English-12 Kenneth Valero
Delucia 1/20/00

In the drama Hamlet, ideas have been formed to explain Hamlet’s inability to avenge his father’s murder. Such premises are that Hamlet is pretending to be emotionally disturbed and is secretly plotting to carry out his revenge and that Hamlet is so corrupted by grief that he is really insane and incapable of action.
There are many instances that support the idea that Hamlet is pretending to be crazy in the play. The plot begins when Hamlet’s father’s ghost appears and charges him to avenge his murder by assassinating Claudius. Upon accepting this he makes his companions swear never to reveal what has taken place on that evening. He tells them, “ As I perchance hereafter shall think meet/ To put an antic disposition on. (1.5.191-192).” This clearly reveals that Hamlet is planning to act insane so he can achieve his murder plot. Through the next act Hamlet quickly demonstrates to the other characters that he is mad by playing as the victim of a passionate love affair with Ophelia. Polonius even connects Hamlets madness to “the very ecstasy of love (2.1.114.).”
However, when actually speaking in Ophelia’s presence, Hamlet really seems to be unstable. Instead of simply convincing her he is mad, he insults her by saying “get thee to a nunnery (3.1.131).” and saying that he never loved her. Later in the play, at Ophelia’s funeral procession, Hamlet professes that he loved Ophelia more than “forty thousand brothers could have loved her”. An explanation to this incongruity rests on Hamlet’s relationship with his mother. In the mind of Hamlet he is naturally unstable when dealing with women because he believes his mother betrayed his father’s memory by marrying Claudius, the king’s own brother, so soon after his father’s murder. Hamlet is disgusted with his mother and condemns her for sin “in the rank sweat of an enseamed bed, / Stewed in corruption, honeying, and making love/ Over thy nasty sty (3.4.104-106)!” He cannot deal with the shallowness of his mother to engage in an adulterous relationship with his father’s brother and he is grief stricken. Therefore, with all women he would see betrayal and shallowness, which would probably explain his harshness towards Ophelia.
In any case, Hamlet’s plan to convince the surrounding characters that he is mad has worked perfectly. Hamlet even gets physical proof that Claudius is the murderer by the king’s reaction towards “the mousetrap”. When given the chance to carry out revenge when the king is alone praying, he thinks “now might I do it, now he is praying, and now ill do it (3.3.78-79).” However, eventually he talks himself out of this very line of thought and proves completely indecisive in accomplishing his heart’s obsession. This may be due to Hamlet’s moral character. Simply, his revenge conflicts with his ethical sense and he is incapable of premeditated murder. Hamlet’s strong sense of morals would also explain why he is so horrified over his mother’s incestuous adultery.
Hamlet’s murder of Polonius still fits with the idea that he is a moral character. Here his action was out of fury for he was speaking of his mother’s incest. If Hamlet was given time to think of the task, the outcome would have been more in favor for Polonius.
In order for Hamlet to finally carry out his task, he sees something in Fortinbras. It is the decisiveness of Fortinbras that impresses him and the battle he is about to wage. Hamlet upon seeing Fortinbras’ decisiveness asks himself a question, “ How stand I, then, /To have a father killed, a mother stained...And let all sleep, while to my shame I see the imminent death of twenty thousand men that go for a whim of fancy (4.4.59-61).” Hamlet then concludes “My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth (4.4.69)!”
At this point Hamlet proves to be a decisive character no longer hung on delivering justice because of his own morality. By sending letters he condemns his friends who have betrayed him to death in England. Hamlet then fulfills his task during a fencing match where Claudius and Laertes are planning to kill him. Once more his morality surfaces in that he asks Laertes pardon for his unknowing murder of Polonius, Laertes’ father. When being denied a full pardon they begin to duel and both