Procrastination Killed the Cast
Frankly speaking, procrastination is every student’s nemesis. Sitting down to work on a paper and ending up watching cat videos on YouTube is something we’ve all done at least once in our lives. The only silver lining to procrastination is that typically you’re just hurting yourself. Unfortunately, this was not the case for Hamlet. A young prince discovers his father had been murdered and, instead of immediately avenging him like he swore he would, he mopes around the rest of the play ranting in monologue-form and killing the wrong people. It’s only by chance that he ends up killing Claudius, the murderer and his stepfather/uncle, in the last act of the book. If Hamlet hadn’t procrastinated and had taken action immediately, there would only be one dead person instead of seven.
Revenge is commonly seen as a thing that should be avoided. There are countless quotes about the terrible things it can do not only to the person being revenged-upon, but also to the revenger. Even the Bible says “Turn the other cheek” in Matthew 5:39, and yet Hamlet’s lack of revenge made a simple situation spiral completely out of hand. In a very early scene, the prince of Denmark has an encounter with his ghost father, who implores him to avenge his death. Hamlet replies, “Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love, may sweep to my revenge,”(1.5.29-31) implying that he would immediately do so, and proving him to be a loyal son. He has the perfect opportunity to fulfil his promise in Act Three, when Claudius is praying, yet does not do so, saying “And so he goes to heaven, and so I am revenged. That would be scanned: A villain kills my father and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven”(3.3.77-83). In other words, Hamlet believes that if he kills his uncle in prayer, he will send him straight to Heaven, when he clearly wants him to suffer in Hell like he thinks his father is doing.
Even though he seemingly puts off killing his uncle until his dying breaths, the reader can see that he feels badly about it. He rebukes himself bitterly in Act 2 after watching an actor weep, wracked with simulated sorrow for an imaginary character who means nothing to him. The actor’s performance “But in fiction, in a dream of passion”(2.2.552) puts Hamlet to shame, because “the motive and cue for passion”(2.2.561) that he has are real and compelling, yet all he can do, as he says, is mope around “Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause”(2.2.568). An entire act later, Hamlet still doesn’t know why, “laps’d in time and passion,”he still “lets go by th’important acting” of his father’s “dread command” (3.4.107-108). This happens yet again in Act 4 when he finds himself shamed yet again for dragging his heels, but this time his realization was triggered by the sight of Fortinbras’s army marching headlong to their doom, merely “to gain a little patch of ground that hath in it no profit but the name” (4.4.18-19). He voices this seemingly unexplainable occurrence one last time in his great soliloquy: “I do not know why yet I live to say “This thing’s to do, sith I have cause, and will, and strength, and means to do’it” (4.4.43-46).
It’s often hard to explain the things we do and don’t do, but for Hamlet, this seems impossible, and he doesn’t know why. However, just because it’s hard for him to kill his uncle, doesn’t mean it’s hard for him to do everything. He accounts it to overthinking, saying that the cause might be “some craven scruple of thinking too precisely on the event” (4.440-41) as a result of which the action becomes undoable. On other matters he acts quite decisively, like when he sets his trap to “catch the conscience of the king” (2.2.605) or when he runs his sword through Polonius when he thought he was Claudius, resulting in the deaths of both him and his daughter Ophelia. More examples include him figuring out the king’s plans to have him murdered and foiling them, accidentally dooming his treacherous friends with the end he should have met, and him finally killing Claudius without a second thought.
By putting off avenging his father, Hamlet has let his anxiety about the deed run rampant, resulting in him sinking deeper and deeper into depression. He has contemplated his uncle’s murder so much that he ends up playing mind games with himself, eventually coming to the realization that he is scared to kill Claudius because it could affect his chances of getting into heaven. This is very important to Hamlet, because he is terrified of what the afterlife holds for him. Overall, the prince’s state of mind has steadily decreased over the state of the play, ultimately hitting rock bottom in Act 3 when he seriously contemplates suicide. The famous quote “To be or not to be-that is the question: whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them,”(3.1.64-68) describes his deep state of melancholy towards the world and himself.
Continuing on with his procrastination, things start to turn around for Hamlet’s state of mind once he learns that Fortenbras is about to invade Poland. He comes to the realization that if a thousand soldiers are willing to die for a piece of land, then surely he can die on behalf of his father. Finally coming to terms with the idea of death, he voices his belief that every man should live with a purpose that should be fulfilled, and his purpose is to avenge his father’s murder by killing Claudius in return. He finalizes this belief a the very end of his seventh soliloquy, saying “O, from this time forth my thoughts be bloody or nothing worth” (4.4.65-66).
By the end of the play, Hamlet is facing off against Laertes, the queen has drunk the poison that was meant for Hamlet, his love Ophelia offed herself from grief at the accidental murder of her father, and seemingly all hell has broken loose in the palace of Denmark. In the end, they and Claudius, along with two of Hamlet’s acquaintances from the University of Wittenberg Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, have all died. Why? Because Hamlet couldn’t man up and kill the person who murdered his own father until the very last second. What started off as justice for the king through the death of his traitorous brother turned into a royal massacre, sparing only a few.
Procrastination Killed the Cast