The plot of Hamlet is filled with much action and betrayal, as well as an overload of contemplation, brought forth by the leading character himself. Unfortunately, despite his own wishes, Hamlet is unable to simply accept the driving force in his mind that wants him to avenge his fallen father, resulting in a lengthy period of inactivity on his behalf. Though many claim his inactivity is due to a lack of nerve or opposing moral insight, a more likely solution is simply that Hamlet is not the murderous and impulsive type of human being, instead being more of an intellectual figure.
Proving his own desire to end the life of his uncle Claudius with such dialogue as “O, from this time forth, my thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!” (IV, IV, 65-66), Hamlet continually fails even to attempt to commit the act of murder. Repetitively questioning the end result of his actions, Hamlet is engulfed by the ‘what if’ possibilities that could arise from his murder of the king, resulting in an overall lack of motive to follow through. As Hamlet says, “And thus the native hue of resolution/Is sicklied o’er the with the pale cast of thought” (III,I, 85-86), he becomes too concerned over the possibilities of what could arise afterwards, and in doing so, he contaminates his own thoughts and brings forth hesitation. It is until the very moment before Hamlet’s own demise that he is able to strike down the manipulative king, finally taking charge and getting caught up in the heat of the moment to see things through while he still took breath. With this, it can be interpreted that Hamlet was unable to initiate anything because it was not in his nature; He was an individual who excels in theoretical deliberation, rather than being a figure who took action and brought forth leadership by his own hand.
In the sense of archetypes, Hamlet was a hero profile who fits along the lines of something such as the ‘Philosopher’ or ‘Lost Soul’ archetypal figures. Primarily a philosopher, Hamlet was more likely to evaluate situations rationally, rather than take impulsive action. Comparing Hamlet’s archetype to other characters in the story, Laertes and Fortinbras are used as character foils to amplify and emphasize the defining factors in Hamlet’s behaviour, and through this, Hamlet’s faults become increasingly observable as time progresses. Laertes, being almost the complete opposite of Hamlet as the ‘Warrior’ archetype, is known for his quick action and impulsive temper that brings him into the heat of battle whenever his emotions are triggered. Fortinbras, fitting the ‘Chief’ archetype, is quick to take action when deemed necessary, and his goal-oriented motives are carefully plotted beforehand to ensure that things would be seen through to the best possible solution. As a result of the personality of these two characters, it is clear to see that Hamlet’s hesitation is not a factor of moral standing or external obstacles, but rather, the fact that Hamlet is simply not a fighter, or killer, by nature.
Though there are many other theories that have been presented over time supporting other reasoning for why Hamlet was unable to fulfill his desire for revenge. However, the foundation for other examples is not nearly as rock-solid, resulting in a hit-and-miss concept that leaves their main points of focus with a lack of development. For example, one theory revolves around the thought that Hamlet was being blocked by external obstacles, such as the Swiss guards protecting the King, resulting in the inability to follow through on Claudius’ murder. However, in Act III, Scene III, Claudius presents Hamlet with a perfect opportunity in the church as he prays, and yet, Hamlet decides to avoid the chance. The fact that Hamlet was royalty as well would have presented him with the ability to be able to evade the guards and achieve alone time with the king, allowing for more opportunities for Claudius’ demise. Even if the guards were hesitant to let Hamlet near the king, Hamlet could easily manage to create a situation that could easily grant him entrance, given the right preparation and setup.
Another inconsistent theory is one regarding the fact that Hamlet was unable to persuade himself that it was justified to commit murder, even with the added temptation of revenge. With this assumption, though, there is no direct evidence to approve of the act of murder, and through a variety of portions of dialogue, Hamlet continues to support his desires for revenge and murder even further. Claudius’ murder aside, Hamlet ends up murdering Polonius partway through his endeavours, showing no hesitation to cause harm when he felt threatened. To contradict this theory even further, Hamlet even followed through on arranging the murder of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to prevent them from interfering with his plans anymore than they already had. Through this, it can be said that Hamlet was even becoming more desensitized to the thought of murder, rather than retaining the concept of it being deemed morally incorrect.
With no impulsive bones in his fictional body, Hamlet is a character in a story that proves to the reader that he is deprived of all impulsivity. He is merely a philosopher, void of the ability to break through the boundaries of his own characteristic limitations. Even though he makes his feelings clear with countless cries of his innermost feelings of disgust toward his uncle, those cries are left unanswered, even by himself. Though the fact remains that Hamlet does eventually see his goal achieved, the utter turmoil at that point in the story can really make the reader wonder: Even with Hamlet being able to slay Claudius, regardless of all of his hesitation, did the route he take really end up as a true success in the end? Given all of the misfortunes and casualties along the way from Hamlet’s sheer inactivity, it is very unlikely.