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Two Types of Madness in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, the principal character, Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, uses a charade of madness in order to further his plot of revenge. However, his mind is not able to justify murder for any reason; therefore, he truly goes insane before he is able to fulfill his scheme. In contrast, Ophelia is openly mad and is used by Shakespeare to show the various forms of insanity.

According to Carney Landis and James D. Page, there are “three levels of social adjustment:” there is the “normal individual,” the “neurotic,” and the “psychotic”(Landis and Page 9). The normal individual is just what the title says. He is accepted into society as a logical and stable person. Most people are classified as normal. The second level is the neurotic. These people have “desires, emotions, and interests” that are not accepted by their society (Landis and Page 9). Some symptoms of the neurotic person include “undue worry, chronic fatigue, absurd fears, obsessions, and compulsions” (Landis and Page 9-10). Despite all of this, these people are generally able to maintain a life within the demands of society. He is able to recognize his problems even though he cannot fix them. The third level is psychotic, completely maladjusted to society. These people’s actions are uncontrollable by either themselves or others. “His behavior is…looked upon as irrational and incomprehensible by his associates” (Landis and Page 10). People with this mental disorder are usually hospitalized. There are many differing varieties of neurosis and psychosis, all are characterized by a lack of judgment, childish or incomprehensible behavior.

Bernard Hart identifies the presence of complexes within the human psyche. He says that, “Complexes[…]a…

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With the appearance of the ghost and the relating of his murder, Hamlet begins his downward spiral towards his ultimate downfall. He develops a revenge complex in which his desire for revenge conflicts with his personality. This complex steadily evolves as the play progresses, creating intense discord within Hamlet himself. Ultimately Hamlet is forced to take action, which then leads to the downfall of almost everyone involved. Through this elaborate evaluation of Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, it is easy to see that Hamlet was mad both in craft and in reality.

Works Cited

Hart, Bernard. The Psychology of Insanity. London: Cambridge, 1914.

Landis, Carney, and James D. Page. Modern Soceity and Mental Disease. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1938.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Norton Critical ed. Ed. Cyrus Hoy. New York: Norton, 1992.

to thine own self be true: The Conflict between Son and Self in Hamlet

“to thine own self be true”: The Conflict between Son and Self in Hamlet

A name is a very important aspect of a person. It helps to define who that person is and what is important to that person. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the use of the same names for fathers and sons creates a dilemma that is not easily overcome. Laertes does not have the same name as his father, but he is controlled by his father all the same. Not only does this rule apply to characters in the play, but also to the play itself. Shakespeare’s Hamlet was preceded by Thomas Kyd’s play Ur-Hamlet and Shakespeare had to work hard to differentiate his play from the original.

Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, shares his name with his father, Hamlet, the former King of Denmark. This sharing of names blurs the identity of the Prince with the King. Since the King precedes the Prince, he is able to develop his own distinct identity. He is “a goodly king” (1.2.186), a noble, brave, and self-assured man. Thus it falls on Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, to define himself beyond the confines of his father’s name. Abraham Fraunce suggests the definition of someone consists of two parts, “the generall and the difference… A man is a sensible creature endued with reason, where sensible creature is the generall, and endued with reason is the difference” (Qtd. in Calderwood 10). Hamlet is genetically related to his father as are all sons to their fathers. However, Hamlet is even more closely related due to their common name. Hamlet also inherits the act of filial obligation when the ghost returns and demands revenge for his murder. When he swears to avenge his father’s death, he is promising to “relinquish his personal identity and to unite with his father not merely in name but in actional fact” (Calderwood 10). Hamlet “adopts his father’s cause- to make his father’s enemy his own enemy, to assume his father’s motives, goals, and pains- is to adopt his father’s identity” (Calderwood 10).

Prior to the ghost’s appearance Hamlet is beginning to define himself as an individual person instead of as the son of his father. He has been away at school forging his own path in life. When his father’s ghost demands him to exact revenge on Claudius, Hamlet struggles trying to decide if he will take the role of “son” and blend with his father or to become the “self” and breakaway from his father.

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