Madness and Insanity in Shakespeare's Hamlet

analytical Essay
3105 words
3105 words

Hamlet and Insanity William Shakespeare’s creation of the character of Hamlet within the tragedy of that name left open the question of whether the madness of the protagonist is entirely feigned or not. This essay will treat this aspect of the drama. George Lyman Kittredge in the Introduction to The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, explains the lack of success with Hamlet’s pretended insanity, and in so doing he implies that the madness is entirely feigned and not real: The necessity for some device like the play within the play is due to the failure of Hamlet’s assumed madness to achieve its purpose. [. . .] In Shakespeare’s drama, however, Hamlet’s motive for acting the madman is obvious. We speak unguardedly in the presence of children and madmen, for we take it for granted that they will not listen or will not understand; and so the King or the Queen (for Hamlet does not know that his mother is ignorant of her husband’s crime) may say something that will afford the evidence needed to confirm the testimony of the Ghost. The device is adopted on the spur of the moment (i.5, 169ff.), and, once adopted, it must be maintained. But it is unsuccessful. The King is always on his guard, and the Queen is not an accomplice. (xii) The question arises: Is it truly possible to have a noble tragic hero who is indeed bereft of the proper use of his mental faculties? Doesn’t this “lack” compromise the very essence of a “noble” protagonist who is worthy of the tragic ending? A.C. Bradley in Shakespearean Tragedy staunchly adheres to the belief that Hamlet would cease to be a tragic character if he were really mad at any time in the play (30). On the other hand, W. Thomas MacCary in Hamlet: A Guide ... ... middle of paper ... ....: Cambridge Univ. P., 1956. Kittredge, George Lyman. Introduction. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. In Five Plays of Shakespeare. Ed. George Lyman Kittredge. New York: Ginn and Company, 1941. MacCary, W. Thomas. Hamlet: A Guide to the Play. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1998. Mack, Maynard. “The World of Hamlet.” Twentieth Century Interpretations of Hamlet. Ed. David Bevington. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968. Rosenberg, Marvin. “Laertes: An Impulsive but Earnest Young Aristocrat.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Masks of Hamlet. Newark, NJ: Univ. of Delaware P., 1992. Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. No line nos.

In this essay, the author

  • Opines that the prince's complete rejection of ophelia indicates an imbalance in his outlook on life, but not insanity.
  • Analyzes how laertes and hamlet are stuck with the poisoned rapier, and the queen imbibes the drink intended for the hero.
  • Analyzes how shakespeare's creation of hamlet within the tragedy left open the question of whether the madness of the protagonist is entirely feigned or not.
  • Analyzes how the hero's friend, horatio, and marcellus make contact with hamlet and escort him to the ramparts of elsinore.
  • Analyzes how marvin rosenberg's "hamlet as a player-fool" reveals how the prince himself is an actor.
  • Analyzes how hamlet's use of syllogism is pure madness to the king.
  • Analyzes how hamlet is a new man guided by reason and god in "o'erdoing termagant."
  • Argues that the lack of rigorous logic in the play may be the cause of seeming madness within the hero.
  • Cites abrahms, phyllis, and alan brody's "hamlet and the elizabethan revenge tragedy formula."
  • Cites mack, maynard, rosenberg, nardo, and shakespeare.
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