There are many different reasons why Hamlet must avenge the death of his father the late King Hamlet. The aspect of justice versus revenge is a prominent theme throughout the play. Prominent characteristics in each of the characters seeking revenge shows the different aspects of what each character feels is justice. Hamlet is notoriously known for being a man of action. This characteristic hampers the chain of events that follow after his fathers slaying.
There are many reasons why Hamlet wants to avenge his fathers murder, and justice and revenge play a big role in when and where his revenge on Clauduis is played out There is the revenge that he feels must be carried out to save his families name. One of the most common themes is an eye for an eye, and this is shown many times through out the play. This is the main difference in the revenge that hamlet seeks compare to that of the characters foil Laertes. There is also the problems and the turmoil Hamlet goes through with on when and where he must get revenge for his father, because he is having trouble justifying the murder himself.
Critics argue weather or not hamlet waited too long to seek his revenge on Claudius. Weather or not this is a justifiable act is up to the reader. In an article entitled, Hamlet and Two Witness Rule by Peter R. Moore, the work of two scholars is used to draw compelling arguments for both sides of the issue of the murder being justifiable. Scholar S. F. Johnson says there are certain books in the bible calling for revenge as the right thing to do in the case of murder.
He cites, Numbers 35:30 Anyone who kills a person is to be put to death as a murderer only on the testimony of witnesses. But not on is to be put to death on the testimony of one witness. This permits or commands a man whose next of kin has been slain to kill the slayer(Moore1). Therefore is makes Hamlet unaccountable towards God for his actions. Eleanor Prosser the second scholar in his article claims, “Numbers requires the avenger to act immediately and without hatred or malice”(1). This seems more plausible an argument for justifiable murder if it is a heat of the moment act.
Moore agrees with Johnson on this matter however saying, “Johnson is quite right, as several aspects of Mosaic Law on avengers of blood were in Shakespeares mind when he penned Hamlet”(1). This makes a strong case for why Hamlet should have acted earlier if he was wandering about the repercussions for murder in the eyes of God. This is the part of the play were the old phrase “an eye for an eye” comes to play. Hamlet would only be giving Clauduis what he deserves. If murder were justifiable in some severe cases then why did he wait for so long?
Boris Pasternak’s views on why Hamlet waited so long is this, The real problem of Hamlet’s character concerns not his procrastination, but rather the fact that living in a world where evil reigns, he finds himself every moment in danger of succumbing to the general infection. Even while preparing to carry out an act of justified vengeance, he causes, in the process, unwarranted pain. How to remain pure in circumstances where evil is unavoidable-here is one of the major human problems rising from the tragedy. “(France 23) This shows more insight into why Hamlet waited as long as he did before getting his revenge.
He is a good person at heart and does not want to lower himself to the level of his uncle who is “A little more than kin, and less than kind”(1. 2. 65). When one looks at the thought and turmoil Hamlet goes through it is easy to see the difference in the personality traits of Hamlet and Laertes and the different ways they go about achieving their revenge. One critic Boris Pasternak said of Hamlet” He is not at all a young man, but and aggressive heretic, burning with joy of struggle, drunk with struggle with an unequal struggle: against him is forces, his only weapon is thought”(France 25).
This is where is where the main difference between the two characters is seen. While hamlet and Laertes are both honor bound to avenge the murder of their father they go about it in different ways. Laertes is a man of action, filled with impulse. He admits his own treacherous nature, and he does it with great pride. “Why, as a woodcock to mine own spring, Osric; I am justly killed with my own treachery”(5. 2. 317). Laertes murders Hamlet in a church thus widening the gap of their differences. Laertes is a foil of hamlet throughout the play for these reasons.