What Are Hamlet’s Reasons For Not Killing Claudius When He Had The Opportunity?

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Hamlet begins to hesitate to kill Claudius in the third act because he appears to be praying. Hamlet is concerned that if Claudius passes away during prayer, his soul will go straight to heaven. Hamlet believes that Cladius must pay for his sins and can’t allow himself to be killed while he’s praying.

Hamlet is a typical Elizabethan guy in every sense. He’s a Dane from an earlier period taken literally, but Shakespeare’s characters always act and think like modern people.

According to (a), ghosts didn’t exist—they were either figment of your imagination or demons sent to entice you into sin, and (b) that ghosts did exist—they were the spirits of your loved ones who had gone to Purgatory before you.

The Protestant view was that man is sinful and deserving of damnation; the Catholic view was that he is redeemed. Experts—both religious leaders—agreed with one another in declaring which religion was correct.

This, along with other elements, contributes to Hamlet’s uncertainty and dread of what lies beyond death. Shakespeare lived during a time when Christianity in Europe was at its most tumultuous period.

Hamlet does not hesitate to carry out his father’s order to avenge his death. If the ghost is genuine and honest, Hamlet is carrying out his father’s wishes.

Hamlet is following Lucifer’s orders if the ghost is a devil. He considers both possibilities. They are explicitly mentioned throughout the play, leaving it up to us to choose which one is correct according to the legend.

Even if the ghost is Hamlet’s father, regicide—the most heinous Elizabethan felony—would be committed by murdering Claudius. “Treason!” they scream when he finally does it. Many Elizabethans may have believed this, even though they assumed that Claudius definitely committed murder.

At the same time, seeking out revenge against a Christian foe was considered sinful by the Catholic Church, and Elizabethans were persuaded that seeking revenge—particularly merely pursuing it—was an offense against God’s laws.

Christians were prohibited from hating their foes. Hamlet realized that even if the ghost was his father and Claudius deserved to die, murdering him would send him (Hamlet) to hell. And he repeatedly states that he is a chicken who is terrified of going to hell.

Finally, he understands that if he kills Claudius as the king prays to God for forgiveness, everything he’ll accomplish is to get him into heaven as quickly as possible. Hamlet has no way of determining what’s really going on when the king prays since he is unaware of Claudius’ intentions.