Justified Wait or Unreasonable Delay?

The central conflict in Shakespeare's Hamlet is between the title character's high moral standards and his quest for the truth. Arising from this conflict is what many would agree is the quintessential problem of the play: Why does Hamlet delay in avenging his father's death? There is no doubt that he does in fact delay, for a full two months of inactivity pass after he hears the revelation of the ghost. It is clear that Hamlet, having a sensitive, thoughtful, and religious nature, must be able to justify his filial duty before acting. To him, the most important mental obstacles are lack of proof of his uncle's guilt and anger at his mother's incest. The evolution of Hamlet's resolve to exact the perfect revenge is evident in his soliloquies, conversation with other characters, and decision making process.

In the first act, the reader learns of the tragic situation into which Hamlet is plunged upon his return to Denmark. Primarily, he must he deal with the recent and mysterious death of his father. Rubbing salt into his wounds, his uncle Claudius regarded by Hamlet as "no more like my father/ Than I to Hercules" wastes no time in marrying his mother (Act I Scene ii 152-153). These two events...

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