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Madness and Insanity in Shakespeare's Hamlet - Madness and Hamlet

Satisfactory Essays
Madness and Hamlet

Hamlet is one of William Shakespeare's most honored works and is a piece of literature, which has been studied in depth by many a scholar. The storyline of Hamlet follows a vein of madness that begins with Claudius' murdering King Hamlet and ending with the tragic killing of almost every main character. Many reasons have been proposed for the ultimate tragedy, which occurs at the conclusion of the play. It will be argued in this essay that madness is the cause of the eventual tragedy in Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Claudius' murdering of his brother, the king is the first murderous act of mental illness in the story and it sets into course the madness of many other characters. Murdering one's brother so that they may marry their sister in law is not the act or desire of a sane person. After the king's death, Claudius and Gertrude marry within a matter of months. This quick marriage circumvents the standard mourning period of one year that is expected of a queen. Hamlet is greatly disturbed by the fact that his mother does not mourn longer for his fathers death and conveys his anger about this subject on several occasions. The marriage of a man to his sister in law is thought incestuous by the church and contributes to the overall lack of decency in this story. Claudius is directly responsible for the death of the king, Hamlet's father, and he also contributes to the deaths of Gertrude and Hamlet. His actions set into course a series of events of which the end result is the deaths of Polonius, Laertes, and Ophelia. He is also indirectly responsible for the deaths of these characters.

Hamlet's display of mental illness allows him to prove to himself that Claudius did, in fact, murder his father. After seeing the ghost of his father, Hamlet vows to avenge his death and decides that feigning lunacy will provide him with the means to prove Claudius' guilt. Following his initial encounter with the ghost of his father, Hamlet is very excitedly speaking with Marcellus and Horatio and tells them:

But come / Here, as before, never, so help you mercy
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