Hamlet Madness Essay

Hamlet Madness Essay-54
By making the audience constantly question whether Hamlet is really mad or just pretending, Hamlet asks us whether the line between reality and acting is as clear-cut as it seems.Hamlet tells us that he believes the purpose of acting is “to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to Nature” (III.ii), that is, to be as close to reality as possible.

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.Yet he treats them both with paranoia, suspicion, and cruelty, suggesting he has lost the ability to accurately interpret other people’s motivations.Hamlet describes Gertrude’s marriage as “incestuous” (), but no one else in the play agrees with his opinion.Claudius' murdering of his brother, the king is the first murderous act of mental illness in the story and it sets into course the madness of many other characters.Murdering one's brother so that they may marry their sister in law is not the act or desire of a sane person.He is also indirectly responsible for the deaths of these characters.Hamlet's display of mental illness allows him to prove to himself that Claudius did, in fact, murder his father.In the same scene Hamlet tells us that he is wearing “solemn black” and a “dejected ‘havior” (), which audiences in Shakespeare’s time would have recognised as signs of “melancholy,” a condition which Renaissance doctors believed could lead to madness.Although several characters see the Ghost during Act One, only Hamlet hears it speak, which opens the possibility that the Ghost’s speech is a hallucination of Hamlet’s.After giving Ophelia a long list of what he sees as women’s faults, Hamlet confesses: “It hath made me mad” (III.i).The fact that Hamlet’s biggest emotional outbursts are directed against the sexual feelings of the women in his life suggests that his mad behavior is not just a ploy to disguise his revenge plans.


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