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"Compare the way Shakespeare presents Hamlet's 'antic disposition' to the way Ophelia's madness is presented to us in Act V."

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Introduction

"Compare the way Shakespeare presents Hamlet's 'antic disposition' to the way Ophelia's madness is presented to us in Act V." In this play, Hamlet, Shakespeare shows us the different ways that madness can be portrayed and the various ways that others surrounding the central characters can perceive it. From the beginning it is explained that Hamlet would "put an antic disposition on" and this signifies that Hamlet's madness would just be an act, not something that is actually true. Hamlet confides in Horatio and asks him not to look knowingly if he sees Hamlet behaving oddly by saying "some doubtful phrase" that might be "ambiguous" in its meaning. This immediately reinforces the notion that Hamlet is only play acting his apparent madness and in actual fact, is sane. Shakespeare presents Hamlet's "antic disposition" as a means for Hamlet to bide his time and figure out how to avenge his father's murder "by a brothers hand." Hamlet's madness is not meant to be seen as madness by us, but as something that has a purpose i.e. ...read more.

Middle

He describes it as his "antic disposition" whereas Polonius calls it "lunacy" and Claudius calls it "distemper" and a "transformation". Although everyone perceives Hamlet as mad, Polonius and Claudius at one point doubted that Hamlet in actual fact was indeed mad. Claudius had Rosencrantz and Guildenstern spy on Hamlet, whilst when Polonius spoke to Hamlet he thought that "though this be madness, yet there is method in't". This shows that madness within Hamlet is not really madness at all, but is just an act; a performance on Hamlet's part. Shakespeare adds this doubt to Hamlet's madness whereas in Ophelia's case there is no doubt about her state of mind to those around her. It is believed that mad people have a tendency to have suicidal feelings. In Hamlet's first soliloquy, he desires that his "flesh would melt" and would have killed himself had not "his canon 'gainst self-slaughter". In his first soliloquy, he says "to be or not to be, that is the question"-in this line, Hamlet wonders whether or not to commit suicide. These suicidal feelings beg the question "had Hamlet actually gone mad?" ...read more.

Conclusion

Even though Hamlet is knocked with strong emotional surprises, such as finding out that his stepfather killed his father, Claudius, Hamlet still remains strong in public. This is a very sharp contrast to how Ophelia behaved when she suffered acute trauma due to the sudden death of her father. Whilst Hamlet remains strong, Ophelia transcends towards madness as her fragile state of mind had shattered. Maybe, this was the way Shakespeare viewed both sexes or maybe those were the views of Elizabethan society as a whole. Shakespeare presents Hamlet's "antic disposition" as something very different to how Ophelia's madness is presented to us. Shakespeare presents Hamlet as a strong character who has the ability to deal with emotional trauma, whereas Ophelia was portrayed as weak and symbolised what Hamlet once remarked: "Frailty, thy name is woman". Shakespeare presents Hamlet and Ophelia in contrasting ways to show us the differences between an "antic disposition" and actual madness. By using these contrasts, Shakespeare seems to be reflecting on the attitudes and views of Elizabethan society and also seems to be offering us his definition of madness. SHAMIMA SHALLY L6ZB ...read more.

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