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Madness and Insanity in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Madness and Insanity in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a master of deception. Hamlet decides to make Claudius believe that he is insane, but the scheme backfires when everyone, except Claudius, falls for it. Ophelia is one of those who believes Hamlet lost his mind, and when he does not return her love, she is so brokenhearted that she commits suicide. Near the end of the tragedy, Hamlet plays the part so well, that he convinces himself he is insane. Clearly, Hamlet’s plan to put on an antic disposition is a tragic error.

Hamlet’s plan for the antic disposition is to fool all the courtiers, especially Claudius. This way Claudius will not think that Hamlet is capable of killing him and usurping the throne. Hamlet clearly hates Claudius, and wants revenge for his father. “A little more than kin, and less than kind!” (I; ii; 65) Hamlet tries repeatedly to portray the image of insanity, but often Claudius sees through the antic disposition. “Love? his affections do not that way tend,/ Nor what he spake, though it lacked form a little,/ Was not like madness.” (III; i; 159-161) After Claudius realizes that Hamlet is not actually insane, but playing the part for his antic disposition, he sends Hamlet to England to be executed.

And, England, if my love thou hold’st at aught-

As my great power thereof may give thee sense,

Since yet thy cicatrice looks raw and red

After the Danish sword, and thy free awe

Pays homage to us- thou mayst not coldly set

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…rol of his mind, but as the plot unfolds he is thrown into a fit of true madness.

Through examination, it is proven that Hamlet’s choice of displaying an antic disposition is a tragic error on his part. Claudius was the only courtier who sees through the act, Ophelia fell into utter madness, and Hamlet convinces himself that he has lost his mind. As Claudius said, “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.” (III; i; 185)

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. Modern Critical Interpretations Of Hamlet. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.

Charney, Maurice. All of Shakespeare. New York, NY. Columbia University Press. 1993.

Magill, Frank N. Masterplots. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1995.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The Riverside Shakespeare. ED. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Haughton Mifflin Company, 1974.

Free Hamlet Essays: Lonely Hamlet

Lonely Hamlet

Hamlet’s decision to keep the murder of his father a secret to himself, along with the betrayals of many of his close friends and family, leads to his eventual downfall. If someone was there for him, whether it was his mother Gertrude, his girlfriend Ophelia, or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, maybe his timeless death could have been prevented. Instead, his mother sides with Claudius who wants to kill him, Ophelia won’t go behind her father, Polonius’, back to be with him and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern go behind Hamlet’s back and spy on him for Claudius.

Gertrude’s blindness to the whole situation is sickening. How she marries the brother of her former husband right after he kills him and never knows the truth is beyond me. She never cared about how her son felt before or after she married Claudius. She didn’t even wait very long after her husband died to get married again ( I; ii; 180-181. “Thrift, thrift, Horatio. The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables”.). Therefore she is either a very slow, naïve woman or a very evil, coldhearted one. For someone to side with a person even after their own son has told them that the person they’re with has murdered their former lover is absolute lunacy ( III; iv; 29-30. “A bloody deed- almost as bad, good mother, as kill a king, and marry his brother”.). Not knowing the truth in the first place is one thing, but turning your back on your own flesh and blood is another. Therefore without his mother on his side, Hamlet has lost all the family in his life that could have helped him get through his terrible time and he sinks lower than ever before.

Ophelia’s obedience towards her untrusting father is indescribable ( I; iii; 101-103. “Affection? Pooh! You speak like a green girl, unsifted in such perilous circumstance. Do you believe his tenders, as you call them”?). Why a grown woman would listen to her father and not help the man of her dreams in his time of need is disheartening. A man’s girlfriend should be there for him when a family member passes away, no matter what. If she had been with him on the plan to kill Claudius and knew about his fathers ghost who told Hamlet that Claudius was the one that murdered him, than neither one of them would have went crazy.

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