Thetheme of madness in Hamlet
Madnesscan be any mental incapacity that accrues from different sources thatcan be related to medical conditions. It is perceived that madnesscomes from some form of injury. In the case of an injury, a wound isformed and this is madness which reveals its self at times of intensestress.
Theprince in the book is undergoing through a lot of emotional stress.His malice for Claudius is hidden but in no time Claudius adviserwill inform him on imminent danger. Laerters’ seeks revenge in away that he uses madness to harm others. Claudius also plans withLaerters to murder Hamlet. It is perhaps a plan that Claudius hadbeen forming for a long time to kill Hamlet. On the other hand,Ophelia has a special and unique form of madness her madness affectseveryone in the court since it is discussed publicly. She is,however, stuck between the memories of her father and those ofHamlet. The events surrounding her make her to be sandwiched betweendifferent emotions and it can be told that she has experienced someinjuries that have affected the viewers.
Inthe play, different characters have played different roles but in thereal sense, they help in contributing to only one theme which ismadness. It is clear from the play that madness as a theme has beenused vehemently and all the characters in the play have contributedto the dramatical scenes that have been created by the play. WilliamShakespeare uses a unique type of writing that helps him to convey acertain message with a helpful meaning to his audience.
Flummoxan insanity is a tool that has been used widely in the book Hamlet byShakespeare. It is a trick that has taken a different level in thisbook. The play, however, leaves the reader perplexed on whetherHamlet has gone mad or is just an act as the play portrays.Furthermore, the reader is bewildered whether all the actors in theplay are mad too. In a way, the play raises the question whethermadness is a style that has been used in the book to bring out allthe actors as crazy. Some more questions arise from the play it isnot clear what Hamlet meant when he stated that he was to employ anantic disposition and why he actually played that role of being anantic it is not also clear what purpose the character served in thebook in the reader’s mind, Hamlet was going to pretend that he hadgone crazy. However, there is evidence in the book that shows thatHamlet had actually become insane is there a clear cut differencebetween Ophelia’s and Hamlet’s craziness? And if there is, whatare the revealing differences between their attitude and the speechthey developed? On the other hand, a question that mushrooms is thecause of Ophelia’s madness and what function it acted in the play.With these issues in mind, the reader has to find textual evidencethat will help solve some of the myths that are rooted in Hamlet. Itis also debatable whether Hamlet’s crazy attitude started as anticdisposition and became worse as the play continued until it wascertain that Hamlet was actually insane. However, it is impossibleand difficult to ascertain whether Hamlet was actually crazy becausethe play was to bring out some questions and ambiguity that runsthroughout the book. (Shakespeare)
Inthe beginning, Hamlet plays mad to be able to convince the otherpeople that he is actually harmless. He did this in order to probethe death of his father and whether Claudius had played some role init. Polonius had doubted Hamlet’s behavior and was certain thatthere was something fishy that Hamlet was cooking. Polonius thoughtsbrought some irony in them and rendered them both right and wrong. Hethought that Hamlet attitude came from the love that Hamlet had forOphelia. This was however very smart of Polonius and strike to bevery impressive. In the due cause of the play, Hamlet’s attitudegrows to be more erratic. His madness either real or fake makes himgo out of touch with the reality surrounding him. Hamlet has toughsituations that he has to control emotionally and they, in a way,prove to be hard for him. In the play, Hamlet succumbs to physicaltorture, and this is enough to show that there was something that waseating him up from within and had put him under a lot of pressure. Hedid not actually try to play mad out of the blues, but his behaviorwas driven by an internal force that causes him a lot of stress. Whathe was going through traumatized him a lot and he was not actuallyhappy that his uncle was the root cause of his father’s death.
