Madness. Though to most it seems like a simple betrayal of the mind, the use of madness throughout Hamlet, by William Shakespeare creates a sense of not only the breakdown of the mind, but a breakdown of society. In the play, two main characters give into madness, one is a faked, and one is all too real. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, chose to act mad in order to confuse Claudius. Ophelia on the other hand, goes insane due to an accumulation of many factors, such as isolation, distrust, and grief.
Ophelia begins the play as an innocent, trusting, and spirited young girl, full of promise and full of life. But, all too soon her view of men and the world in general is tainted. Her brother warns her that Hamlet may be toying with her affections and to, "fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister..." (1.3.33). With these simple words he implants the seeds of distrust and betrayal. These themes of distrust and betrayal are interwoven throughout much of the play, from the murder of the King, to the constant spying of Polonius.
Not long after her conversation with Laertes, Polonius decides to have a frank chat with Ophelia about her relationship with Hamlet. He has no sympathy towards her feelings, and uses her just as a source of information to better his political position. He once again talks about how you can’t trust everything that people say. He says, "even in their promise, as it is a-making, you must not take for fire" (1.3.119-120). Once again, this theme of "not everything is what is seems" pops up again. "Something is rotten in Denmark". Something is not right in Denmark. In society in general. And eventually, something will not be right in Ophelia's mind.
There are many factors that drive Ophelia's eventual madness. One of these...
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... political powers to collapse, and Fortinbras of Norway takes over.
Ophelia eventually takes her life in that haunting scene of a young girl, "fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide...chanted snatched of old lauds...garments heavy with their drink...pulled the poor wretch....to muddy death" (4.7.173-181). At this point she views the world as this awful, crazy place where she can no longer live in. She takes the step that Hamlet cannot. Her suicide marks the lowest point in her life. She has come to the realization that not all men are good, not all people are true, and the world she lives in is not what it seems. It’s not all full of sunshine and rainbows. It's full of greed, anger, sadness, and betrayal.
Ophelia’s madness represents the evilness of the society we live in. It shows the madness and darker side of the world, and the people who live in it.