Although many of us hold motivations, dreams and goals, the road to get to them can be one of challenge and adversity. This may lead to one prolonging their pursuit to an indefinite time, or procrastinating. It isn’t a new concept – no matter how hard a worker one is, there’s always that one thing on their agenda they choose to ignore until the last minute – but it’s interesting to consider why people decide to put off seemingly important things. This is, of course, the case Hamlet finds himself in where the titular character constantly pushes his plot of revenge back despite how important revenge is to him. Through Hamlet’s journey, it is made evident that when a motivated individual is unsure of the validity of his actions, he will push back his goals and begin to lose that drive that he once had until something happens that reignites his motivation and gives him the strength to finally power through his procrastination.
When Hamlet learns his father may have been murdered by his uncle, he plans out how to prove his uncle’s guilt, which prolongs his revenge and Hamlet sees his motivation wane until he is reminded of his purpose. As previously stated, Hamlet learns from his father about the actions his uncle committed and aims to prove it through a play. However, it is his fixation on proving his uncle’s guilt that leads him to procrastinate on the more pressing matter, his revenge. When Hamlet’s desire for revenge shifts to proving his uncle’s guilt, he is no longer taking any real action to rectify the wrongs his father has faced, and that indifference leads him to procrastinate. The primary reason for his slip into procrastination is he has no one there to motivate him, as seen in the line, “The time is out of joint; O cursed spite, That ever I was born to set it right!-” (I.v.190-91). In this line, we see Hamlet decide that it is purely his fate to right the wrongs of his father’s murder, and previously in the scene, we saw Hamlet refuse to tell his friends what the ghost told him. Without an outside source helping keep him on track, he is unable to maintain his motivation and is preoccupied by other things, such as his facade of madness and his plan to prove his uncle’s guilt.
As the play continues, Hamlet’s actions towards his goals are sparse and he does not commit to killing his uncle until the very last minute – right before his death. Though Hamlet does get closer to his goal, the process is slow and arduous with him taking many opportunities to break away from his task in order to do something unrelated, such as speak with his mother after the play or agree with Claudius sending him to England. Despite his admittance of his constant procrastination and criticism towards his lack of action in lines such as, “‘Swounds, I should take it: for it cannot be / But I am pigeon-liver’d, and lack gall / To make oppression bitter,” (II.ii.574-575) where he berates himself for not taking action and uses his lack of strength to carry out his action as an excuse. This brings about the idea that much of Hamlet’s procrastination stems from his lack of certainty, not only in regards to his uncle’s guilt but whether he would be able to go through with the act. His procrastination regarding his revenge is only broken at two major points, when he stabs Polonius in act 3, scene 4 and in act 5, scene 2 where his impending death leads to him taking action.
Similar to many themes present in Shakespeare’s works, there are elements of this idea that are present in my life and how I sometimes deal with procrastination. As with Hamlet’s case, often we procrastinate on things that we are uncertain on how well we can complete them. For Hamlet, it was hesitation due to a lack of certainty in whether his uncle truly did kill his father. For me, it was the difficulty I faced on some of my assignments, typically writing assignments. One example that remains vivid in my memory came about in grade 8 with a group math project which constituted each group designing a soda can with specific dimensions. With the class time we had been assigned, we got very little work done despite how simple our design was. We ended up ignoring the assignment for the week we had to work on it even on our own time. While I did try my best to do my part, I lacked a lot of contact with my group and was unsure whether my work had been satisfactory or not. This led to me and my group members, who had also put our project on hold in their spare time, forgetting about the project until the night before. Out of desperation, one of my group members called me and the other member up telling us that our project was due tomorrow; this call acted as our motivation for immediate action like Hamlet learning of his impending death. Through late night work and rushed planning, we managed to barely finish and were able to present the next day, though the presentation of our project wasn’t impressive and resulted in a poor score. Just as Hamlet’s inaction led to his revenge being rushed and unplanned despite prior motivation, we rushed our project at the last minute and were left with an unsatisfying grade in response.
Despite the extreme nature of Hamlet’s tale of revenge and the extreme circumstances he finds himself in, Shakespeare was still able to relate many of the themes and messages present in his work to every day life. As evident by both Hamlet and my real life experiences, it is clear that procrastination stems from an individual’s uncertainty in the validity of their actions and they’ll put off their main goal, leading to a loss in motivation. This lack of motivation continues on until some drastic change of circumstances occurs leading to a spur in motivation and an escape from procrastination, though the task may not have been completed in a matter expected or desired. No matter how hard a worker or how driven an individual is, there will always be a lingering uncertainty in their actions, which can develop into procrastination if that certainty isn’t restored.