Summary: Hamlet’s Indecisiveness, Emotional Perspective and Impulsiveness Throughout The Play

Throughout history, whether they be depicted in literature, motion pictures, or real life events, individuals usually have foils of themselves to present different ideas and concepts. In the play, Hamlet struggles with his emotions regarding the death of his father and the aftermath of it. When truths are revealed, Hamlet contemplates his actions in response to the news, which circulate around people and ultimately leads to a tragic ending for everyone. The author uses Hamlet’s character to demonstrate his tragic flaws and how many events could have been prevented if he had acted on his words.

In the tragedy of Hamlet, William Shakespeare presents characters as foils which illustrate Hamlet’s indecisiveness, emotional perspective, and impulsiveness.

As the plot progresses, the audience can see Hamlet hesitate to commit any actions as he is constantly in his mind, battling his thoughts. When given the chance to avenge his father's death, during Claudius’ prayer, he stops and begins to question everything leading up to that point.

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However Shakespeare places Fortinbras in the play, and the difference in taking action and failing to do so can be seen, “Led by delicate and tender prince, Whose spirit, with divine ambition puffed, Makes mouths at the invisible event, Exposing what is mortal and unsure To all the fortune, death, and danger dare Even for eggshell.” This shows Hamlet in the process of comparing himself to Fortinbras in which he [Hamlet] has the motive and necessity to create chaos and seek revenge. However Fortinbras is willing to fight a battle over land that is meaningless to both parties and seems to dismiss the dangers of death.

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The resemblance between storylines can be seen as both princes have lost their fathers however they both take different paths. While to Hamlet is might seem pointless to pursue a battle over land, Fortinbras sought revenge for his father and country. Hamlet is indecisive on how to approach the situation despite being given opportunities to take action. A similar circumstance occurs when Hamlet kills Polonius and Laertes decides to avenge his fathers death by dueling Hamlet, “I will do’t. And for that purpose, I’ll anoint my sword… With this contagion, that if I gall him slightly, It may be death.” When analyzing the interaction between Laertes and Claudius, it is evident Laertes is willing to execute any plan to avenge his father’s murder. It demonstrates another scenario where there is not doubt or constant questioning but immediate action to retaliate. Hamlet is constantly clouded in his thoughts and doubts himself. This draws the attention to Hamlet’s tentative behavior, and how many characters fall at that expense. Towards the end of the play, the tragic flaw in Hamlet shows if he had acted, many deaths could have been prevented and the resolution he craves could have been achieved.

At the beginning of the play, Shakespeare shows the emotional distress Hamlet is going through since his father’s death. This leaves Hamlet in an emotionally sensitive state where he feels as everyone did not mourn long enough. As the tragedy progresses, Hamlet’s mental state seems to fluctuate as he feigns madness and logic yet his inner thoughts reveal the sadness and suicidal intentions he has. The parallels between Hamlet and Ophelia are visible throughout the storyline. However with the events that occur, Hamlet is able to maintain his emotions hidden while Ophelia slowly trangresses into madness— losing it when her father is murdered, “ By heaven, thy madness shall be paid with weight Till our scale turn the beam. O rose of May! Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia!” While controversial, Ophelia becomes a foil to Hamlet as they both loose fathers and Hamlet is reoccuring the thought of suicide but never goes through— Ophelia does. Hamlet shows his emotional and mental state as weak however it is strong enough to survive the events that occur, Ophelia loses the battle against them. Amidst, Hamlet has an outburst towards his mother when it becomes too much for him to handle. He feels as the world is on his shoulders and whether alone or in outbursts, he reveals his anger and hurt. The antagonist, Claudius, is able to murder his brother and keep it hidden for a certain amount of time, “Oh, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;... A brother’s murder! Pray can I not, Though inclination be as sharp as will, My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent.” The lines show how Claudius’ feels however when he is first introduced to the audience, he is a fit king who is striving to keep the country stable despite the tragedy. Unlike Hamlet, Claudius keeps his composure and while some may say Clausius’ deed was never exposed until Hamlet discovered the truth, the weight of what he did was hidden despite him saying he felt guilt. Hamlets sensitive state causes him to ponder too much on his actions and lash out during the wrong times. To retirate, Ophelia and Claudius are subtle foils to Hamlet’s flaws, while one slowly slips into madness and only contemplates suicide once and Claudius layers him emotions. Had Hamlet addressed his emotions and acted on his feelings for the first time, it shows a different storyline where an innocent person does not lose themselves.

Despite Hamlet struggling with emotions and lack of action, there are times when he acts out of impulse. Hamlet has the urge to avenge his father's death and as the play progresses it grows stronger each time. During the novel, Horatio is Hamlet’s confidant and someone who he trusts. It can also be noted that Horatio is the only person who never betrays Hamlet. Whenever Hamlet seeks Horatio's help, Horatio has always kept a logical mindset, never being overwhelmed with emotions as Hamlet has experienced. “The very place puts toys of desperation, Without more motive, into every brain That looks so many fathoms to the sea And hears it roar beneath.” The quote is an example of Hamlet becoming a risk taker, and deciding to follow the ghost despite being warned by Horatio it may be an evil spirit leading him towards danger. Horatio and Hamlet bond well, as Horatio looks at reality and the logical aspect that Hamlet replaces with his emotions and impulsive behaviors. This tragic flaw that fills Hamlet lead to the death of Polonius and revealed to Claudius he knew of his fathers murder. Horatio serves as a foil where if Hamlet simply looked at the rational side of situations and learned to stay grounded with his emotions, many unfortunate events could have been avoided.

Hamlets flaws lead to many people losing their lives and creating a messy situation then there should have been in the first place. Hamlet was often indecisive, sensitive and reckless despite being indecisive. Shakespeare placed characters in the play for readers to see an alternative path that could have happened if Hamlet himself had possessed those qualities. While Hamlet parallels many of the characters in the book, Hamlet always choose the path where someone else was brought down with him and pity himself. In today's modern world, society tends to preach about responsibility and effective communication with one another. However most of the times those who criticize others for how they choose to deal with matters forget to criticize their own toxic qualities which bring harm on others or stress situations that have an easy solution. Foils exists everywhere within people and sometimes all one has to do is analyze their way of treating other people.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Summary: Hamlet’s Indecisiveness, Emotional Perspective and Impulsiveness Throughout The Play. (2024, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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