The Effects Of Madness In Shakespeare's Hamlet

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There is much evidence in Shakespeare’s Hamlet that the titular character deliberately feigned fits of madness in an attempt to confuse and disorient Claudius and his cadre. His explicitly stated intention to act "strange or odd" and to "put an antic disposition on" (I. v. 170, 172) is not the only indication. The latter phrase should be taken in its context and in connection with Hamlet’s other remarks on the same topic. To his old friend, Guildenstern, he says that "his uncle-father and aunt-mother are deceived," and that he is only "mad north-north-west." (II. ii. 360.) Guildenstern later comments that Hamlet 's is "a crafty madness." (III. i. 8.)

When working on the play with Horatio, and just before the entrance of the court party, Hamlet
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Polonius is the first to declare him mad, and he thinks it is because Ophelia broke his heart. He therefore reports to the King Claudius that "Your noble son is mad" (II. ii. 92), and records the various stages leading to his assumed madness. However, he does admit that there is a method to Hamlet’s madness. In fact, Shakespeare coined that now oft-used expression through the character Polonius when he referred to Hamlet’s madness. "Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't." (II. ii. 203-4.) Even though it would help Claudius to accept Polonius’ judgment of Hamlet, he isn’t convinced that it is true. His instructions to his cadre, “Get from him why he puts on this confusion” (II. i. 2), imply that he knows that Hamlet is faking his insanity. He even goes as far to say that his actions represent not madness, but melancholy. Despite this, to further his own agenda, he eventually declares Hamlet a madman, and to make this the exiling him to…show more content…
“The distinguishing mental features of melancholia are a profoundly painful dejection, cessation of interest in the outside world, loss of the capacity to love, inhibition of all activity, and a lowering of the self-regarding feelings to a degree that finds utterance in self-reproaches and self-revilings, and culminates in a delusional expectation of punishment. This picture becomes a little more intelligible when we consider that … the same traits are met with in mourning.” (Freud) Paul A. Jorgensen, a Shakespearian expert, furthers “This is the Hamlet that we see at the beginning of the play and generally throughout the first three acts. But a change surely occurs, and many critics have noticed it. Bradley (p. 120) observes in the fifth act "a slight thinning of the dark cloud of melancholy." This, he thinks, may be part of a new sense of power after his dispatching of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, but mainly it is a "kind of religious resignation." According to O. J. Campbell, Shakespeare "does not leave his audience with the view of Hamlet as a slave to a kind of mental malady. The fatal wound in the Prince 's breast restores his equilibrium and produces a brief interval of
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