Thought as Inaction in William Shakespeare's Hamlet

"Understanding kills action." With these three simple words, Nietzsche explains the idea behind Shakespeare's development of the acting of thought as inaction, and also the reason that Hamlet hesitates for over 3000 lines of blank verse and prose to avenge the murder of his father. The motif of delay and inaction as thought can be seen in several instances throughout the play, the primary being that of Hamlet, though secondary performances are given by Laertes, Pyrrhus, and Lucianus (in The Mousetrap). These scenes serve as support and emphasis for the central part of the play.

Hamlet expresses his thoughts primarily through his soliloquies, Shakespeare's vehicle to present inaction and delay; in essence, to act Hamlet's thoughts. The theory is that if the character is portrayed "thinking aloud early on [in the play] and then again and again and again...[the audience will] realize that thinking with him is an ongoing process" (De Grazia 1). Nietzsche offers an explanation for Hamlet's tendency toward internal contemplation: "That which we can find words for is something already dead in our hearts; there is always a kind of contempt in the act of speaking." This statement gives a...

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