Theme of Madness and Causes: Hamlet and Ophelia

Best Essays
In Shakespeare's Hamlet, there are two characters that display qualities of insanity. Specifically, Hamlet and Ophelia, although they both appear to be mad at times, their downfall (or supposed downfall) is quite different. Ophelia's madness seems complete while Hamlet's is questionable throughout the play. Hamlet's madness comes and goes; Ophelia's does not. Ophelia tells no one that she is "mad"; on the other hand, Hamlet shows everyone about his madness. Hamlet turns his madness on and off depending on the company he keeps. Ophelia on the other hand, cannot handle the loss of Hamlet's love, her brother's absence, and her father's death. It is all too much for her and she snaps. Hamlet and Ophelia’s position in society, along with the actions of all the adults caused the deaths and insanity of Hamlet and Ophelia.

Hamlet’s madness whether actual or simulated, shows through his actions toward other main characters who threaten his revenge against Claudius. In proof of his diminished state Hamlet says, “O, that this too too solid flesh would melt / that and resolve itself into a dew! / Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d / his canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! O God! / How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, / seem to me all the uses of this world!” (1.2. 129–158). From the very beginning Hamlet is already reacting to the deaths of his father and his parents’ marriage. Hamlet registers some clear suicidal and or mental (emotional) depression. Hamlet’s madness starts out inconspicuous, with the soiling of his parents’ marriage apparent and the death of his father, he continues throughout the whole story to grief.

The character Hamlet is described through the medical terms of that time as having too much “black bile” in ...

... middle of paper ...

...69. Theater History. Web. 29 Nov. 2011. .

Lamb, Susan. “Applauding Shakespeare’s Ophelia in the Eighteenth Century: Sexual Desire,

Politics, and the Good Woman.” Women as Sites of Culture: Women’s Roles in Cultural Formation From the Renaissance to the Twentieth Century. Ed. Susan Shifrin. Aldershot, Eng.: Ashgate, 2002. 105-23.

Lidz, Theodore. “Hamlet’s Precarious Emotional Balance.” Hamlet’s Enemy: Madness and Myth in Hamlet (1975): 60-67. Rpt. in Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Dana Ramel Barnes. Vol. 35. Detroit: Gale Research, 1997. Literature Resource Center. Web. 29 Nov 2011.

Shaaber, M.A.. "Polonius as a Fishmonger." JSTOR. N.p., 1971. Web. 16 Dec 2011. .

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Jeff Dolven 1604. Reprint. New York: Barnes & Noble,

2007. N. pag. Print.
Get Access