An Analysis of How to Plan A Perfect Revenge in “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare
Something was definitely rotten in the state of Denmark: the king was dead of a murder most foul, a betrayal from his own brother, and young Hamlet was thrown out of the frying pan, which was his father’s passing, and into the fire of revenge. One would think that an act of revenge such as this, retribution from an enraged son over the unjust murder of his father, would come about quickly, wildly, and brutally, driven by anger and by rage.
This was simply not the case in Shakespearels Hamlet, as the young prince unexpectedly drew out his plans for revenge over a rather large amount of time due to his own apparent weakness, inaction. “The smallest deed is greater than the grandest intention.” (Raja: Pp 111) Hamlet was full of grand ideas and intentions, but he failed to act and to carry out the deed that was his revenge, the destruction of Claudius. Why did Hamlet choose, and it was a choice, not to take revenge on Claudius quickly and decisively? Hamlet had his own reasons for inaction; the strategy that he felt best suited his revenge.
Hamlet was undoubtedly an incredible intellectual, and throughout the play it seemed as though the thoughts of his mind came too quickly for the actions of his body to keep up with. This intellectual quality provided a roadblock for Hamlets taking a quick revenge on Claudius. Nearly all of Hamletis actions, with the exception of his outburst at Ophelia’s grave, were preplanned and precisely calculated.
His inborn thought process prolonged his revenge, and while Hamlet may have appeared listless with inaction, the wheels in his mind never stopped turning. Hamlet questioned everything. including the validity of his own father’s ghost, and this questioning slowed down Hamlet’s ability to take action. The young prince may have thought too much for his own good at times; he wrestled with many ideas, thoughts, and feelings over the course of the play, delaying any real action until the time, in his eyes, was right.
Hamlet was very much a perfectionist in revenge. He wanted everything to be perfect, and this caused him to take unusual and unique steps to gain his revenge on Claudius. Hamlet’s play within a play, a brilliant scheme in which he caught the conscience of the king, was a prime example of the young princells need for perfection in revenge. Inaction resulted from this perfectionistic nature. Hamlet missed golden opportunities, and even passed up a chance to kill Claudius and to take his revenge simply because Claudius was praying at the time. Hamlet did not only want to kill his father’s murderer, he wanted to send him to an eternal punishment of damnation. This quality of perfectionism, along with his intellectual aspect, caused Hamlet to move slowly and carefully in his revenge, often resulting in periods of inaction.
Hamlet also seemed to truly enjoy his revenge, so much that he may have procrastinated in taking action on purpose, simply to toy with Claudius as long as possible. Hamlet clearly enjoyed tormenting his father’s killer; the prime example of this again being the play within a play, where Claudius was able to watch his own crime, his own guilt, played out before him on stage. Hamlet toyed with Claudius and his mind, attempting to destroy the guilty king before killing him. This purposeful procrastination delayed any decisive vengeful action from Hamlet.
Hamlet’s delay of vengeance was necessary in order for his ideal revenge to come about; unfortunately Hamlet’s ideal plans never came to be. The young princells tragic situation applies to another quote of Shakespeare, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” Hamlet had the opportunities, the tide that leads on to fortune, all around him; he simply failed to act on them. The quote goes on to say, “Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” (Shakespeare: Pp 1126)
Hamlet’s choice to remain inactive did not cause, but certainly helped to bring about his downfall, his shallows and his miseries. Although Hamlet’s intellectual qualities, perfectionistic nature, and enjoyment with the torment of Claudius resulted in inaction that prevented his taking revenge, it was action, Hamlet revealing himself at Ophelials grave, which finally destroyed his plans for vengeance. Had Hamlet remained inactive, he certainly would have been able to complete his plans for revenge on Claudius. Instead, Hamlet revealed himself at Ophelia’s tomb, losing his element of surprise on the king, and causing all of his plans to unravel. In the end inaction did not destroy Hamlet’s revenge, his action regarding his love for Opheila did.