Hamlets Madness Essay

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The issue of madness is one of major importance in this play.
IsHamlet truly mad, meaning insane? Or is he merely angry? Does he feignmadness and use it as a guise? Or does he place himself so dangerously closeto the line between sanity and insanity that he crosses it without evenrealizing it? Or is he so intelligent, cunning and in control that this is merelythe playing out of his completely conceived and well-executed plan of attack?The patient is a thirty year-old male. He is Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,an introspective, grieving young member of the royalty, plagued by the recentdeath of his father, and the hasty marriage of his mother to his uncle,Claudius. He is capable of depressing anyone around him; the King andQueen attempt to pry Hamlet from his mourning. As relations become morestrained between Hamlet and Claudius, his attitude becomes destitute.
Hebegins to withdraw himself from everyone in the castle, and spends most ofhis time in solitude; he is often seen walking alone, talking to himself. Upon deeper investigation, it is discovered that Hamlet is seeing theghost of the ex-King of Denmark, Hamlets father. The ghost becomesHamlets counselor, guiding him through his everyday maze of depressionand confusion. It is through the ghost of his father that he learns thatClaudius, the new King of Denmark, is solely responsible for his fathersfoul and most unnatural murder (I. v. 26).
He claims that he is told to seekrevenge on his fathers murder by murdering Claudius. Hamlet sees the ghostat various times over the course of the play, appearing when he is in need ofHamlets condition persists, gradually getting worse, as he becomesincreasingly more aggressive and violent. His behavior towards Ophelia, thewoman he loves, becomes erratic. He has violent outbursts towards hismother. He kills various members of the castle without explanation.
Hamletis clearly out of control, and is in need of a psychological evaluation. The most major of mental illnesses is schizophrenia, a psychoticillness, where the patient is out of touch with reality. In this disease, thoughtsmay be deranged or delusions without basis may arise. The individual tendsto withdraw from their already little social contact. They becomeunresponsive and lose interest in normal activities.
Emotionally, they can beirritable, angry, aggressive, and even violent at times. At other times, theycan have an obsession with death, or voices can be heard or visions seen. The reasons for this change often appear unexplainable to relatives andfriends. Some try to explain this new behavior as due to stresses, past orpresent, especially from interpersonal difficulties and mishaps.
It is generallya devastating illness, troublesome to the patient and painful to the relativesand sometimes offensive to society. (Chong, 1)William Shakespeares literary opus Hamlet is an adventure story ofthe highest quality, a tale of the psychological trials of a man who is isolatedfrom the society he must live in, and a portrait of a family driven to bloodyand gruesome murder by one mans lust for power (King, 1). In his essayHamlet: A Riddle in Greatness, Louis Kronenberger states that even onthe surface, Hamlet remains among the greatest of unsolved psychologicalmysteries, and the one that has been provided with the most solutions (1). The theme of madness in Hamlet has been one of great discussion; there ismuch conflicting evidence that can be found when trying to prove the validityof the claim to Hamlets true madness. The patient, Hamlet, prince of Denmark, has been diagnosed withschizophrenia due to his erratic, sometimes irrational behavior.
Ever sincethe death of his father, King Hamlet, young Hamlet has been what appearedto be in a state of madness. This case study on Hamlets condition will citemany instances in William Shakespeares Hamlet in which the patient hasacted in a schizophrenic, meaning mad, manner. Hamlets madness is theresult of his fragile, overanalytical personality being confronted with a greatHamlets madness is apparent even before he sees the ghost of hisfather. At the start of the play, Hamlet is shown to be in the throes ofbereavement (Though This is Madness, Yet There is Method in It. , OnlineArchive, 1). The queen encourages him to look to the future, and to cease hisgrieving, for she believes it is false.
Hamlet responds angrily to hersuggestion: But I have within which passeth show; these but the trappingsand the suits of woe. Hamlets strained relationship with Claudius is nowevident; as he comments on his mothers marriage, It is not nor it cannotcome to good (I. ii. 158), he already senses that it embodies much misfortune.
This line sets a portentous prediction for the course of the play, as Hamletstruggles between emotion and sobriety in order to enact revenge on hisHamlets encounter with the ghost of his father considerably changeshis disposition, and his actions become more bizarre. He has the uniqueability to communicate to his father by talking to a ghost; his friends mustswear themselves to secrecy because of the threat that others may dismisshim as mad. Nevertheless, Hamlets actions after meeting the ghost dolead everyone except Horatio to believe he is crazy, but never acts upon hisfeelings and loses control. From the beginning, Hamlet feels much pressureto speak out against the king, but lacks the strength to do so. This innerconflict is shown in his soliloquy in act two, when he states, O, what a rogueand peasant slave am I! (II.
ii. 534). He confesses that he is a coward, and istorn between speaking out and actually taking action against Claudius. Thesenew pressures cause much inner torment in Hamlet, and hint at the fact thatFurther evidence of Hamlets madness can be found in Hamletsencounter with his mother in act three, scene four. Hamlet has gone to see hismother in an attempt to force her to purge herself of her sin, her hastymarriage to Claudius. As he attempts to make his mother see her wrongs, hescreams at her: Nay, but to live in the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,stewed in corruption, honeying and making love (III.
iv. 92-95). This attackon his mother clearly shows that he has gone beyond merely playing the roleof a moralist, for he has crossed the line between sanity and insanity with hisAfter this attack on his mother, Hamlet furthers his irrational behaviorby killing Polonius, who was standing behind the curtain in his mothersroom. As Polonius slumps out from behind the curtain, the queen exclaimsO me, what hast thou done?.
