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Hamlets downfall stems from his inability to revenge. How is this fore grounded in the early parts of the play, breaking from the traditional conventions of an Elizabethan play?

Arguably, it can be said that Hamlets procrastination leads to his eventual death, although a number of different factors should be taken into account before concluding on this reason.

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The opening scene of Hamlet focuses on the appearance of the ghost of the dead king to the night watchmen, a traditional element in the Elizabethan revenge tragedy. Shakespeare however defies these set boundaries and makes the ghost the true shadow of Hamlets father. This would have shocked the audience at the time as all things supernatural were considered to be the work of the devil. However, other common elements of the revenge tragedy are embedded in the play.

Hamlets fatal flaw (procrastination) is shown in his various soliloquy’s as we see him debating over what he should do, Claudius’ treason against the late king, the idea of taking vengeance into your own hands, a complicated method of murder, failed revenge, madness and also the death of the corrupt and also of the revenger.

Hamlet is unusual in that it is set in Denmark, a protestant country. Most of Shakespeare’s plays were set in Italy, a catholic country, the reason for this was not only to cast the Catholics in a bad light, but to dissociate any issues arising in the play that hinted at corruption in England.

William Hazlitt suggested the reason for Hamlets long lasting popularity:

“It is the one play on which we think oftenest, because it abounds most in striking reflections on human life”

Most people during their life question their faith and their reason for living. Hamlet shows all of these characteristics and even goes as far as to question the churches teachings on suicide. Hamlet would have been brought up to believe in the sanctity of life (that all life is sacred and belongs to God), which is why he has his conflicts on suicide. On the one hand he wishes to end his life “oh that this too too solid flesh would , thaw and resolve itself into a dew.”

He realises however the religious consequences of his actions, though he wishes that this were not the case:

“that the everlasting had not fix’d his cannon ‘gainst self slaughter”

Depending on how this is read, different meanings can be taken from it. The two remaining texts of Hamlet have differing words in some parts. In some books, solid in the quotation above is replaced by sullied. This gives a new slant on what Hamlet says, making his flesh seem tainted with corruption, referring perhaps to the incest between his mother and his uncle, and suggesting also the sexual relationship he wishes to have with his mother, which is further highlighted when he talks of “incestuous sheets”.

Hamlet is popular because he portrays failings that most humans posses. He suffers from an inability to act, due to spending to much time thinking about the situation.

“Procrastination is the thief of time”-Edward Young.

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Kylie Garcia

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