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Essay on Hamlet's Insanity

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Riddled with ambiguity by its very nature, the text of William Shakespeare's Hamlet has been a commonly debated subject in literary circles since its first performance. The character Hamlet undergoes intense physical and emotional hardship in his quest for revenge against his despicable uncle. This hardship, some argue, leads to an emotional breakdown and, ultimately, Hamlet's insanity. While this assessment may be suitable in some cases, it falls short in others. Since Hamlet is a play, the ultimate motivation of each of the characters borrows not only from the text, but also from the motivations of the actors playing the parts. In most respects, these motivations are more apt at discerning the emotional condition of a character than their dialogue ever could. Thus, the question is derived: In Kenneth Branagh's film adaptation of Hamlet, does the character Hamlet suffer from insanity? Giving halt to the response, this paper will first endeavor to establish what insanity is and will then provide sufficient examples both from the text, film, and Branagh's own musings on his motivations as proof that Hamlet's character, at least in Branagh's version of the play, is not insane.
To begin, it is important there be an established definition of insanity. Though the original work is set in the turn of the 17th century, and Branagh's in the late 19th, it is important that insanity be described based on current definitions. Antiquated understandings of the matter will provide very little as far as frames of argument. Thus, for this task, the paper will employ law.com's vast legal dictionary for a current definition of insanity. The dictionary tasks itself to such extent. It defines insanity as “mental illness of such a sever...


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...on the matter, that Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet is most certainly of sound mind. He appears insane merely as an act to throw his would-be enemies off his trail and suffers the same pangs of despair any sane person would in his situation. Branagh has clearly put significant effort into the part, and his portrayal is evident of nothing less.


Works Cited

Crowl, Samuel.  “Hamlet ‘Most Royal’: An Interview with Kenneth Branagh.”Shakespeare Bulletin. Fall 1994. 8 December 2004.
Crowther, John, ed. “No Fear Hamlet.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2005. Web. 1 Apr. 2010. Hamlet. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Castle Rock Entertainment, 1994. DVD.
Hill, Gerald and Kathleen. “insanity.” law.com Law Dictionary. 2010. law.com Law Dictionary. 1 April 2010.


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