Many high schoolers struggle with a serious illness called chronic procrastination. Students don’t have any motivation to get their work done and lack the capacity to act against their missing work. Procrastinating may seem like a modern issue, but the tragic hero Hamlet also struggled with this affliction.
Shakespeare’s play Hamlet shows that balancing thoughts and actions determines our level of success. For example, the characters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern showcase how not thinking for yourself can be fatal. Many can argue that they didn’t have any thoughts of their own, and didn’t stand up for what they believed in. Instead, they ignored their good friend Hamlet and obeyed the king’s every command.
“Ay, sir, that soaks up the king’s countenance, his rewards, his authorities. But such officers do the king best service in the end he keeps them like an apple in the corner of his jaw, first mouthed to be last swallowed. When he needs what you have gleaned, it is but squeezing you and, sponge, you shall be dry again.” as Hamlet states in act 4 scene 2, he proves a point by likening them to a sponge, because they are just soaking up whatever Claudius says to them, and they weren’t trying to form their own opinions.
Hamlet says that the king is just using them and doesn’t care about their well-being. Hamlet ends up being correct when both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern wind up being killed in England after following one of Claudius’s orders.
Claudius is an example of a different type of thinking, Claudius struggles with overthinking after he has already acted. Claudius plotted to kill his brother and take his place as king. After being successful he takes his ex-sister-in-law as his wife. Claudius however struggles with feel guilty after the fact and wishes he could have everything his brother had without killing him. Hamlet act 3 scene three Claudius states
“though inclination be as sharp as will. My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent, and like a man to double business bond, I stand in pause where I shall first begin, and both neglect.”
Claudius talks about his guilt and how he regrets killing his brother. Although Claudius thought out his plan greatly after he took action, he ended up regretting what he did. Balancing his thoughts may have led him to the fact that killing his brother would make him feel bad before he murdered his brother.
Lastly, Hamlet shows us that thinking too much without acting can be just as fatal as any other mortal flaw. Hamlet throughout the play spends his time plotting and thinking of how he will revenge his dead father. However, he ends up dying because he waited too long to do anything. If Hamlet had acted sooner, he may have been able to survive.
Shakespeare showcases this often throughout the writing of Hamlet, by having the character second guess himself. For example, in act 3 scene 3 Hamlet states the following, “Now might I do it pat, now ‘a is a-praying, and now I’ll do’t–and so ‘a goes to heaven, and so am I revenged…No. Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent.”
Hamlet plans to kill Claudius while he is praying but decides not to because he doesn’t want him to go to heaven. Instead, Hamlet decides to wait until Claudius is doing something sinful. The irony is that Hamlet knows Claudius is a murderer and so it shouldn’t matter how he dies, he will end up in hell no matter what. Hamlet eventually gets his revenge on Claudius but pays with the price of his and his mother’s lives.
Hamlet’s characters show us how we think can be detrimental to our lives. If we spend all our time just thinking and never acting like Hamlet, we will never get what we want. And if we just do things to please others like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern we are ignoring our own needs. And if we are like Claudius and too quick to act then we may regret our past.
Procrastinating is just another version of balancing our thoughts and action. Taking more control of our lives and acting when we see fit may change the outcome of how we live. Like Shakespeare shows, Fortinbras took his life in his own hands and fought for what he wanted and ended up being the only successful character in the tragedy of Hamlet.