Scholars have been disputing the sanity of Hamlet, for over four hundred years, in the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. Is he an insane madman or a vengeful, devious, genius? There are many contradictory ideas and theories on Hamlet’s so called psychosis, his procrastination in avenging his father’s death, and his actions towards his mother.
In the first act Hamlet seems to be in a perfectly sane state of mind. It is the second scene where the reader begins to see a change in Hamlet’s character. Ophelia meets with Polonius and recalls the meeting she previously had with Hamlet. She tells her father that Hamlet came
to her disheveled, and in a traumatized state of mind, speaking of "horrors." (Act 2 Scene 1 lines 83). Polonius immediately believes that he is "Mad for thy love?" (Act 2 Scene 1 lines 84). Ophelia answers a question posed by Polonius in which she responded that she had told Hamlet that she could not see or communicate with him any more. Polonius makes reference to Hamlet's madness once again by pronouncing what his daughter said, "... hath made him (Hamlet) mad." (Act 2 Scene 1 lines 109).
This is where the argument of whether Hamlet is insane due to of his love for Ophelia begins, but a more confusing and complex situation is the struggle within Hamlet's mind. His personal struggle is revealed to the reader in scene one of the third act in the first of Hamlet’s several soliloquies. In this scene Hamlet recites his famous "To be or not to be, that is the question:" (Act 3 Scene 1 lines 57) speech. As Eric Levy puts it, “Though Hamlet is linked with the vulnerability of reason to emotion, he nevertheless displays extraordinary emotional control, despite extreme...
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...o have fallen victim to their deceit”(Richardson 124). Also the fact that Hamlet thought that Polonius was Claudius adds to the evidence that Hamlet was in fact going insane.
Hamlet's madness at times is justified, and at other times is pure insanity. At first Hamlet seems to be going mad over the fact that Ophelia is not allowed to see him. Subsequently it seems that Hamlet is going mad over the fact that he is overwhelmed with his father's death, and begins to fight with himself over the thought of suicide. He is then determined to avenge his father’s death and goes about torturing Claudius in a systematic and genius manner. Finally, Hamlet is caught up in his feelings about mother’s actions, which brings him back to the point of insanity. In conclusion, Hamlet is torn between two worlds, that of the rational and that
of the distraught and insane.
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