The theme of revenge runs through all the scenes of the play and binds it together. On one hand, Hamlet tries to avenge the death of his father at the hands of his brother, King Claudius; on the other, Laertes wants to kill Hamlet in order to avenge the death of his father and sister. Fate plays an important role in the events leading to the tragic end of most of the key characters.
How often are we faced with the question 'to be or not to be' Act III, scene I (58-90). It is precisely this quality of Hamlet, the indecisiveness or the uncertainty that gives the play a universal appeal transcending all borders of time. This soliloquy is probably the most famous speech in the English language, where Hamlet touches upon a question that all living beings come face to face with at some time in their lives. How many times are we faced with the moral ramification of the question of living and facing 'the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' or taking the easier way out, "To die,-to sleep." He answers this question by saying that people put up with the sufferings in life because of "the dread of something after death", which could make them even more miserable.
Hamlet finally "learns to accept the order of the universe and to become a passive instrument in the hands of a purposive and benevolent God" (Ribner, Irving 66).
The theme of procrastination
Hamlet, exemplifies a typical Shakespearean tragic hero in that he belongs to a noble family and possesses a moral flaw or weakness that leads to his downfall and death. In case of Hamlet, the prince of Denmark, his fatal flaw is procrastination. This flaw, in fact, separates Hamlet from other revenge plays in that what we have here is not action but the postponement of action. Yet, again the play touches a chord because the inclination to procrastinate is something very human. Our actions are not completely based on logic; we are also governed by factors such as emotions, ethics, and other psychological factors that make it difficult for us to come to a decision, and then act on it. When the ghost of his father informs him that he was murdered by his brother, Hamlet, instead of taking revenge right away feels that he has to establish the guilt of his uncle Claudius, which he does by staging a play that replays the events that led to his father's death. Finally, by the time he really acts, a number of innocent people have already lost their lives.
The play Hamlet touches a universal chord for the issues it raises such as the complexity of the human mind, life and life after death, madness, real or feigned, and the moral fabric of relationships. These questions are relevant even today and that is what gives Hamlet a timeless and endearing quality.
Ribner, Irving. Patterns in Shakespearian Tragedy. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1960.