Shakespeare's Hamlet - Observations of Madness Essay

Shakespeare's Hamlet - Observations of Madness Essay

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Hamlet: Observations of Madness


One of the most analyzed plays in existence is the tragedy Hamlet, with its recurring question: "Is Hamlet’s 'antic disposition' feigned or real?" In truth, this question can only be answered by observing the thoughts of the main characters in relation to the cause of Hamlet real or feigned madness. In the tragedy Hamlet, each of the main characters explains Hamlets madness in their own unique way. To discover the cause behind the madness of Hamlet, each character used their own ambitions, emotions and interpretations of past events. Characters tried to explain Hamlet's "antic disposition" by means of association to thwarted ambition, heartbreaking anguish, and denied love. In the workings of their thoughts, the characters inadvertently reveal something about their own desires, emotions and experiences to the reader.

The thoughts of Guildenstern and Rosencrantz present the reader with one possible factor for the cause of Hamlets supposed madness. The two men believe that the cause for Hamlets madness is his lack of “advancement” or thwarted ambition. In a conversation with Hamlet in Act II scene II, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz come upon this idea:

Hamlet: Denmark's a prison.



Rosencrantz: Then is the world one.



Hamlet: A goodly one; in which there are many confines,

wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o' the worst.



Rosencrantz: We think not so, my lord.



Hamlet: Why, then, 'tis none to you; for there is nothing

either good or bad, but thinking makes it

so: to me it is a prison.

When the heir apparent calls his heritage a prison, something must be seriously wrong, and it is not difficult for th...


... middle of paper ...


...rman N. Holland, Sidney Homan and Bernard J. Paris. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 175-190.

Leverenz, David. 1980. 'The Woman in Hamlet: An Interpersonal View.' In Representing Shakespeare: New Psychoanalytic Essays, edited by Coppelia Kahn and Murray M. Schwarz. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins Press, 110-128.

Levin, Richard. 1990. 'The Poetics and Politics of Bardicide.' PMLA 105: 491-504.

Vickers, Brian. 1993. Appropriating Shakespeare: Contemporary Critical Quarrels. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Watson, Robert N. 1990. 'Giving up the Ghost in a World of Decay: Hamlet, Revenge and Denial.' Renaissance Drama 21:199-223.

Wright, George T. 1981. 'Hendiadys and Hamlet.' PMLA 96:168-193.

Shakespeare, William. The Tradegy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark. New York: Washington Square Press, 1992

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