Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Analysis of Act III, Scene 3

This is the first scene in which Hamlet seems capable of acting. He seems convinced that Claudius’s response to the play proves his guilt. When Claudius prays, the audience learns that Hamlet’s conviction is justified: Claudius confesses freely to the murder. With Claudius at his mercy it seems as though the climax of the play ought to arrive, and that Hamlet ought to kill his uncle. But Hamlet waits.

Hamlet’s excuse for waiting is that he wants a more “fair” revenge: he doesn’t want Claudius to go to heaven while his own father wound up in purgatory or hell. However, this means that once again, Hamlet postpones action due to a philosophical question to which he can never really know the answer. He admits that no one knows what happens after we die and that therefore he can’t know whether killing Claudius in his sin is more “fair” or not.

Again, in this scene, the audience sees there is more to Hamlet’s actions that perhaps even Hamlet understands. Is Hamlet hesitating here because he’s consumed with the need to know, or does he wait because he can’t deal with the idea of actually killing another human being?