Exploring Hamlet’s State of Mind


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(Act 1, Scene 2 – Act 1, Scene 5)

William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, with a
reputation as the greatest of all writers in the English language, as
well as one of the world's pre-eminent dramatists. Hamlet is one of
Shakespeare’s most analysed plays. The play is about Hamlet, Prince of
Denmark who hopes to avenge the murder of his father.

In the play, Hamlet is described as an intelligent, emotional, and
grief-stricken protagonist but he is consumed by his own thoughts
which make him a highly-indecisive individual; Hamlet’s inability to
act on his father’s murder, his mother’s hasty remarriage, and his
uncle assuming of the throne are all evidence that Hamlet does not
know what is going on in his own life. Perhaps Hamlet wants to place
the blame on someone else after he wreaks vengeance on King Claudius,
or capture the attention of certain characters so that he may find out
exactly what has gone “rotten in Denmark” (Act 1, Scene 5, Line 90).

Throughout the play Hamlet is deeply hurt by his mother’s decision to
remarry his uncle. As Hamlet says, “Frailty thy name is woman”, her
actions cause Hamlet to curse women all together (Act 1, Scene 2, Line
146). Clearly, Hamlet’s concern for the Queen, his mother, is of
genuine association to the death of King Hamlet. Within this solitary
thought, Hamlet realizes the severity of his mother’s actions while
also attempting to rationalize her mentality so that he may
understand, and perhaps, cope with the untimely nature of the Queen’s
marriage to Claudius. Understandably, Hamlet is disturbed. Gertrude
causes such confusion in Hamlet that throughout the play, he
constantly wonders how it could be possible that events would turn out
the way they did.

Furthermore, in Act I, Scene 2, Gertrude asks Hamlet, “Why seems it so
particular with thee?” Since death is common to all, she asks, why
does Hamlet seem to be making such a particular fuss about his
father’s death? He replies, “Seems Madam?

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Nay it is. I know not
seems.” (Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 75 & 76) It is not a question of
seeming, but being: His black mourning clothes are simply a true
representation of his deep unhappiness. With this line, the theme of
appearance versus reality is developed which is intended to stress
Hamlet’s dedication to truth in contrast to appearance which serves
others, notably Claudius. Hamlet demands honesty, but is he himself
always honest?

The audience is always being included in Hamlet’s thinking process
through the use of soliloquies. By involving the audience in Hamlet’s
thoughts it helps the real meaning of the play shine through. The
audience is told of past events without a narration that can sometimes
take away from the play itself. As far as I’m concerned, the main
character’s thoughts are not always obvious to the audience. For that
reason, the soliloquies spoken by Hamlet are directed to the audience,
rather than seeming like conversations with himself. In the first
soliloquy (Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 129-159), Hamlet talks about how
aggravated at life he is and that if it weren’t for God’s laws he
would commit suicide. He is not really mourning his father’s death in
this soliloquy but more his disgust for his mother for marrying his
uncle especially within a short time after his father’s death. He then
goes to explain he must remain silent. He is explaining to the
audience that nothing can undo the situation to make it any better.
But that isn’t good enough for Hamlet. Something has to be done. This
soliloquy sparks an interest in the audience and provides a glimpse
into Hamlet’s thoughts while informing of the history of his family’s
tribulations.

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I need help on scene 3!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Later on, Hamlet goes to extremes of going with the ghost that looks
like his father even though his friends warn him that the ghost may be
evil and “…tempt you toward the flood…Or to the dreadful summit of the
cliff…” (Act 1, Scene 4, Lines 69 & 70). If the prince was thinking
right he would not have with the ghost that resembled the old “…King,
father, royal Dane…” (Act 1, Scene 4, Line 45). Hamlet’s radical
actions do not just prove that he can sometimes be immature but also
proves that he needs action from outside sources in order to get a
reaction from himself. Being radical and acting on impulse is
something that Hamlet has to use in order to get his work finished.

Because of his persistent doubt whether Claudius did, in fact, kill
his father Hamlet defers making plans to act out his revenge. Hamlet’s
internal dilemma begins to take place in full swing in Act 1, Scene 5;
Although deeply sorrowful by his father’s death, he did not consider
payback as an option until he meets the ghost of Hamlet’s father
calling upon Hamlet to “revenge his foul and most unnatural murder”
(Act 1, Scene 5, Line 25). Basically, the ghost tells Hamlet that King
Claudius, his own brother, murdered him. It is from this point forward
that Hamlet must struggle with the dilemma of whether or not to kill
Claudius, his uncle, and if so when to actually do it. However, upon
his father’s command, Hamlet reluctantly swears to retaliate against
Claudius. In my opinion, Hamlet does this not because he wants to, but
because his father makes it clear that it is his duty as a son. With
the truth being accepted as merely directive, Hamlet promises to prove
his love and duty by killing Claudius.

In the second soliloquy (Act 1, Scene 5, Lines 92-109) Hamlet
seemingly calls on the audience, the “distracted globe”, to hear his
vow to get revenge on his uncle and to erase all from his mind except
that of what the ghost has informed him of. Again, the ghost, Hamlet’s
father, has explained to him that Claudius had killed him and his soul
couldn’t rest until revenge was brought onto his brother. The audience
hears Hamlet’s promise to make Claudius pay for his murderous ways.
Already, the audience should be excited by hearing Hamlet’s promise
because it is giving them something to look forward to.

To present the idea of Hamlet’s insanity, one can observe the prince’s
interaction with the ghost of his father. For example, after Hamlet’s
first interaction with this ghost, he puts forth, as Horatio calls
them, “wild, and whirling words” (Act 1, Scene 5, Line 139). Why
,right, you are in the right. And so without more circumstance at all
I hold it fit that we shake hands and part, You, as your business and
desire shall point you - For every man hath business and desire, Such
as it is - and for my own poor part, Look you, I will go pray (Act 1,
Scene 5, Lines 133-135).

It is certainly understandable for someone who has just lost their
father, and gained a stepfather to suddenly go mad. However, some time
passes before Hamlet is “mad”. In fact, before he even begins showing
signs of madness, he says to his friend Horatio “As I perchance
hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on” (Act 1,
Scene 5, Lines 179 & 180). It is not until after this statement that
Hamlet becomes mad, and in saying this statement, it is implied that
he is in fact feigning madness. The concept of “antic disposition” is
the feigned madness that Hamlet uses as his first step towards
revenge. Here, as far as I can make out, is a clear indication that
Hamlet is a thinker, and bares a calculating intellect. It is this
very intellect that I should question in Hamlet’s status as a hero,
simply because he is inextricably linked to a critical and tragic flaw
within his nature.

In conclusion, the Danish prince is developed into a mysterious and
fascinating man. A philosopher and “avenger of wrongs”, he is a man
disgusted with the rottenness of life around him and is obligated to
set things right. Under the guise of madness he attempts to achieve
his ends; yet there is much to puzzle over. Hamlet thinks too much and
this drove him to an insanity that was not feigned – Hamlet’s “antic
disposition” can easily be understood, through examples of Hamlet’s
unpredictable attitude changes and interactions with the ghost of his
father, to be only the tip of the iceberg concerning his unstable
mental side.


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