The Importance Of Action In Shakespeare's Hamlet

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The tragedy Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, is unlike most other revenge stories because the play focuses on the avenger’s inaction rather than his action. Instead of immediate revenge, Shakespeare turns the action inward to explore the dangers of a conflicted mind. Hamlet is plagued by indecision and his hesitation greatly delays the death of his father’s killer. Hamlet spends a great amount of time contemplating the ramifications of his actions and deciding whether or not to act. When Hamlet does act, he does so rashly and thoughtlessly, with grave consequences. While other characters can simply act without overthinking the effects, they too can fall victim to the inherent risks in taking action. In Hamlet, Shakespeare shows that both overthinking …show more content…
Upon hearing of his father’s death, Laertes immediately returns to Denmark to avenge Polonius. Whereas Hamlet takes the length of the play to murder Claudius, Laertes comes up with a plan with Claudius to murder Hamlet fairly quickly. Fortinbras, like Hamlet, is a prince, but he is a strong leader. By using action words such as “Bear,” “Speak,” “Take,” and “Go” (5.2.442,446,447,449) Fortinbras is portrayed as a commander who is direct and can think and act quickly. This greatly contrasts with Hamlet’s scarce action, “for both Fortinbras and Laertes possess in abundance the very quality which [Hamlet] seems to lack” (Bradley). They are not consumed by procrastination and hesitancy. By giving the examples of Fortinbras and Laertes, Shakespeare shows that the problems of overthinking and thoughtless action are singular to Hamlet, and that it is possible to take appropriate action.

Hamlet’s conflict between procrastination and avenging his father is finally resolved in the last scene of the play. Hamlet is only able to murder Claudius when he realizes he is poisoned and knows “I am dead” (5.2.365). The act of killing Claudius, which has been delayed for so long, is finally executed only in the most extreme of circumstances. Throughout the play, it can be seen that there are risks in both thinking rationally and acting irrationally. Both too much thought and too little thought do not lead to a desired goal. However, by creating a balance between thought and action, it is possible to take sensible and effective

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