I am now caught up to August on the Great Books of the Western World reading plan and this month had the opportunity to reread one of my favorites: Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” There is so much in this great tragic drama that it is difficult to choose just one aspect of it to write a few short paragraphs about. As I considered what to write for this blog post, however, I discovered that the one word that continually comes to mind as I try to think of ways to describe Hamlet is “hesitation.”
The story of Hamlet is, ultimately, the story of a lengthy hesitation and vacillation. This is not to say that it is some sort of morality tale with the moral “don’t think too much,” however. It is, rather, that Hamlet’s hesitation serves as the entry point for deeper and more meaningful meditations upon government, life and death, duty, family, and a great deal more. The moral of the story is not that Hamlet is wrong to hesitate, I think, but, rather, that hesitation, if this hesitation is a matter of deliberate action rather than cowardice, can in fact be a positive characteristic in a man.
It is Hamlet’s hesitation that allows him to peer more deeply into the nature of human existence than anyone else around him. Hamlet’s hesitation is, in a sense, the source of his insights. While others busily speed about, acting without thinking, Hamlet’s prolonged thought leads finally to the decisive action that brings about the final resolution.