

      Very nice and easy to understandable

    • profile image

      Saddam Hussain 

      5 years ago

      Very nice and easy to understandable


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