In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the character Hamlet attempts to avenge his father’s death by killing his uncle. Right after Hamlet senior’s death and the hasty marriage of Gertrude and Claudius. Hamlet Senior appears to Hamlet in the form of a ghost, informing Hamlet that Claudius murdered him and asking Hamlet to take revenge on Claudius. Through the course of the play, Hamlet does not take revenge immediately. Although Hamlet possesses the reasons and strengths to take revenge on Claudius, he procrastinates, convincing himself with excuses; he also thinks too much, which causes him to be distracted from the original request of his father.
Hamlet convinces himself with excuses in order to avoid the duty of revenging Claudius. First, Hamlet takes one more step in revenge by testing Claudius’ conscience through the play “The Mousetrap” (3.2.261). Although people may argue that Hamlet is only testing the reliability of the ghost, he is actually procrastinating. He even calls the ghost “a honest ghost” (1.5.141) before. In the soliloquy after Hamlet meets the players, he feels like a “rogue and peasant slave” (2.2.577), as he feels bad after seeing the player cry during a sad speech, but he does not even take action even when he has the “motive” and “passion” (2.2.588) to do it. The guilt of Hamlet motivates him to act. He tells himself, “Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, / Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words / and fall a-cursing like a very drab” (2.2.613-615). A whore does not put any emotional thoughts in what they are doing to get what they want; Hamlet is telling himself that he needs to empty himself to avenge Claudius. This proves that he finally has the idea of killing Claudius. However, right after that, he comes up with the idea of the play to “catch the conscience of the King” (2.2.634). Hamlet is unconsciously coming up with reasons and more steps to avoid his goal. Second, Hamlet convinces himself with excuses to avoid killing Claudius when Claudius is praying alone. As a student in a German university of Protestantism, he comes up with a scholarly excuse of not killing. He comes up with a theory that “[he] then revenged / To take [Claudius] in the purging of his soul, / when he is fit and seasoned for his passage” (3.3.89-91). Although it is a very persuasive reason, Hamlet is only convincing himself that it is not doing him any good to kill Claudius now. This is also the only chance when Claudius is alone and inattentive. Hamlet lets this chance go and allows himself to live in “sickly days” (3.4.101) for a longer period of time.
Another reason that causes Hamlet’s delay is that he tends to think too much about other matters, causing him to be confused about and distracted from his real goal. Hamlet already shows his disappointment in the hasty marriage of Gertrude and Claudius in his first soliloquy, before the ghost shows up. It is understandable that Hamlet is mad at both Gertrude and Claudius, however his anger impedes him from reaching his final goal, because he spends too much time thinking about them. He is also violating his promise to Hamlet senior and to himself. Hamlet senior tells him when he “pursues this act, / Taint not [his] mind, nor let [his] soul contrive / Against [his] mother aught” (1.5.91-93). Hamlet also promises that “[Hamlet senior’s] commandment shall alone live / Within the book and volume of [his] brain, / unmixed with baser matter” (1.5.109-111). Hamlet senior wants Hamlet to focus on the revenge itself, and Hamlet says he would ignore other matter than his father words. However, Hamlet does not obey at all. Right after he made his promise, he reminds himself of Gertrude and describes her as the “most pernicious woman” (1.5.112). Hamlet is finding his way to his goal using a map; it requires thinking, and he might still go the wrong way. It