Inthe play, the theme of madness is very prevalent as it is shown bydifferent characters throughout the play. The point where Hamletdecided to revenge his father’s death was the point where thembecame alive. This forced Hamlet to act crazy in order to get theperson who killed his father and murder him too, in this case,Claudius. The play does not define whether Hamlet is actually mad orhe is pretending and this leads to his questioning. Hamlet says somedisrespectful remarks towards Gertrude and this comments show howmuch he hated her and how cruel he could become. He is very perturbedby his father’s death, and this causes him a lot of anger. He wantsto kill Claudius, and this is the reason for his high determinationto avenge the death of his father. However, Hamlet acts differentlytowards his mother and the woman that he was in love with, Ophelia.His behavior towards these two people questioned his insanity. Hisactions prove that he is still sane as he uses Horatio to performsome acts in the play. Hamlet reveals that he mad when he has abouthis purpose and role on Earth. He demonstrates madness by bringingsuicide into the picture. His behavior helps in developing andforming his character. He maintains his role in a sane way.(Shakespeare)
Thekillings that occur in the play somehow show the level of madnessthat the characters had. The first character to kill was Claudius whokilled his brother to gain power. In the same play, Hamlet killsPolonius in order to avenge his father’s death. Ophelia gets madwhen her father was killed. She appears singing in act four and thisshowed how his father’s death had affected her. Laertes was mad andfilled with revenge for the death of his sister and father. Sheactually goes to the king to avenge her father’s death but the kingexplains to her that it was Hamlet who had actually murderedPolonius. She goes mad as she felt helpless and did not do anythingto help curb the death of her family. She finally processed to commitsuicide as she did not believe in her purpose for life. The first actthat revealed insanity was when Claudius brother, who was the king bythat time, was killed. This sets the theme of madness in the play andother characters follow. Claudius killed his brother for him to marryhis wife’s sister. This is high degree of madness as killing one’sown blood and flesh is an act of insanity. However, the guilt of thisaction was eating him up day in day out. Claudius heightens thelevel of Hamlet’s madness when he mocked him for mourning hisfather’s death who was the king. In the play, the ghost of the kingappeared to Hamlet and he eventually knew that king was killed bypoisoning. He wants to avenge the death of his father because hecannot believe that his own uncle could murder his father. Thisfurther justifies his actions as he was trying to avoid attention.His madness made him kill Polonius thinking that he had murdered hisuncle. When questioned about the whereabouts of the body by hisuncle, Hamlet beats about the bush by using riddles. In the play,Hamlet’s mother decides to marry Claudius. This move by his motherforces him to distance himself from his mother and looks for ways toavenge his father’s death. Eventually in the play, Hamlet passesaway in the events of his lunacy. It is however believed that Hamletwas pretending at the beginning but becomes a lunatic at the end ofthe play.The theme of madness is significant in the play as it helps tocontribute in the plot of the play. Revenge is another aspect thatcannot be left out of the play as it contributes to this form ofmadness. Madness affects all the characters in the play and result tothe need for revenge. The play however portrays that Hamlet wasacting out of revenge and writes off the possibility of his insanity.Love and madness is seen in Ophelia’s behaviour. The king is verycorrupt and self minded as portrayed by the play. He engages himselfin deeds that prove that he has self motives that do not match upwith the values that are taught in the society.
Theplay has enough evidence that Hamlet was feigning madnessdeliberately in order to create confusion for the king and all hisattendants. However, his purposed intentions are to play act strangeand odd and also put up antic disposition. Antic disposition is aphrase whose meaning cannot be interpreted unless some connection ismade in the context of the question. He however intimates to hisuncle Guildenstem , who has been a friend for long time that he isacting mad for a particular purpose. In the real sense, hisintimations fall on the deaf ears of Guildenstem. His uncle in a wayis very old fashioned and comments on Hamlet’s madness at a laterstage. Hamlet says that he must be idle at the time when he wascompleting together with Horatio. This shows that he was play actingfoolish in the play. The term ‘foolish’ is explained by Schmidt.However, to his mother he was totally sober and he explained to herthat he was only acting this way to obtain a certain object. He saysthat he was not mad but was acting in craftiness. It was howeverexcellent for Hamlet to pose this kind of act as it was not easy atall.
Thiskind of style in which someone pretended to be mad was employed fromthe earlier and original forms of the story. Shakespeare makes thistype of madness to appear real and this has been subject to a lot ofcriticism. It is however a great show of how Shakespeare has diverseand dramatic capability in literature. Through the play, the king andhis attendants are the only people who declared Hamlet as being mad.Polonius was the first person to declare that Hamlet was actually madand he actually thinks that it was because of his love for Ophelia.Polonius went ahead to tell the king that Hamlet was actually mad. Heexplains to the king the different stages that Hamlet had undergoneto become fully mad. However Polonius agreed to the fact that therewas some craftiness in his madness. He says "Though this bemadness, yet there is method in`t." (BLCTheatre Presents Hamlet By William Shakespeare).It is normal for the king to accept such kind of announcement byPolonius but he does not believe it as the gospel truth. The kinginstructs his henchmen to get to the roots of why Hamlet was causingso much confusion. This clearly shows that the king understood thatHamlet was pretending to be a lunatic. The king eventually says thatHamlet’s deeds did not at any point prove that he was actually madbut his acts were melancholic. However the king was wicked to declareHamlet as a mad man in a bid to send him off to England. This shows ahigh level of insecurity from the king and in a way it was a selfishact from him. He knew the truth but acted for his personal gains.(Stirling)
Opheliahowever had a different view on why Hamlet had fallen mad. Shebelieved that Hamlet was in love because of the love he had for her.This point is not relevant in the play. Ophelia had little knowledgeon lunacy had fallen victim to Hamlet’s trap. Ophelia cannot get toknow what is running in Hamlet’s mind and she does not know thatshe is being fooled by him. In no way would Hamlet doubt thatHamlet’s madness was feigned. Hamlet belieced in his actions and hecreated a drama that ran through the whole play. He had an intentionto throw the other characters in the play off the track. For a readerto really have and understanding of the madness that Shakespearewrote in this play, it would take a lot of brains. The madness in theplay is dramatic as traced by Lear. The play shows how he became madand the situations that force him to restore his normal condition.
