To Be Mad Or To Be Melancholic

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“He is far gone, far gone” (2.2.8). The play Hamlet written by William Shakespeare is the story of young Hamlet whose father was killed by his uncle, Claudius, then his uncle took the throne and married Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, which ultimately caused hamlet to become melancholic or ‘mad’. In the essay ‘Madness and Melancholy in Hamlet’ written by Kate Flint she explores the idea of madness and melancholy in the Elizabethan time in reference to the actions of Hamlet. She states that Hamlet is neither mad nor melancholy but does display symptoms of each. Flint states that to categorize Hamlet as either mad or melancholy the characters would have to be viewed as real people which they cannot be. She shows that Hamlets madness is only an excuse to expose the truth and teach the audience a lesson. The essay takes the position that hamlet’s strange behaviour was neither madness nor melancholy because those are human emotions but that they were a way to break the barrier between player and audience. Kate Flint takes the position that Hamlets ‘antic disposition’ is neither madness nor melancholy because those are human characteristics and Hamlet is a character in a play. She states "we cannot place a character in a play or novel on a couch and ask searching questions of them; they have no past” (Flint 64). She is saying that characters cannot be given lives outside of what is written down on paper. All that is known about Hamlet is that his father died and he knows that his uncle murdered him obviously making him depressed and angry but not melancholy. She is also states that to know if someone is mad or melancholy it must be known what a ‘real’ person is in which a societal norm has to be acknowledged which contrasts madness and mela... ... middle of paper ... ... is a fictional character. This is also true because to categorize a person as ‘mad’ or melancholic there has to be a defined societal norm but that norm is different for everyone making that classification nearly impossible. Hamlets madness also acts as a buffer for speaking the truth so bluntly that it seems impossible to agree upon. His language ensures no one is able to decide if he is sane or not. Ultimately Shakespeare uses Hamlets ‘madness’ to share the truth that humans categorize each other to affirm their own sanity against someone different. Works Cited Flint, Kate. “Madness and Melancholy in Hamlet”. Critical essays on Hamlet, William Shakespeare. Ed. Linda Cookson and Brian Loughrey. Harlow: Longman, 1988. Print. P.61-9. Shakespeare, William, Marilyn Eisenstat, and Ken Roy. Hamlet. Toronto: Harcourt Canada, 1988. Print.

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