The Method in the Madness of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

406 Words2 Pages
Arguably the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays, Hamlet has intrigued audiences worldwide since it was penned almost four hundred years ago. Not only have audiences found the play riveting, the academic world has delved into the text trying to ascertain the nature of Hamlet’s madness. The story unfolds with the late King Hamlet appearing to his son, asking for vengeance on his brother, the King Claudius, which is an event likely to perturb the Crown Prince. Throughout the course of the drama, Hamlet endures many trials of his will and conscious, forcing him to strengthen his convictions and the methods by which he will execute them. Yet, through it all, Hamlet retains his wits and eventually succeeds in committing regicide against his uncle, though he himself dies in the process. Although the mind of Hamlet seems immersed in the haze of madness, his altered state is a carefully crafted ploy to assassinate his uncle, thereby righting the state of Denmark. What text has been handed down to his ancestors of the works of the Great Bard is rife with examples that seem to support the madness of Hamlet. Within the first act, Hamlet encounters the ghost of his father, two month’s dead (1.2.141-2; 1.4.44-62). The late king tells Hamlet of his death, procured by the will of Claudius. So distraught and infuriated, Hamlet decides to take vengeance on his uncle-made-king (1.5.31-47). Seeing such an apparition may bring the sanity of Hamlet into question, as too would the deliberation he has with the poltergeist. This, however, is an improper perception to take. The use of ghosts within the play, and of all Shakespearean plays, is common. This follows from a wide-spread belief in the supernatural that most of England held at that time. For the young Dane to spot a specter would have been understood by the audiences of the day to either the spirit of his father or of an evil spirit who wishes to use Hamlet to do his bidding (Waters). In the play, Hamlet decides that this spirit must be “an honest ghost,” with Horatio concurring (1.5.24). It is also of note that this vision is seen by a group of people, not just Hamlet, which further rules out the possibility of it being a figment of Hamlet’s lost mind. Although at first glance a phantom may seem to be a clue into the madness of Hamlet, it is very easily proved a literary device employed by Shakespeare to set the play into action.
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