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Hamlet & Madness

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Introduction

The idea of a character feigning madness is not unusual in great literary works; many authors use it to show the sanity of a character. This idea is apparent throughout Hamlet. In the masterpiece, there is much debate around the protagonist, Hamlet, and whether or not his madness in the play was real or feigned. Literary scholars have debated this for more than four hundred years. One of the possible reasons for the intense recognition of this play is the way Shakespeare uses Hamlet's theme of madness to serve a motive, of how one must use deception in order to deceive others to get the truth. In this play, the tragic hero contemplates his own concepts of moral judgement and in the process is considered mad. Hamlet claims to feign his madness, but is it debated that he actually has some characteristics of a madman. His madness can be defined by his inability to decide between right and wrong and to make appropriate decisions based on the standards of society. Hamlets circumstances in the play were a major contribution to his 'madness.' His father, King Hamlet, has just been murdered; his mother, Gertrude, had married his uncle Claudius only a short time after her late husband dies, stripping Hamlet from his natural right to the throne. The ghost of his dead father appeared to him with instructions to revenge Claudius for his murder and finally, his love Ophelia was no longer permitted to see him by order of her father. Although Hamlet's mad act seems only to be in presence of Gertrude, Claudius, Ophelia, Polonius, Rozencrantz and Guildenstern. I believe that Hamlet is feigning his madness, after observing some numerous quotes from the play, shows that Hamlet is faking madness in order to camouflage his revenge for his uncle, a mad man could not behave logically and could not have, the ability to act normally to some people but madly to others. ...read more.

Middle

/ It may be; very like" (2.2.151-52). After Hamlet's encounter with the ghost, he obtains a great distrust and distaste for women. His feigned madness permitted Hamlet to express these emotions freely towards Ophelia: "...Get thee to a nunnery, / farewell. Or if thou wilt needs marry, marry a / fool; for wise men know well enough what monsters / you make of them..." (3.1.138-41). It was also important for Hamlet to be so vulgar towards Ophelia because it would not have been possible for him to continue being a caring loving boyfriend while attempting to avenge his father's death. Lastly, by pretending to be mentally disturbed, it provided Hamlet with an excuse for any sinful deeds he would commit on his pursuit of revenge. Hamlet exemplifies this conception as he seeks for Laertes forgiveness for murdering his father Polonius: "If Hamlet from himself be ta'en away, / And when he's not himself does wrong Laertes, / Then Hamlet does it not, Hamlet denies it. / Who does it then? His madness..." (5.2.230-33). Hamlet's pursuit of the truth and revenge was much better accompanied by madness rather than sanity which gave Hamlet a clear motive to fabricate insanity in the play. In the midst of Hamlet's supposed madness, the prince continues to speak rationally with certain individuals as well as maintain sensible and logical thoughts. This idea is depicted through his conversations with his good friend Horatio who is assisting Hamlet in his search for the truth behind Old Hamlet's death. For example, before the performance of the play Hamlet explains to Horatio, "There is a play tonight before the Williams 3 king: / One scene of it comes near the circumstance / Which I have told thee of my father's death. / I prithee, when thou seest that act afoot, / Even with the very comment of thy soul / Observe my uncle. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the third Act, Hamlet is set up to confront Ophelia, and promptly displays an antic disposition. He speaks in circles and contradicts himself plainly telling her "I did love you once" (Act III, scene I, line 118), and then in his next dialogue "I loved you not" (Act III, scene I, line 123). However, in different company, like that of Horatio, Bernardo, Francisco, The Players, and the Grave diggers, he is perfectly sensible. Even though his performance is a good one, Polonius notes that "Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't" (Act II, scene II, lines 211-212), hinting that he is catching on to Hamlet's act. Polonius sees a reason behind the madness, giving credibility to Hamlet's act. The King Claudius is also suspicious of the reason for Hamlet's madness. After witnessing the meeting between Hamlet and Ophelia, he makes the decision to keep an eye on Hamlet, saying "Madness in great ones must not unwatch'd go" (Act III, scene II, line 200). He realizes that this madness that Hamlet is showing could be dangerous to himself, or his kingdom. Though Shakespear never says what the method is behind Hamlet's madness, it is apparent that he is indeed feigning his sickness. He was visited by his father's ghost which tells him that he had been murdered by Hamlet's own uncle, and that he must take revenge. While Hamlet knows that his father was wronged, he must decide whether or not to avenge his death. Acting quickly, Hamlet assumes a role of insanity in an effort to confirm his suspicions about Claudius' involvement. He admits to other various characters that he is putting on an act, and only plays this act for certain characters, a couple of whom sense that there is a reason behind it. He is cruel to these characters that he can't trust, but as Hamlet himself says "I must be cruel, only to be kind: Thus bad begins and worse remains behind" (Act III, scene IV, lines 163-164). ...read more.

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