Hamlet's Madness in William Shakespeare's Play
The Elizabethan play Hamlet is one of William Shakespeare's most
popular works written around the turn of the seventeenth century.
Hamlet is generally considered the foremost tragedy in English drama.
One of the possible reasons for this play's popularity is the way
Shakespeare uses the character Hamlet to exemplify the complex
workings of the human mind exploring ideas of insanity and madness.
The approach taken by Shakespeare in Hamlet has generated countless
different interpretations of meaning, but it is through Hamlet's
struggle to confront his internal dilemma, deciding when to revenge
his father's ...view middle of the document...
The reader is then enlightened on the reasoning behind his "antic
disposition." Hamlet tries to persuade fellow characters to believe
his insanity to confirm his suspicions of Claudius's guilt. This plan,
underlies the characters extensive roleplay skills. Furthermore,
beneath his strange choice of imagery involving points of the compass,
the weather, and hunting birds, he is announcing that he is
deliberately choosing the times when to appear mad. Hamlet is saying
that beyond the surface of madness, he is perfectly capable of
recognizing his enemies. This supports the idea that Hamlet is very
Hamlet's "madness" in no way reflects Ophelia's true madness, his
actions contrast them. Hamlet's lunacy is only apparent when he is in
the presence of certain characters. When Hamlet is around Polonius,
Claudius, Gertrude, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he behaves
unreasonably. When Hamlet in the presence of Horatio, Bernado,
Francisco, the Players and the gravediggers, his actions are sensible,
calm and collected.
Other characters are still unsure whether Hamlet's insanity is
authentic or not. Claudius confesses that Hamlet's actions although
strange, do not appear to stem from madness:
"And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose
Will be some danger; which for to prevent,
I have in quick determination"
[Act III, scene I, lines 165-167].
Claudius realises that this psychotic behaviour that Hamlet is
executing is beyond madness, there is an underlying intention which
Claudius is yet to discover. He feels that Hamlet is such a threat
that he stops him from furthering his education in university just so
that he may keep an eye on Hamlet. Claudius becomes increasingly
suspicious of Hamlet to the extent that he maintains that 'this mad
young man' has to be shipped off to England and orders for Hamlet to
be killed by the King of England:
"For like the hectic in my blood he rages,
And thou must cure me: till I know 'tis done,
Howe'er my haps, my joys were ne'er begun"
(Act IV, scene iii, lines 67-9)
This just reinforces the idea that there is a cause for Hamlets
apparent psychosis which is not melancholy but in actual fact a way of
gathering the truth behind King Hamlet's death.
The character of Hamlet, is shown as being perfectly capable of
action, as well as of rational thought, in escaping the king's armed
guard, dispatching Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths in
England, dealing with the pirates and making it back to Denmark. In
addition, the letter Horatio from him through the ambassador bound for
England is clear and precise and shows no signs of a befuddled mind.
This supports the argument that Hamlet is sane.
At one point in the play, the reader may believe in Hamlets insanity.
In Act III, scene four, Hamlet...