Jennifer Formichelli wrote:
> My second point is about the propagation of the idea that Hamlet is indecisive, which has appeared in several posts. What evidence to support such a claim? It seems to me that Hamlet has sure enough made up his mind; the problem is rather than he cannot act on his decision. To be indecisive and to be incapable of action are not the same. Hamlet's mind is made up on one thing--Claudius--before he even sees the ghost. Hearing the tale of his father's murder, he replies: 'Oh my prophetic soul. My uncle!'
This won't quite do because it oversimplifies "action." An interesting
discussion of the complexity of the concept is to be found in Kenneth
Burke's critique of Alfred Korzybski. Korzybski had a favorite anecdote
of his saving himself from a bad fall by not identifying chair 1 with
chair 2 wtih chair 3 etc. So he did not assume that the chair win his
stateroom on a passenger ship would hold his weight and first tested it.
Korzybski called this a delayed reaction. Burke pointed out that it was
in fact a very fast reaction. The ordinary slow reaction would be to sit
down, but K acted very quickly to abort that action and instead perform
the act of _not_ sitting down.
Hamlet, on the verge of quickly and automatically killing Claudius as he
prays reacts quickly and acts to kill him at the right time. In no way
is this a failure to act.
Nor is Hamlet's father identifying a failure to act quickly when in the
bedroom scene he complains of Hamlet's almost blunted purpose. It isn't
that Hamlet has been refraining from acting on his purpose but that his
purpose, redeeming his mother (I reject the psychoanalytic
interpretation of the scene) rather than avenging his father. Again, a
quick and decisive action construed as delay in the Coleridgean
Indecisiveness would have to take the form of a conscious balancing of
conflicting motives or assessments of a situation. Burridan's Ass is
probably the archetypal instance.
As far as I can see, all Shakespeare's tragic heroes _and_ comic butts
act precipitously. Hamlet never, not even once, sits down to analyze the
situation but plunges on from one snap judgment (followed by immediate
implementation) after another.
Perhaps he suffers from attention-deficit disorder or hyperactivity. :-)