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An Exploration of the Way Shakespeare Presents Madness in 'Hamlet'

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An Exploration of the Way Shakespeare Presents Madness in 'Hamlet' Does Shakespeare intend to present Hamlet and Ophelia as insane? This is a question which has baffled English literary critics for more than 400 years. There is still no definite answer, and throughout the play there are numerous points where you stop and wonder whether Hamlet and Ophelia are sane or not. They both change dramatically from one scene to another, often drastically. Although in my opinion, Hamlet is not crazy at all, he is merely forced to act insane to avenge his fathers' death. Hamlet is in fact so good at acting insane that many people question whether or not he is actually insane. Although many believe he is just exceptionally depressed as a result of his father's death. Gertrude rushed into marriage only two months after her husband's death and this can certainly be seen as a key reason for Hamlet's profound depression. It was a very little space of time between his father's death and his mother's re-marriage, this time to Claudius who was next in line to be King anyway - and now became so. This was another factor which upset Hamlet, as he would have potentially became king eventually whereas now this may not be the case. Personally, I believe that Hamlet set out to act insane - but, as a result of constant recurring betrayal - actually did turn genuinely insane. Throughout the play, with the exception of one character, there is not one soul who sticks with him; they all betray him in one way or another, with the exception of Horatio. ...read more.


Polonius' actual position is the Lord Chamberlain of Claudius's Court. Polonius tells Claudius and Gertrude that he thinks the reason for Hamlet's eccentric behaviour and extended depression is due to his relationship with Ophelia. In an earlier conversation between Ophelia and her father, Polonius, he had asked her whether or not she believed Hamlet was: "Mad for thy love?" Her reply to this was: "My Lord, I do not know; But I truly do fear it" From this, we can establish that perhaps Ophelia does not feel as strongly for Hamlet as he himself does for her. This could be an additional factor which helped to push Hamlet over the edge in his long winding journey to insanity. It is in fact Polonius who has forbid his daughter from seeing Hamlet - and at the time, which Shakespeare wrote this particular piece of writing, it was popular to believe that love which had become twisted and aggravated could lead to madness, personally I think that is ludicrous but that is what people believed many years ago - Polonius being no exception. Shakespeare comes up with a clever idea when he stages a scene whereby Polonius gets Hamlet to go and see Ophelia in a room where they are allegedly alone to see his reaction to the situation: "At such a time I'll loose my daughter to him" Hamlet may be insane - but he is far from obtuse - as proven when this scene occurs; he asks Ophelia where her father is, and then becomes outraged when she lies to him and tells him he is not present hiding or in view of the room. ...read more.


songs: "...to be your Valentine" Here she is singing a song about Valentines Day which is obviously related to her feelings towards Hamlet. Also, she says: "Quoth she, before you tumbled me, you promis'd me to wed" This means she is upset she hasn't married Hamlet, and Shakespeare made this stand out to show her true madness - as why would she be so bothered as to marrying Hamlet after he killed her father, although maybe this delves further into her madness. Shortly after all of this and a conversation with her brother, Ophelia is found dead, floating in a river. We do not know for certain whether or not it was suicide, murder or accidental, and in my eyes Shakespeare did this on purpose to make the audience make their own mind up with regards as to whether or not she was truly mad. Ophelia was like no other character in the play. Unlike the themes of revenge and corruption, she stood out as being pure and innocent. It is in fact ironic that it is she whom should die so early on instead of one of the evil individuals - such as Claudius. In my opinion, both Hamlet and Ophelia were crazy and were as mad as each other were, only Hamlet was stronger inside and resisted suicide as he has a reason to live, to seek revenge on Claudius. I think Hamlet and Ophelia loved each other throughout despite what they showed on the outside, and I believe that they both drove themselves to madness via their own love for one another. ...read more.

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