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Examining the Madness of Hamlet Portrayed in Shakespeare's Hamlet

The theme of madness in Hamlet has been a widely popular topic in the discussion of the play by both critics and readers alike. It is quite simple to see the reason why, since the play confronts us with evidence to prove the validity of the claim to Hamlet’s true madness, or, rather, a view that the actions and words arising from the apparent madness, is but an feigned "antic disposition" as proclaimed by Hamlet himself. This uncertainty in my view, is the question that has bothered many readers of the play, since a dramatic device like this has it’s purpose. What that purpose is however, is not made clear because of the conflicting evidence of that can be found within the play that supports or contradicts each other. Some have even attributed this uncertainty as carelessness on Shakespeare’s part. My view however is that the unresolved tension these questions bring up, have a part in playing out the plot and also in showing the uncertainties of human nature. Madness in my view, is not an absolute concept. It’s occurrence varies with the situation, or for Hamlet, it varies in the degree he allows his emotions to carry him.

The significance of madness in the plot can be seen on two levels. First, on the more superficial level of the plot itself, where madness on Hamlet’s part seeks to disarm his enemy, Claudius, in order that he may buy time to affirm the Ghost’s allegations. On a deeper level, this madness reflects the true nature of his deeper psychological self, and poses questions of his behavior. It is the fact of these two levels co-existing that brings about the ambiguity of Hamlet’s true nature, since both these ideas seem to contradict and even clash with one another.

The first reason, that to disarm Claudius’s suspi...

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...to help Hamlet, is faithful to father’s wishes and shares secrets with her brother. However, Hamlet’s deterioration, coupled with the wrath of his anger made to kill her father, upsets her to her breaking point. As poor Ophelia cannot see why her world changes suddenly with the stabbing of her father by her lover. It is too shocking, unlike Hamlet’s gradual process into deterioration, whose pivotal point was slower. That is why she plunges into a much deeper madness than Hamlet. Her brother, being far away in France is unable to do anything. Her loneliness thus compounds her sorrow further, leaving her no one to turn to.

In conclusion, my answer to whether Hamlet is mad is thus; he was mad, but mad in a way that unlike Ophelia’s more conventional madness of the mind, was that of the heart. Hamlet’s madness came out of rage and emotion that bubbled silently within.

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