Madness: The Pathway To Mental Clarity Essay, Research Paper
Intelligence is often mistaken for brilliance, and conversely genius is mistaken for madness. Some of the greatest minds have been misconstrued in there time, and it is not until their whole life is taken into observance from the outside looking in, that their genius is realized and appreciated. Websters dictionary defines madness as “the act of being foolish or illogical.” Ironically this form of thought has prompted some of the greatest advancements in government, science, and technology. It was the thought that every common man and woman should be included in his or her respective governments that prompted Democracy, a form of government unheard of before the signing of the Magna Carta. It was scientists and inventors thinking outside of the lines that inspired the cure for Small Pox and the invention of the computer. It can clearly be seen that serious thought is often the by-product of irrational thinking, this is also true for literature. It is while in madness, both feigned as well as sincere, that the characters in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet are able to practice true mental clarity and express themselves in a manner free of treachery and falsehood.
Both of the Characters, Hamlet and Ophelia, whom assume a role of madness are able to reveal there true feelings for others while the others are confined to Petitio Principi or circular thought. Ophelia is able to make the statement “…we know what we are but know not what we may be” (IV.v.44-45). In this singular statement Ophelia has a profound insight into the actions of the other characters as well as human kind in general. She addresses the King in a manner such as to imply that he knows what his actions have gained him, but also that he knows not what those actions will reciprocate. This idea can also be applied to the general public, because often times we are blinded to the big picture (what we may become) and only see what is right in front of us (what we are). Being unaware of this situation can contribute to our inability to address our feelings for others, but with Ophelia’s state of mind she was unconcerned with what others thought and so she was able to make such a profound statement. However, the other “sane” individuals encompassed in Hamlet are reduced to doltish utterances like those made by Polonius. The kings closest advisor believes he has found the source Hamlets madness and says ” ‘mad’ call I it, for, to define true madness, what is’t but to be nothing else but mad” (II.ii.93-94). His explanation of Hamlets madness proves to be Petition Principi (circular reasoning) because he says that hamlet is mad because he is mad. This in essence is no explanation at all but a means to an end.
Falsified Madness also acts as a metaphorical crutch, upon which one can rest their apprehensions and worries as to what others reactions will be. Hamlet is able to directly insult Polonius, saying that he would be lucky to be as honest as a fish monger. He is free from the responsibility of having to deal with the reverberations of his actions. As depicted through the psychology of Sigmund Freud, an individual is far more inclined to act in a manner that is reflective of his or her true feelings if he or she is free from responsibility and has a sense of safety. This feigned madness provides Hamlet with the loss of responsibility and sense of safety required for complete and utter honesty. This honestly allows for the reader to understand the extent of Hamlets opinions on all that is going on around him. So in a way this mental clarity achieved by Hamlet contributes to the clarity achieved by the reader. The character of Hamlet is challenged time and time again with twists and turns that life brings. Hamlet is able to deal with this through a loss of responsibility that is induced by his false madness. Unable to deal with what his mother has done Hamlet tell Rosencrantz “a wonderful son that can so ‘stonish a mother” (III.ii.329). He is aware that he has instilled a sense of astonishment in his mother, and he is proud of this and is able to say so because everyone thinks he has gone crazy. His hopes are fulfilled and his views expressed so that he will be responsible for little and held accountable for even less.
History has shown us great individuals who were misunderstood in their time, but renowned after their death. Men like Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and the Right Brothers were laughed at for their endeavors, but what would the world be like without the airplane, physics, or the Theory of Relativity. We as humans use only a certain part of our brains which according to the American Journal of Neurological Science amounts to about three percent. This same medical journal introduced the idea that Einstein, and Isaac Newton had increased brain usage, estimated along the lines of four to five percent. These men were assumed as mad, but in fact proved to be brilliant. What is it to be brilliant? Is it to be smart, or original…intuitive, or adroit, or is it none of these things at all? Brilliance is a mind having the ability to see past the superficial, in order to take into perspective the more important true that nobody else sees. Ophelia and Hamlet, achieve this idea of brilliance by pointing out all of the things that the rest of society has either missed or disregarded. In the our minds we have our own ideals as to what brilliant is. When the word brilliant exits the mouth of any human being often times their thoughts then turn to inventors or scientists, but rarely do our thoughts turn to the brilliant minds of everyday life. We fall into a rut and find ourselves acting not out of thought but out of habit. It is when we turn into this individual that we ourselves do not achieve mental clarity. We are often blinded to the actions around us and intelligence is often mistaken for brilliance and conversely genius is mistaken for madness.