Indecision, Hesitation and Delay in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

In William Shakespeares Hamlet, Hamlets tragic flaw is his procrastination. From the first time Hamlet was acted until now, critics have fought over the reason for Hamlets procrastination. Some say that the cause is due to Sigmund Freuds theory that Hamlet has an “Oedipal Complex,” which is his love for his mother. Others argue that he just never finds the right time to carry out the revenge of his fathers murder. The Oedipal Complex theory in regard to Hamlets situation seems more likely because of the amount of times Hamlet has to kill Claudius but always fins a reason not to kill him.

If it is not the case, then the cause of the procrastination remains a mystery. There is no reason for Hamlet not to kill Claudius, whom he hates, and was ordered by a higher power to destroy, other than the fact that subconsciously, Hamlet needed Claudius to keep him away from his mother. Hamlet procrastinated only because of his fear of intimacy with his mother, knowing that Claudius was the only person separating he and Gertrude. Although Hamlet has a pious duty to avenge his fathers murder, his desire for his mother is too strong for him to leave an open pathway to her. He tries to find excuses to postpone his killing Claudius.

First, he tries to discover whether or not Claudius really did kill King Hamlet, which gives him some time. After he has convinced himself that Claudius is to blame, he attempts to murder him just twice. The first time, he finds Claudius praying, and uses that as a scapegoat so he can again put off his pious duty. Later when he is alone with Gertrude, he thinks that Claudius is behind the curtains, and kills the man there. Unfortunately, Polonius becomes the victim of Hamlets dagger. The only time when Hamlet does not hesitate to carry out his pious duty is when he is in the bedroom with Gertrude.

Unfortunately by mere coincidence, Polonius is the man behind the bedroom curtain, not Claudius. Hamlet stabs Polonius instinctively because he is where he truly desires to be, with his mother. This is the only time when Hamlet actually has the courage to try to kill Claudius, thus opening the path to Gertrude. All of the other times in the play, Hamlet is either alone or with people who he needs to hide his desire from. He can not find the courage within himself to kill Claudius or make Gertrude available. His rage towards his mother, although it seems to contradict the fact that he loves her, really supports it.

He yells at her out of frustration because he knows that he can never be with her. He is also very jealous of her relationship with Claudius. He dealt with the marriage of her and his father because he knew it was right. Claudius, oh the other hand, did not belong married to Gertrude any more than did Hamlet, and that angered him. Hamlet could not release his true feelings about Gertrude and that almost drove him crazy. He attempted to use Ophelia as a substitute for his mother, but he never truly loved her. He yelled at her just as he yelled at Gertrude, but his words did not carry the same messages.

Gertrude always heard about Claudius, incest, or the fact that she remarried so quickly. Ophelia was always criticized for character flaws, never about other men, or lack of love for Hamlet. He did not love Ophelia because he truly desired Gertrude, and when a man loves one woman, no matter how hard he tries, he can never fall in love with another. This is apparent because Ophelia possesses many of Gertrudes characteristics, but Hamlet still wants Gertrude instead. He only continues to pursue Ophelia because he knows that a relationship with Gertrude is impossible.

Although Hamlet is pursuing Ophelia, and yells at his mother when he gets the chance, he is in love with Gertrude deep inside. He can not admit it, and may never be able to, but there is too much proof supporting it to deny it completely. Unfortunately for Hamlet, society has banned incest, so a son desiring his mother, although very natural and normal, will never be accepted. That is why Hamlet hesitates to remove Claudius; he makes a strong barrier between Hamlet and Gertrude, and that prevents forcing Hamlet to ever release his true emotions.

As long as Claudius remained in the way, Hamlet could disguise his feelings for Gertrude with fake ones for Ophelia. The original procrastination of the revenge eventually grew, and after a while, Hamlet almost tried to defy his order. Hamlet never actually completed his duty to his father until after his mother was killed and there was no reason for not killing Claudius any longer. Although Hamlet eventually got his revenge, his procrastination cost him his life and also the life of his mother, his one reason for living.