Hamlet replies, Nay, I know not. Is it theking? After the slaying, Hamlet appears to justify the killing in his ownmind by stating that Polonius death is almost as bad, good mother, as kill aking and marry with his brother (III. iv. 30-31).
Hamlets excuse for themurder is irrational, for he left Claudius a scene before, and did not take anyaffirmative action then. He continues to verbally attack his mother, and doesnot cease until his next meeting with the ghost. Hamlet is indeed actingmadly, and without justification. As he continues the attack on his mother, the ghost appears in anightgown.
Hamlet appears to come back to his senses, his mood changes,and begs for guidance: Save me, and hover oer me with your wings, youheavenly guards! What would your gracious figure? The queen, obliviousto Hamlets hallucinations, cries out: Alas, hes mad! (III. iv. 107-109). Thequeen is now convinced of Hamlets psychosis, as she has what appears to besolid evidence that Hamlet is hallucinating and talking to himself.
After Hamlet kills Polonius, he will not tell anyone where the body is. Instead, he assumes the role of a madman once again, speaking in agrotesque and ironic manner. The king asks him, Now Hamlet, wheresPolonius? Hamlet replies with a sarcastic remark: At supper. Hecontinues, Not where he eats, but where a is eaten. (IV.
iii. 16-19) Hamletis clearly disrespecting Claudius, and making him look like a fool. Yet again,Hamlet does not act upon his plan to seek revenge of his fathers murder, butmerely attacks Claudius verbally, as he did to his mother in a fit of rage. From the beginning of the play, Hamlet has a great fascination withdeath, another common symptom of schizophrenia (Goldman, 3). Despitebeing warned by his friends that following the ghost was a bad idea, Hamletsobsession with death was so great that he was prepared to risk all to follow.
Taking such a risk, Hamlet organized a play that revealed the truth about hisfathers death. This play was to serve as a strategy to force Claudius to admitto the killing of Hamlets father. Claudius reaction to the play served assolid evidence against himself; it was all Hamlet needed to be convinced thathe was the true murderer. While he is struggling with the truth of his fathersdeath, Hamlet is also struggling with thoughts of suicide: Devoutly to bewished; To die, to sleep. . .
(III. i. 65). This soliloquy shows how Hamletsobsession with death turned on him, to the point where he is consideringAnother instance of madness in Hamlet is found in Ophelia, Hamletstrue love. Before the tragedy began, Hamlet and Ophelia were already inlove, and was shown through Ophelias words: My lord, he hath importunedme with love in honorable fashion. .
. and hath given countenance to his speech,my lord, with almost all the holy vows of heaven (I. iii. 111-115). Opheliasmadness was caused by the repression of their true love; Claudius wantedHamlet removed, and Polonius was determined to not let Ophelia be caught ina harsh social class (Desmet, 2). This subplot even furthers the theme ofmadness in Hamlet, and plays an important role in the other charactersrationalization of Hamlets madness.
The appearance of Ophelias madness is sudden; Hamlet is unaware ofher condition, preoccupied with his own mental deterioration and his lust forrevenge. The repression of her love for Hamlet, his rejection of her, herfathers death, and Hamlets own mental incapacity all drive Ophelia acrossthe line between sanity and insanity; in this madness, she takes her own life. Hamlets behavior towards Ophelia is inconsistent throughout the play. Afterher death, as he was visiting her grave, he jumped in the grave to fight withLaertes.
During the fight, Hamlet states Forty thousand brothers could not,with all their quantity of love, make up my sum (V. i. 250-253). Thisstatement contradicts his words when she returned his gifts, stating that henever loved her. Hamlets madness does not reflect Ophelias true madness,his actions contrast them (Soon, 4).
When Hamlet was sent to England, he carefully exchanged the letterthat accompanied Guildenstern and Rosencrantz; the result was these mengoing to their death, because of Hamlets clever exchange. Even though theywere not part of his plot of revenge, he had them killed, a demonstration ofIn the final scene when Hamlet is confronting Laertes, his thoughts andwords turn again to the topic of madness:Wast Hamlet wronged Laertes? Never Hamlet. If Hamlet from himself be taen away,Then Hamlet does it not, Hamlet denies it. Who does it then? His madness (V. ii. 223-226).
By these words, Hamlet is speaking of his true madness, which causedhim to kill Polonius. He is apologizing to Laertes, and admits that his loss ofcontrol is due to his madness. In this final scene, Hamlet comes to terms withhis own madness, and apprehends that it was his suffering and procrastinationthat kept him from killing Claudius sooner. He loses control over hisrevenge, and it is at this time that he finally finds the right opportunity to killClaudius, and satisfy the wishes of the ghost of his father: Hamlet is of thefaction that is wronged; his madness is poor Hamlets enemy (V.
ii. 227-228). The theme of madness in Shakespeares Hamlet has been a widelypopular topic in the discussion of the play by both critics and readers alike. Itis quite simple to see the reason why, since the play confronts us withevidence to prove the validity of the claim to Hamlets true madness, or,rather a view that the actions and words arising from the apparent madness isbut a feigned antic disposition as proclaimed by Hamlet himself. (Soon, 1) The psychological case study of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, presents thetheory that Hamlet did have a break with reality, and should be diagnosedwith schizophrenia, a devastating disease that affects a mere 1 percent of theworlds population. The preponderance of evidence that has been displayedclearly points to the conclusion that Hamlet was indeed mad; the diseasesonset is in the young adult years, it is disabling, resulting in a period ofproductive time lost, and it has social effects on the patient, as well as hisfamily.
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