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How does Shakespeare present Hamlet's madness throughout the play?

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Introduction

Amy Whitaker English How does Shakespeare present Hamlet's madness throughout the play? The theme of madness particularly that of Hamlet's is a major theme and mystery throughout the play. Shakespeare presents Hamlet's state of mind in such a way that it is not clear whether his disturbed symptoms of madness are a genuine ailment or if Hamlet is as he warned his friends putting on an "antic disposition" (Act one, Scene five). From the first scene in the play, Shakespeare creates a mood of anxiety and dread. The play begins with a question, creating ambiguity, Francisco's statement "For I am sick at heart," (line nine,scene one, act one) is not only quite morbid but also unexplained, the way Shakespeare writes with these broken rhythms and conversations that don't flow generates an apprehensive atmosphere. The first suggestion of Hamlet's madness is after he has seen the ghost; Hamlet warns his friend's (Horatio and Marcellus) that he may:" Put on 'an antic disposition" and act mad in order to conceal his revenge instructed by the ghost, therefore Hamlet is already suggesting that he is going to 'act mad' giving doubt that his madness is genuine later on. For example in Act two, Scene one, Ophelia's description of Hamlet's behaviour resembles play-acting: "His knee's knocking each other And with a look so piteous in purport, As if he had been loosed out of hell." It is almost inevitable that Ophelia would inform her Father of Hamlet's behaviour who would then tell Claudius, which could be the reason why Hamlet used Ophelia to 'perform' to. ...read more.

Middle

Hamlet denies it Who does it then? His madness." However this confession to Laertes cannot be reliable even though it is similar to Claudius' description of Ophelia's behaviour. If Hamlet is genuinely mad then it is not likely he would be able to evaluate his madness in such a way, it is possible that he would be more likely to say this if he was "putting his 'madness' on", as he would have to have some understanding of how madness can make people act to make his 'false madness' believable anyway. In Act 2, Scene 4, Hamlet again implies he isn't genuinely mad by demonstrating his sanity to his Mother: "A bloody deed- almost as bad, good mother, As kill a King and marry with his brother" Shakespeare uses imagery to present the corruption of Gertrude's and Claudius' incestuous relationship: " In the rank of an enseam�d bed, Stewed in corruption, honeying And making love, over the nasty Sty." Hamlet appears to be in complete control of what he says, offends his Mother and tells her what he thinks of her, again showing he is not afraid of defending his morals. The powerful language he uses really creates the image of corruption and sin, the words he uses are all imagery of disease and filth, the word 'rank' gives an image of a really disgusting smell revolving around sin. 'Stewed in corruption',' honeying', 'nasty' and 'sty' all create images of real dishonesty, corrupting disease. A sty is an infection and the word 'honeying' almost creates an image of 'infected puss' oozing out of a wound. ...read more.

Conclusion

This style of Hamlet's is allusively presented in his language which also through his 'madness' is allowed to be more rich and creative rather than aristocratic like the other characters. Hamlet uses many proverbial sayings and puns in the play. The authenticity of Hamlet's madness is a mystery that cannot be solved, this is perhaps why the play is enjoyed by the audience so much, the huge sense of mystery and uncertainty surrounding Hamlet's madness is a main attraction of the play. It is possible that Hamlet is suffering from madness of some sort as my essay suggests perhaps 'melancholic behaviour', or the anger and jealousy Hamlet feels is just too much for him to conceal. However it is also possible that Hamlet's behaviour is 'madness' put on by himself, there is evidence to support this theory as everyone in the play who states that Hamlet is mad has like himself got reason to imply this. Hamlet has stated that he would consider putting on an 'antic disposition' as a disguise to conceal his revenge plot against Claudius. It is also a very significant point that the play of Hamlet is not a true story and consequently Hamlet is not a real character/personality in real life, therefore Shakespeare was able to present him and make him seem however, he wished to. It is possible and likely that Shakespeare intended to present Hamlet's madness in this ambiguous way giving almost equal reason for Hamlet to be genuinely mad as there is for him to be 'acting mad.' ...read more.

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