By: Elikem Dorbu

Action vs. Inaction (By Characters)

Claudius
  • Action:
    • oKill King Hamlet to gain the throne
      • § Jumpstarts the events in the story through his greed and treachery
  • oTakes throne quickly by marrying Gertrude
    • § Shows that he is willing to get what he wants immediately
  • oSends letter to King Norway after first being notified of Fortinbras’ activity
    • § Willing to act quickly to put down rebellions
  • oRefuses Hamlet’s journey to England, but allows Laertes to go overseas without delay
    • § Wants to keep an eye on Hamlet
  • oUses Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on Hamlet
    • § Wants to make sure that he is not doing anything that could damage Claudius
  • oReadily adopts the notion that Hamlet is going crazy because he is being denied Ophelia
    • § Shifts blame onto someone else
  • oImmediately devises plan to get Hamlet out of Denmark by sending him to England
    • § Shows that he wants to remove all barriers to his throne
  • o Claudius confesses his murder while in the church
  • o Demands to know where Polonius is
  • o Sends Hamlet to England for him to be killed by the King
  • Inaction:
    • oNever tells anyone about his crimes
      • § Knows he is wrong to kill King Hamlet, but does not want to repent for it
      • § Commits acts he knows is evil
  • oDoesn’t have Hamlet executed or even penalized for killing Polonius
    • § Reveals that he cares too much about Gertrude to break for heart for that
    • § Reveals that Gertrude is the only reason he is even keeping Hamlet alive
Hamlet
  • Action:
    • o Decides immediately to see the Ghost that Horatio describes
    • o Talks to Ghost as soon as he is beckoned by the spirit
    • o Takes on antic disposition after talking to Ghost to gain the truth about Hamlet, Sr.’s death
    • o Puts plan to kill Claudius back into motion after the players speak
    • o Devises play to detect Claudius’ guilt
    • o Quick to denounce and reject Ophelia after he senses her betrayal
    • oQuestions Claudius during the play
      • § Wants to catch Claudius in his guilt with everyone to hear
    • oKills Polonius without ascertaining his identity in Gertrude’s bedroom
      • § Doesn’t express remorse for his actions
      • § Shows that he can act, albeit recklessly
      • § Emotional Frailty on Hamlet’s part
    • o Hamlet decides to go down the path of killing Claudius after seeing Fortinbras’ army
    • oAccepts the duel with Laertes
      • § Kind of acceptance that this fight may be his last hurrah
    • oKills Claudius
      • § Finally fulfills his mission
    • His actions show he can be a quick, ruthless, and brutal man when he wants to be, really scary

  • Inaction:
    • o Delays in killing Claudius until the players come by
    • o Doesn’t tell Horatio about what the Ghost says
    • oHalts plan to kill Claudius until his encounter with the players
      • § Angry about his inaction
      • § Not totally sure about the Ghost’s identity
    • oDoes not kill Claudius in the church
      • § Wants to catch him in a moment of sin
    • oDoesn’t reveal himself immediately to the mourning party
      • § Builds suspense for his clash with Laertes in the graveyard
    • Inactions are one of his key identifying features. He tends to talk a lot by what he will do, but doesn't finish quickly
Horatio
  • Action:
    • oDemands that Ghost speaks to him
      • § Intimidated
  • oTells Hamlet about the ghost as soon as he can
    • § Loyal to Hamlet
    • § Confidante to Hamlet
    • Inaction:
      • oTries to prevent Hamlet from seeing the Ghost after it beckons to speak to the prince alone
        • § Worried about his safety
Ophelia
  • Action
    • o Takes Laertes’ words to heart
    • o Not afraid to tell him to follow his own words of wisdom, as well
    • o Immediately pledges to abstain from meeting with Hamlet
    • oTells Polonius of her encounter with a “mad” Hamlet immediately after it occurs
      • § Shows her loyalty to Polonius
      • § Portrays stereotype of women during Shakespearean times
    • Inaction:
      • o Lies to Hamlet about where he father is
Gertrude
  • Action:
    • oReadily adopts the notion that Hamlet is going crazy because he is being denied Ophelia
      • § Shifts blame onto someone else
  • oTells Claudius that Hamlet kills Polonius
    • § Still shows her obedience to him
  • oObeys Hamlet’s words not to sleep with Claudius from now on
    • § Love between mother and son
    • § Obedience to men
  • o Drinks Hamlet’s goblet
  • oTells Laertes that his sister has died
    • § “Disobeys” Claudius, even though she has no idea of their plans
    • Inaction:
      • oCannot stand Hamlet talking about Claudius in her bedroom
        • § His words cause her to regret marrying Claudius in the first place
  • oTells no one that Hamlet is not actually crazy, and kills Polonius without remorse
    • § Shows her love to her son is more important to her than the truth
Polonius
  • Action
    • o Wants Laertes to leave as soon as possible after he casts his decision
    • oWants to know Laertes’ movements overseas
      • § Wants to make sure Laertes is not ruining Polonius’ good name
  • oNotifies Gertrude and Claudius that Hamlet is smitten with Ophelia
    • § Wants Ophelia and Hamlet to marry, then he gains more power if Ophelia becomes queen
  • o Impatient with other people
  • o Tells Gertrude to guilt-trip Hamlet into remorse for catching Claudius
  • Inaction
    • o Delays in his decision to allow Laertes to leave
    • o Beats around the bush when explaining Hamlet’s actions around Ophelia to Gertrude and Claudius
    • o Long-winded
King Norway
  • Action:
    • o Immediately puts steps into action to stop Fortinbras from invading Denmark
Fortinbras
  • Action:
    • o Creates army for the sake of invading and taking over Denmark
    • o Takes the throne without a moment’s delay
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
  • Action:
    • o Willing to watch over and betray Hamlet for money

Laertes
  • Action:
    • o Decides to kill Hamlet for revenge
    • oAgrees to Claudius’ plan to kill Hamlet
      • § Shows his blind motivation of hate
  • oStrikes Hamlet behind his back
    • § Won’t let honor get in the way of his revenge