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To what degree to do you consider Hamlet to be mad? How do you think your 21st century interpretation might differ from an Elizabethan prospective?

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Introduction

To what degree to do you consider Hamlet to be mad? How do you think your 21st century interpretation might differ from an Elizabethan prospective? Madness can be seen as 'mental incapacity caused by unmentionable injury.' These wounds are not often easily perceived but may revealed in times of stress or anxiety similar to Hamlet's situation where his father has been blatantly murdered, yet it is not obvious to others. In Shakespeare's time, people would have looked upon Hamlet as mad, but they believed madness to be symptomatic of demonic possession, and the only way of driving out the evil was through burning to death. Although people feared madness, Hamlet was and still is one of the most popular of Shakespeare's plays, as his madness cannot be defined. Some believe madness to be the lack of rational thought or the result of a feeling of intense anger. Hamlet simulates madness and uses it as a disguise and in doing so he places himself so dangerously close to the line between sanity and insanity that he crosses it without even realising it. At the beginning of the play, Hamlet is seen wearing dark robes and acting in a general melancholic way. ...read more.

Middle

Never Hamlet." By using a rhetorical question that he does not expect him to answer, Hamlet assumes that Laertes is not mad with him even though he caused the death of his sister. He almost has a child like trust for Laertes and this can be seen as another symptom of the madness that Hamlet seems to possess. However, although Hamlet does show ignorance towards people that, if he were sane, he would have realised perhaps what they planned to do, ho does after realise that he has 'killed' Rosencrantz and Guildernstern. This is the turning point where Hamlet realises just what he has done. Hamlet, after this shows more sense in his words and so it could be argued that he was never actually mad and that it was merely all an act, but this cannot account for sightings of the ghost and his confused speech. Although it may seem strange, Hamlet is does appear to be jealous of his mother's marriage to his uncle. I believe that it is not only due to the fact that Claudius murdered his father to become king and marry his mother, but also because of the sexual relationship between them, "O most wicked speed, to post / With such dexterity This, like the murder of his father leads to the powerful emotions that Hamlet displays in his soliloquies. ...read more.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I believe that Hamlet is mad. I agree with the definition of madness that it is the 'mental incapacity caused by an unmentionable injury'. Throughout the play, no one mentions old Hamlet's suspicious death and it is only Hamlet who knows. As he has no other proof, apart from what the ghost 'apparently' told him, he cannot announce it. His silence is also due to him not speaking his feelings aloud as it would be considered treason. The murder then becomes the unmentionable injury and Hamlet shows this with his moody behaviour and 'inky' clothes. It is due to the murder of his father that triggers it all off as from then, we see his mental health decline. I have previously mentioned evidence that may contradict this view such as the periods of apparent sanity that he displays, however, this may be his way of convincing himself that he does not have an illness. His madness was borne from anger over the murder of his father, the succession of his uncle and the marriage of his mother. This raw emotion silently bubbled within Hamlet leading to the steady deterioration of his mind. Laura Kavanagh ...read more.

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