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The Ethics of Hamlet Essay

Morality plays a major role in the decisions we make in our daily lives. Often times, emotion alters our ability to make coherent choices. In the play “Hamlet”, by William Shakespeare, Hamlet encounters difficulty in making decisions as he deals with his nemesis, Claudius. In Act III Hamlet proves to be a cautious and contemplative person through his delay in avenging his father’s death.

In Hamlet’s first soliloquy, “To be or not to be”, Hamlet appears to be governed by reason as he debates whether or not it is one’s right to end his or her life. Hamlet begins by weighing out the advantages and disadvantages of existence. In his words, “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?”(III.i.57-60). Hamlet is struggling. Living in Misery is a major issue for Hamlet as he copes with the death of his father. From this passage, we are led to believe that Hamlet favors suicide over life. Suicide is an act believed to be punishable by damnation.

Similarly, the mystery of life after death presents Hamlet with a fear of the unknown. For these reasons, Hamlet is hesitant and forced to re-analyze the situation. Clearly, Hamlet is engaging in a philosophical dilemma where he uses intellect and logic to seek for an alternative solution to his misery. Hamlet’s ethical nature is revealed by his thoughts. All in all, Hamlet is struggling with the knowledge of good and evil.

Likewise, in Hamlet’s second soliloquy, Hamlet’s inability to kill Claudius demonstrates that Hamlet is not only a contemplative person, but also a cautious individual that excessively analyzes situations. At this point, Hamlet has concluded to carry out an act of vengeance. He has convinced himself that he is justified to kill Claudius, the murderer of his father, but certain obstacles stand in his way. In one scene, Hamlet finds Claudius alone, praying, but decides not to kill him just then because of fear that he will send him to heaven. Hamlet says, “Now might I do it pat, now he is praying; And now I’ll do’t. And he goes to heaven…That would be scann’d…NO! Up sword; and know thou a more horrid hent” (III.iii.77-91). Hamlet decides to wait until he can catch Claudius engaging in a malicious act in order to secure that there is no chance that he goes to heaven.

Hamlet is clearly concerned that his foe will not suffer appropriately. Therefore, he delays his act of vengeance. Through his thoughts, he exposes a very important part of his personality, a habit of thinking things over and over again. This passage evidently shows Hamlet’s extensive use of vigilance and reasoning. This scene is exceptionally important because it is the only scene where Hamlet is alone with Claudius, giving him a perfect chance to retaliate. In every other scene, Claudius is in the presence of another person, typically a guard or an advisor. As a result, Hamlet is obligated to take on more precautions.

Altogether, Hamlet is both pensive and wary in determining his actions. His conscience interferes with his desires, but not his focus. His ability to rationalize serves as a model to humankind. How many of us ignore our intuition?

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