Hamlet Madness Essay

2211 words - 9 pages

Professor Tooma
ENG-202-003
Fall 2011
HAMLET’S MADNESS
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, ligula suspendisse nulla pretium, rhoncus tempor placerat fermentum, enim integer ad vestibulum volutpat. Perhaps the worlds most famous mental patient Hamlet’s sanity has been argued over by countless learned scholars for hundreds of years.  As a mere student of advanced-level English Literature, I doubt I can add anything new tothe debate in 2000 words, but I can look at the evidence supporting dispelling each argument and come to my own conclusion.Hamlet is obviously experiencing grief and despair right from the beginning ofthe novel, with the ...view middle of the document...

Although we are supposed to suspect that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”, as Horatio puts it, from the start of the play, it is only when Hamlet talks with the ghost of his father in Act I Sc V that we realise the full extent of his uncle’s treachery.  When he first sees the ghost, Horatio and Marcellus try to restrain him, Horatio saying: “What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord, Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff That beetles o’er his base into the sea, And there assume some other horrible form, Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason, And draw you into madness?” Horatio is afraid that the ghost will get Hamlet to follow him to a cliff hanging over the sea, and then change into some other apparition, making Hamlet lose his mind and his sovereign power of reason. These words are very ironic, for as a result of seeing the ghost and hearing the dreadful truth about his father’s murder and mother’s adultery Hamlet says he will put on an “antic disposition”, telling the others that he will act oddly, but that they musn’t tell anyone why he is doing so.  Hamlet has already told us that he is a man of thought rather than action (earlier in the play he says that Claudius is as different to his father “as I to Hercules”), and he is going to act oddly so that the King doesn’t suspect Hamlet is plotting his downfall.  However, Horatio and Marcellus even now think that Hamlet is acting rather strangely, saying “These are wild and whirling words, my lord”, and “this is wondrous strange”. The next passage of interest is in Act II Sc II, when Claudius says to his Rozencrantz and Guildenstern: “... Something have you heard Of Hamlet’s transformation; so call it, Since nor th’ exterior nor the inward ma Resembles that it was.” Claudius is keen to talk of Hamlet’s rumoured madness, because he thinks Hamlet might know something about his treachery and wants to deflect his guilt and detract from Hamlet’s credibility.  To the audience, who have already heard the ghost’s speech, Claudius seems to be going over the top, saying that he can’t imagine what has rendered Hamlet mad and going back to childhood reminisces. This is similar to one of Shakespeare’s other tragedies, Macbeth, where Macbethgoes weaves all sorts of flowery expressions of grief over a king he has himself killed. In this act, we do not see Hamlet much but are gradually introduced by others to the notion that he is mad.  Different people give different reasons – Polonius says “... I have found // the very cause of Hamlet’s lunacy”.  The Queen thinks that the only reason is “His father’s death, and our o’erhasty marriage”, whereas Polonius thinks it is because his daughter rejected Hamlet, after he himself ordered her to: “I will be brief :Thy noble son is mad. // Mad I call it.”  But by the end of the act, a hint of doubt over Hamlet’s sanity will be ingrained in the audience’s mind. The first time we see Hamlet after he decides to put on his “antic disposition” is...

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