Hamlet is sometimes referred to as the story of a man who could not make up his mind. Written by William Shakespeare, the play follows a young prince named Hamlet and how he takes revenge upon his uncle for killing his father, the King of Denmark. Throughout the play, Hamlet experiences many mental and emotional challenges, and is very confused about what he should do. Hamlet’s inaction also causes the death of several other innocent people. Furthermore, if Hamlet had acted earlier he may have avoided his own tragic fate. Therefore, Hamlet’s greatest flaw is his inaction.
Another way in which inaction is Hamlet’s greatest flaw is that it causes the death of several other people who are innocent to a degree. If Hamlet had acted promptly, many people may not have been killed including his own mother. The list of people who died as a result of Hamlet delaying action includes Gertrude, Polonius, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern Laertes, and Ophelia. Hamlet has an opportunity near the beginning of the play to kill Claudius while he is praying as the text states: “Now might I do it pat, now he is praying; And now I’ll do’t. And so he goes to heaven; And so am I revenged” (3.3.74-76). This incident occurs before anyone else is killed in the play. Subsequently, several innocent people meet their death by the doing of Claudius or related causes. One example is when Polonius is hiding behind the curtain and spying on Hamlet and Gertrude. Hamlet believes that it is Claudius and stabs him through the curtain. Therefore if Hamlet had acted when Claudius was praying, than Polonius and everyone else would likely have survived.
The most definitive reason why the inability to act is Hamlet’s greatest flaw is that his death comes as a result. If he had acted at an earlier time he would have likely not been killed. Hamlet had multiple opportunities to kill Claudius; however, his hesitation results in his death. One opportunity is the previous instance in which Claudius was praying. Hamlet also stated: “When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage… Then trip him” (3.3.90-94). Hamlet means that he would kill Claudius when he is sleeping or at another time, however he does not follow through on his word. In the final scene of the play Hamlet is poisoned, but manages to kill Claudius and Laertes before reaching his demise.
Hamlet’s delay of action causes him and multiple others severe harm. He drives himself and Ophelia insane, consequently leading Ophelia to commit suicide. His lack of action also results in the death of several other people who are guilty of nothing, including his mother. Lastly, Hamlet does not act until he is on his deathbed, showing that underneath he is a coward. Evidently, Hamlet’s greatest flaw is his inaction.