„Hamlet‟s greatest weakness is his procrastination.‟ Do you agree?
William Shakespeare‟s Hamlet is a play which revolves around a scholarly prince, who is commanded by the ghostly figure of his father and prompted by “heaven and hell” to revenge his father‟s “foul and most unnatural murder.” Hamlet, the Wittenberg intellect who is also the prince of Denmark, struggles throughout the play to “sweep” to his revenge and his failure to do so can be seen by many as representative of one of his flaws; his procrastination. Although he does succeed in seeking out justice and vengeance by killing Claudius, his delayed act of revenge comes at the cost of his life, and it can be easy to attribute the lengthy delay in avenging his father‟s death to Hamlet‟s procrastination. However, one must also understand Hamlet‟s perspective on his mandate to enact revenge. Hamlet, a character of great intellect, has good reasons to „procrastinate‟ the murder of Claudius, such as his initial doubts of the word of the ghost, his disinclination to enact „bloody revenge‟ and his preoccupation with his mother.
Therefore it can be disputed whether Hamlet‟s procrastination is a flaw, for his reasons
for his reluctance to act are sound arguments. Shakespeare suggests that Hamlet‟ greatest
weakness is not his procrastination, but rather his nihilistic view on the world and his self-criticism, which causes Hamlet to plunge into a deep state of melancholia and as an effect, causes Hamlet to behave erratically and unnecessarily „mad.‟
There are many that attribute Hamlet‟s delay in enacting revenge to have caused the tragedy of Hamlet and therefore it is easy to make the connection that his delay in enacting revenge is directly related to his inability to make decisive nature. However, Shakespeare‟s play suggests that Hamlet‟s reluctance to act is more attributed to his perspective on revenge and his initial doubts, and therefore the suggestion that Hamlet‟s procrastination is his greatest weakness can be greatly disputed. Hamlet initially shows much signs of his concern and doubts of the ghost‟s words, and it is this concern that the
ghost that he has seen “may be the devil” which prompts him to setup the “Mousetrap” to see Claudius‟ guilt “unkennel” and prove him guilty of murder. Hamlet‟s concern
regarding his father‟s commandment is understandable, and it is only when Claudius‟ confesses his „offences‟ does Hamlet gain credible evidence to support his pursuit for revenge. His questioning of the ghost‟s word contributes to Hamlet‟s reluctance to enact
revenge, and therefore discredits the argument that Hamlet‟s flaw is his procrastination.
Hamlet procrastinates for good reasons, and his initial difficulty in accepting the ghost‟s word is one of them.
Although there is no doubt that Hamlet does „procrastinate‟ after seeing first-hand
Claudius‟ guilt, his delay in enacting revenge can be partially attributed to his preoccupation with his mother, and the play does not leave any indication that his procrastination is a flaw of his. Troubled by her “o‟erhasty marriage” from the beginning
of the play, Hamlet condemns his mother for mourning less about her husband‟s death than a “beast who wanted discourse of reason” and to have “hung on him as if increase of appetite had grown by what it fed on.” Hamlet‟s view that his mother was „pernicious‟
and a parasite indicates Hamlet‟s priority to “speak daggers to her” and “set up a glass” to
prick his mother‟s conscience, which serves as a distraction from Hamlet‟s intent to avenge his father‟s death. When Hamlet confronts his mother, the extent of his disgust
with her “dexterity to incestuous sheets” is revealed via his explosive criticism of her,
that she made “marriage vows as false as dicers‟ oaths” and was “in the rank sweat of an
enseamed bed, stewed in corruption.” Pleading for her to “throw away the worser part of
it, and live the purer with the other half” and “do not spread the compost on the weeds to make them ranker” indicates Hamlet‟s desire to purge the “black and grained spots” of his mother‟s soul, and represents another valid reason for Hamlet‟s „procrastination‟ of
his vow to uphold his duty to his father.
Although it may be argued that Hamlet‟s self-criticism that he is “thinking too precisely
on „th event” as evidence of Hamlet‟s flaws, the truth is Hamlet is man who values
„thought over action‟ and Hamlet has valid reasons to be thinking “too precisely.” Hamlet
is shown by Shakespeare to be a man of high moral integrity, and his highly meditative nature enables him to be able to resist the impulses to sweep to his revenge. His disapproval of revenge and premeditated murder highlights that Hamlet‟s hesitancy to act
does not stem form any weakness such as cowardice or indecisiveness, but more from his moral judgment on revenge. When Hamlet tells Horatio “give me a man that is not
passion‟s slave, and I will wear him in my heart‟s core” is a direct suggestion that Hamlet views passion and indirectly revenge is undesirable, and exposes his viewpoint that to be passive is something worthy to „wear‟ on his „heart‟s core‟. Besides this, when Hamlet
lashes out at Ophelia, he reveals that he is “revengeful… with more offences at my beck.” Although Hamlet admits he is revengeful, the truth is he is far from being so, and his view that revengefulness is an „offence‟ again highlights his disapproving view of revenge. Besides this, his comments about Fortinbras‟ mission to expose “what is mortal… even for an egg-shell” is not only a cynical view of the unnecessary sacrifice of revenge, but reveals again Hamlet‟s inner belief that revenge is not desirable, and his
views can attribute to why he delays avenging his father‟s death until his life is at peril.
Hamlet‟s opposition towards revenge represents a reason for Hamlet‟s procrastination, and the play shows his indecisiveness to act is partly due to his views of revenge rather than being a flaw.
Although the play does not suggest that Hamlet‟s procrastination is a weakness of his, the
audience gets an overwhelming impression that Hamlet‟s suicidal and nihilistic view of
the world is unfounded and causes unnecessary problems for Hamlet. Although it is understandable for Hamlet to fall into a state of melancholia after the death of his father, his suicidal tendencies and questions such as “for who would bear the whips and scorns
of time” and “whether „tis nobler in the mind to surfer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing them end them” represent the fragile emotional state that Hamlet is in. Although even his suicidal
thoughts are not a flaw themselves, they represent a symptom of Hamlet‟s deranged and unstable state of mind, and his abusive and aggressive outburst towards his “sweet” Ophelia stems from his agitated state of mind. Hamlet seems to be at time unable to control his emotions, and his abnormal behaviour demonstrates Hamlet‟s weak state of mind. Instead of fuelling Hamlet‟s determination to seek justice for his father, Hamlet‟s grief causes Hamlet to plunge into a dark and moody state, and this causes the audience to question Hamlet‟s noble characteristics. His assumed „feigned madness‟ seems to also be triggered by his weak emotional state, and his „antic disposition‟ serves little purpose,
and generates more troubles for Hamlet. The play shows that Hamlet‟s major weakness is
not his procrastination, but his weak state of mind, and his melancholia represents a weakness in Hamlet‟s frame of mind.
Hamlet, the protagonist of the play, is often accused of being responsible for the tragedy in the play due to his weakness; his procrastination. However, it is clear that Hamlet is more of a victim of Claudius‟ malicious plans, and Hamlet‟s procrastination arises not from decisiveness or weakness, but because of his moral integrity, his initial doubts of the ghost and his preoccupation of his mother. Although Hamlet is far from perfect, his reasons for his procrastination are valid, whereas the reasons for his erratic behaviour are more based on his weak mindset and highlights one of the less noble characteristics.