Hamlet’s problem is his delay in killing the king. Hamlet’s delay in killing his uncle, the king, is the action on which the entire play depends. His delay makes his appearance as a deeply troubled man with many sides to his character. Revenge and moral thought are brought upon Hamlet simultaneously. He cannot act upon a situation immediately because his great intelligence provides him with many solutions. Frye says, “Hamlet analyzes virtually every alternative which would have occurred to a thoughtful Elizabethan in the circumstances of the story, and does so with a pyrotechnic display of intellectual and poetic power.” (14) His behavior is thought as, “though is certainly tends towards, and might even be called, madness in relation to his environment, is yet rather the abnormality of extreme melancholia and cynicism.” (Bloom 84)
Hamlet’s first soliloquy presents his first sign of melancholy and confusion:
O that this too too sullied flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter. O God, God,
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on’t, ah, fie, ‘tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed, Thigs rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this: (Shakespeare 44)
He is speaking of suicide. His life is no longer normal, providing confusion to take place.
Hamlet confides with Horatio about his problems because he appears to be his only true friend. “Horatio has the true blend, greatly admired by Hamlet, of decorum and honesty.” (Elliot 16) Horatio acts as a center of balance. He does not oppose the king, yet he agrees with Hamlet’s thoughts. Hamlet explains to Horatio about his disapproval of the wedding. “Thrift, thrift, Horatio. The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.” (Shakespeare 46)
Hamlet trusts Horatio because he knows that Horatio will not get involved in his problem:
Horatio is not the sort of man who, having been disappoint by the world and its turbulence, withdraws to a monastery and contemplates the world from within the protection of walls that are impenetrable by secular temptations. Instead, he stays in the midst of worldly affairs and their impingements upon him, but he does not take an active part in these affairs, (Eissler 380)
The Ghost appears to Hamlet claiming to be his father and narrates the story of his murder:
Now, Hamlet, hear.
‘Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard,
A serpent stung me. So the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abused. But know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father’s life
Now wears his crown. (Shakespeare 59)
Upon hearing this, Hamlet becomes emotional and bellows his thoughts. He is primarily concerned with avenging his father, yet is still concerned about his mother and her incestuous sin. Hamlet has no proof that this ghost is actually his father’s spirit, but continues believing in so because he has no solution.
Hamlet first learns, through his encounter with the Ghost, that Claudius murdered his father. His reaction to hearing this perceives him as a man of action. He insists that he will think of nothing but avenging his fathers death:
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,
That youth and observation copied there,
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmixed with baser matter. (Shakespeare 61)
With the next line, “O most pernicious woman!” (Shakespeare 61) he refers to his mother and therefore immediately digresses from the thought of his task. With these hypocritical lines, Hamlet shows us signs of unclear thought and confusion. It also displays that he is more of a thinker than a doer is. Johnson describes it as, “…so intellectual a person, so given to moralizing on every situation and reducing motives and duty to general propositions, as to have no energy left for action.” (309)
Hamlet is clearly concerned about the orders for revenge given by the Ghost when he describes the situation, “O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right.” (Shakespeare 64) Although Hamlet, at first, eagerly accepts the ghost is that of his father, and that he is being told the truth, with the passing of time Hamlet begins to have doubts. He again delays killing the king until