Essay about The Role of Madness in The Spanish Tragedy and Hamlet

Essay about The Role of Madness in The Spanish Tragedy and Hamlet

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The role that madness plays in The Spanish Tragedy and in Hamlet, indeed in all revenge tragedies, is a vital one; it provides an opportunity for the malcontent to be converted by the environment into the avenger.

In almost all revenge tragedies, the malcontent takes the form of a renaissance man or woman who is confronted with a problem - the deed to be avenged. This crime, and the criminals that perpetrated it, effect that surroundings to such an extent that it is impossible to remain unchanged by them. At this point, the malcontent is addressed with the question that Hamlet asks:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by doing so end them.

Hamlet 3 i 56-60

Or as Hieronimo put it in The Spanish Tragedy, while holding a noose (this is to symbolise suicide, which is the ultimate form of withdrawal from the world) and a dagger (the tool that is most appropriate for the avenger to interact with the world with):

This way or that way? Soft and fair, not so:

For if I hang myself, let's know

Who will revenge Horatio's murder then?

The Spanish Tragedy 3 xii 16-19

This question is the central dilemma of revenge tragedy; whether it is better to brave what fate can throw at you and remain passive and inactive, or to 'take arms' against them and to actively end them. It is the process of finding the answer to this question that drives the malcontent mad, then to becoming an avenger. The fact that the malcontent is a renaissance figure is also important. This means that they are in possession of a renaissance mind, a mind constantly seeking for knowl...


... middle of paper ...


... she acts in a very similar manner to how an avenger would, and to some extent is better at it than the main avengers.

The decision to pretend madness is a decision by the avenger to adopt the machiavellian nature of the villains. It is this decision above that irredeemably compromises the revenger. The compromisation of interacting with the vile and corrupt world is a necessary part of the revenge tragedy, as without it, there could be no dilemma about the legality and morality of revenge. In addition, the decision on the part of the avenger to take up the tools of the machiavel, to become mad, represents the dilemma faced by the renaissance that not all things can be solved solely through the application of reason

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