William Shakespeare, in the tragedy Hamlet, designed two characters who exhibit symptoms of madness: Ophelia and the prince. Hamlet states his own madness as intentional, purposeful, for the carrying out of the ghost’s admonition. But does Hamlet’s pretended insanity actually touch on real, actual insanity from time to time, or is it consistent?
Phyllis Abrahms and Alan Brody in “Hamlet and the Elizabethan Revenge Tragedy Formula” consider the madness of the hero to be completely feigned and not real:
Hamlet is a masterpiece not because it conforms to a set of conventions but because it takes those conventions and transmutes them into the pure gold of vital, relevant meaning. Hamlet’s feigned madness, for instance, becomes the touchstone for an illumination of the mysterious nature of sanity itself. (44-45)
Hamlet’s first words in the play say that Claudius is "A little more than kin and less than kind," indicating a dissimilarity in values between the new king and himself – introducing into the story a psychological problem, a refusal to conform, which lays the groundwork, or previews, the upcoming pretended madness. As the future king of Denmark, the hero is expected to maintain a good working relationship with the present king, Claudius. But this is not so. Even before the apparition of the ghost, Hamlet has a very sour relationship with his uncle and stepfather, Claudius.
Hamlet’s first soliloquy deepens the psychological rift between the prince and the world at large, but especially women; it emphasizes the frailty of women – an obvious reference to his mother’s hasty and incestuous marriage to her husband’s brother:
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
... middle of paper ...
...: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1986. Rpt. of “O’erdoing Termagant: An Approach to Shakespearean Mimesis.” The Yale Review 63, no.3 (Spring 1974).
Foakes, R.A.. “The Play’s Courtly Setting.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. of “Hamlet and the Court of Elsinore.” Shakespeare Survey: An Annual Survey of Shakespearean Study and Production. No. 9. Ed. Allardyce Nicoll. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1956.
Rosenberg, Marvin. “Laertes: An Impulsive but Earnest Young Aristocrat.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Masks of Hamlet. Newark, NJ: University of Delaware Press, 1992.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. http://www.chemicool.com/Shakespeare/hamlet/full.html
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Madness and Hamlet Hamlet is one of William Shakespeare's most honored works and is a piece of literature, which has been studied in depth by many a scholar. The storyline of Hamlet follows a vein of madness that begins with Claudius' murdering King Hamlet and ending with the tragic killing of almost every main character. Many reasons have been proposed for the ultimate tragedy, which occurs at the conclusion of the play. It will be argued in this essay that madness is the cause of the eventual tragedy in Shakespeare's Hamlet.... [tags: Shakespeare Hamlet Essays]
915 words (2.6 pages)
- The Necessary Madness of Hamlet Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, is a complex play, filled with layers of meaning. These are often revealed through the madness of the characters and the theme of madness throughout the play. Although Hamlet and Ophelia are the only characters thought to be so afflicted, the reactions of other characters to this madness mirrors their own preoccupations. When one refers to madness in Hamlet, most would think of Hamlet's madness, or at least that that he was pretending to possess.... [tags: Shakespeare Hamlet]
1152 words (3.3 pages)
- The Pretended Madness of Hamlet Hamlet, knowing that he will get into difficulty, needs to feign madness for the purpose of carrying out his mission. He rehearses his pretended madnesss first with Ophelia, for even if he should fail there in his act of simulation, that failure will not cause him any real harm. The manifestations of insanity that Hamlet will show become predictable - a sure sign that it is a simulated and not a real insanity. When Hamlet is with a trustworthy friend, he is rational and symptom-free; as soon as those persons appear, however, whom he wants to convince that he is mad, he changes his behavior so as to implant different explanations in their minds for his notic... [tags: Essays on Shakespeare Hamlet]
431 words (1.2 pages)
- In Shakespeare's Hamlet, there are two characters that display qualities of insanity. They are Hamlet and Ophelia. Although they both appear to be mad at times, their downfall (or supposed downfall) is quite different. Ophelia's crazed characteristics show up and intensify quite rapidly, until she is ultimately led to suicide. Her madness seems definite, and it is never questioned. The insanity or sanity of the main character is an arguable question. The issue can be discussed both ways, with significant support to either theory.... [tags: GCSE Coursework Shakespeare Hamlet]
1379 words (3.9 pages)
- Hamlet's Madness `What is madness. Is someone mad merely because they are different, and do they in return see the same about the world. The dictionary defines madness as, “1. the state of being mad; insanity. 2. senseless folly. 3. frenzy; rage. 4. intense excitement or hilarity.” Though is there a difference between madness and wrath or rage. Was Hamlet mad, or was it one big act in order to give reason for his irrational actions and to keep his vengeful motives confidential.... [tags: Shakespeare Hamlet Essays]
794 words (2.3 pages)
- Madness in Hamlet Hamlet's choice to put on an "antic disposition" leads to his downfall; it is a tragic error in judgement (hamartia) which destroys his relationship with Ophelia and Gertrude. It is Hamlet's hubris. Another result from Hamlet's peculiar actions, is that in his own mind he begins to believe that he is mad. It is unfortunate that Hamlet's plan did not succeed; not only did it lead to his own downfall but he had to witness the downfall of all of the people he loved. With his choice to put on this act of antic disposition, he takes the risk of losing close touch with his loved ones.... [tags: Essays on Shakespeare Hamlet]
742 words (2.1 pages)
- Hamlet - A Question of Madness Hamlet's public persona is a facade he has created to carry out his ulterior motives. The outside world's perception of him as being mad is of his own design. Hamlet is deciding what he wants others to think about him. Polonius, a close confidant of the King, is the leading person responsible for the public's knowledge of Hamlet's madness. The idea that Hamlet is mad centers around the fact that he talks to the ghost of his dead father. He communicates with his dead father's ghost twice, in the presence of his friends and again in the presence of his mother.... [tags: Essays on Shakespeare Hamlet]
963 words (2.8 pages)
- 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.... [tags: Madness and Insanity in Shakespeare Hamlet]
2623 words (7.5 pages)
- Insanity within Hamlet Let us explore in this essay the real or feigned madness of the hero in William Shakespeare’s dramatic tragedy Hamlet. Critical opinion is divided on this question. A.C. Bradley in Shakespearean Tragedy staunchly adheres to the belief that Hamlet would cease to be a tragic character if he were really mad at any time in the play (30). On the other hand, W. Thomas MacCary in Hamlet: A Guide to the Play maintains that the prince not only feigns insanity but also shows signs of true insanity: Hamlet feigns madness but also shows signs of true madness) after his father’s death and his mother’s overhasty remarriage; Ophelia actually does go mad after he... [tags: Essays on Shakespeare Hamlet]
1894 words (5.4 pages)
- The Melancholy Hamlet William Shakespeare’s tragic play Hamlet is an exercise in the study of melancholy. Let’s explore the in’s and out’s of this aspect of the drama in this essay. Gunnar Boklund gives a reason for the highlighting of the melancholy aspect of the protagonist in Shakespeare’s Hamlet in his essay “Judgment in Hamlet”: In the tragedy of Hamlet Shakespeare does not concern himself with the question whether blood-revenge is justified or not; it is raised only once and very late by the protagonist (v,ii,63-70)and never seriously considered.... [tags: The Melancholy Hamlet]
1968 words (5.6 pages)