Themadness that Lear as suffering from stemmed from his spiritual andmoral defects and could be restored by only through acts of moralregeneration. However, the drama that was created by Hamlet drew alot of dramatic value. This in a way digs deeper to the form in whichShakespeare comes up with his drama. It is more of a spiritual lifeof human beings than the physical world that people found themselvesin. The dramas that he writes make sense in many life situations.With a proper understanding they do not have much mystery as manyreaders will proclaim. In the play Hamlet played a huge role and ifhe was purely insane then he would be of no value to the drama.(Jackson)
Thetheme of madness in the play goes hand in hand with the theme ofmelancholy. They are the most elaborate themes that cannot beexempted out of the play. These two themes are the most studied andscrutinised themes in the history of classic English literature.However, there are few areas of interest when it comes to these twothemes and only a few questions can be derived from them. These twothemes are shown in how Claudius tries to use his evil intentions tohave control over the kingdom. It is through these moves that theplot of the play is built upon. The play had some mixed feelings evenat the beginning and all these stemmed from Claudius. Mixed feelingscan be seen in how at the beginning of the play the mood was verydark and in the second act a jovial mood full of happiness waspresent. There were many celebrations that experienced in the secondact of the play. However, Claudius delivered a speech that has ahidden meaning and the reader is aware of an imminent danger to come.Both Claudius and Hamlet have some hidden things that are hiding intheir role. Claudius uses antithesis in many numerous point of theplay. For example he uses ‘delight and dole’ as one of theexamples of antithesis in the play. The play shows how Hamlet strivesto avenge the death of his father. Furthermore, it portrays theaftermath of the actions that he took for the whole of Denmark. Manyof the characters in the play fall for his trick of, madness. Theplot turns out to melancholia for Hamlet as he tried to kill theking. The events of killing a king are not as easy as Hamlet thought.(Video Sparknotes: Shakespeare`s Hamlet Summary)
Despitethe fact that Hamlet was stressed and acted insane, something wasreally eating him up. The fact that his uncle would kill his fatherwas what tortured him a lot. He did what he had to do bring his uncleto justice. He was very upset by the turn of events and wanted toexperience the sweetness that came with revenge. He is therefore notmad but fuelled by the need to avenge his father’s death. Hamlet’sintentions are very clear but the turnout of events does not seem tofavour him a bit. He experiences psychological torture as he tries tolevel up the death of his father.
Theplay shows the effects of body politics that was being experienced inDenmark by that time. Body politics affect the people who are low inhierarchy. All the personals in the administration fall victims inthe event of a mess in the political forum. The king however remainsimmune to any circumstance facing his governance apart fromsituations that goes head on with him. If the king is affected thewhole kingdom is shaken and goes into a turmoil. These can beidentified from the play as it is crystal clear with how the plot ofthe play flows. Denmark in the play seems to be rotten and has ashaky hierarchy. The kingdom is unstable due to the actions thatClaudius impacts.
Inanother view, madness can be seen as a way of showing unsettlednesson the part of Hamlet. His madness proves that he is in a wayvulnerable although in his mind, he thinks and believes in his modeof action. Unfortunately, Hamlet dies unnatural death at the end ofthe play. In the real sense, his way acting mad cannot be justified.His mode of action does him more bad than good. There was a betterplan that he could use to make sure that he avenges his father’sdeath but it was all but a play that was supposed to be dramatical innature.
Ina nutshell, Hamlet by William Shakespeare is a fantastic andenjoyable play to read and watch. The theme of madness has beenwidely covered in the play and this is evident through differentcharacters in the play. The events in the play unfold in a goodmanner and this contributes to the plot of the play making it one ofthe best plays that William Shakespeare has ever written. The playreveals that Shakespeare was a very good writer and nobody can matchup with his standards of writing. His art cannot be compared withother forms of art as his plays are very superb.
"BLCTheatre Presents Hamlet By William Shakespeare". YouTube.N.p., 2017. Web. 4 Apr. 2017.
Jackson,MacDonald P. (MacDonald Pairman). "The Arden Shakespeare Hamlet,And: The Arden Shakespeare Hamlet: The Texts Of 1603 And 1623(Review)". Shakespeare Quarterly 58.3 (2007): 388-391.Web.
Shakespeare,William. Hamlet. 1st ed. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1918.Print.
Shakespeare,William. Hamlet. 1st ed. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1918.Print.
Stirling,B. "Theme And Character In Hamlet". Modern LanguageQuarterly 13.4 (1952): 323-332. Web.
VideoSparknotes: Shakespeare`s Hamlet Summary". YouTube. N.p.,2017. Web. 4 Apr. 2017.
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