Is hamlet indesicive or desicive? : LUSENET : Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet : One Thread

I have my final exam on hamlet, and we are to argue in our exam whether hamlet was indesicive or desicive with his reactions through out the play. Im a little bit confused about the subject, because throughout the play i thought that hamlet was very indesicive about his actions, but them at times his indesiciveness made sense. So i wanted someone else's opinion on this matter. I hope someone will be able to help me out.

-- Bushra Zaidi (, July 12, 2002


What you've just said about it is, I think, a good and true response; and if it's what you think, you should go with it. Those who call Hamlet indecisive, as a person generally, are generalizing his situation too much.

As a person living and thinking about day to day life he is not indecisive. His view of his mother's conduct is very decided. His humerous pointing out of the pretensions and follies of others is very decisive. He is decisive in swifty and courageously putting on 'a compelled valour' ( when under attack by the pirates. He is as decisive as it is possible to be in human love with Ophelia (see her description of his 'tenders of his affection' in I.iii and his letter to her which Polonius reads in II.ii): it is only the meddling interference of Polonius that stuffs that up. Hamlet is also decisive about his principles for his own behaviour and his attempts to live up to them, such as amiable courtesy to social inferiors, shunning of flatterers and parasites such as R & G and Osric, not inflicting any 'bravery of ... grief' on others (V.i.247-287 and V.ii.75-80). By V.ii, following his experiences away from Denmark, he has come to accept that instinct can be useful for dictating an impulsive course of action which can prove to be good. ('Let us know Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well When our deep plots do pall; and that should learn us, There's a divinity that shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will.') He is also, ironically, firmly decided that he wants to act on the vengeance problem.

But should he? And how should he? See II.ii.586-600, III.ii.80-87, V.ii.62-70. Another of his principles is clearly the important Renaissance one of 'Prudence': looking before you leap, thinking wisely, carefully, or 'prudently' about an important course of action before you embark on it. This is not actually indecisiveness, but a way of reaching decisions. This is what we see him doing with the larger and more problematic aspects of his life. And this is where his indecision 'makes sense'. Nobody who places such a high premium on the use of reason that Hamlet does, and who has the deep sense of ethics, morality, Christianity and duty that Hamlet has, is going to dive straight in and kill his uncle and King, or himself, without thinking long and seriously about it. Between and within the courses of action he can pick, right conflicts with right, and honour with honour, and he has to decide by himself what is more right, and what is more honourable, and also to weigh that against what he wants. Poor kid.

It is these big problems of Hamet's life that are highlighted in the play, and Hamlet's thinking about them which is spotlighted (and really, now, we wouldn't honestly be interested in how he does his laundry :) ). So the moments of 'indecision' are more noticable than those of decision. But it doesn't mean that he is indecisive, merely that he is prudent when he should be, when it makes sense for him to be. I think if you argue along those lines in your exam, your teacher should be impressed that you've understood that there is a lot of grey in this play and its people, not just simple black and white.

Hope that helps some. Yell at me if any of it doesn't make sense, and I can expand.

-- catherine england (, July 12, 2002.

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