To Be Sane Or Not To Be

Sane Essay, Research Paper

The Shakespearian play ?Hamlet, Prince of Denmark? offers a puzzling main character by presenting an apparent sane man portraying an insane one for revenge. The question of Hamlet?s lucidity is perceptible throughout the play. At first glance, the view of Hamlet is simply a heartbroken individual bent on revenge. He is seen having lost a father to death, a mother to remarriage and a kingdom to his uncle in a span of two months. However, as the play progresses extenuating circumstances and events arise that speed the deterioration of his mind. Therefore, the notion of Hamlet being a sane individual playing the role of a madman can be disputed with an in depth analysis of his character, actions and a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

The temperament of Hamlet can allude to his mindset throughout the play. In other words, by studying Hamlet?s view of himself an answer to the stability of his mind is provided. The first clue is in act one scene two where he makes a comment about the king. ?My father?s brother, but no more like my father/ Than I to Hercules? (152-153); this quote is stating Hamlet doubts his strength and/or heroic capabilities. The next indication is in the statement ?Haste me to know?t, that I, with wings as swift / As meditation or the thoughts of love, / May sweep me to my revenge? (1.5 29-31). In this passage, he inquired to the ghost to inform him about his father?s murder so it will anger him into revenge. However, by the end of the scene Hamlet has lost heart and is unsure of himself. Another clue can be found in the quote, ?O, what a rogue and peasant slave I am? (2.2 550). Here he blames himself for his lack of passion and accuses himself of cowardice. The final clue is in his famous suicidal thoughts. ?To be or not to be ?? ( ) Hamlet is questioning the living and if he should try to exist among them. Singularly, these clues state he is unsure of himself however, if combined they show his slow deterioration from being uncertain to suicidal.

The actions Hamlet demonstrate as the play progresses provide a glimpse at the stability of his mind. The first exhibition of his building madness can be seen when Hamlet states he will ?put an antic disposition on-? (2.1, 181). This statement occurs after his conversation with the ghost. Hamlet?s downward spiral into genuine madness proved to be just the beginning by deciding to act mad instead of continuing with his grief as a front for his revenge. By acting mad, he is unintentionally drawing attention to himself, his actions and will postpone his attempt at vengeance. The second manifestation can be seen in his treatment of Ophelia. ?O my lord, my lord, I have been so affrighted? (2.1, 77). She has done nothing to Hamlet yet; he attempts to scare her as part of his plan to seem mad. However, this is not a childish prank, or an act but, an over exaggeration due to his slipping mind. Another demonstration is in the dumb show. The question arises, what did he hope to accomplish by the timing of it. He already believes Claudius is the culprit. Apparently, this was his master plan to show King Claudius he knew about his father. However, the show implied that a nephew was the killer and alerted the king to take measures against Hamlet thereby, making the court and the king wary of Hamlet?s behaviors. This was not the act of a sane individual clearly he was advancing in his instability. A further illustration in his increasing madness is in the treatment of his mother. By the time he is asked to visit with her, he has lost reality. His suspicions about the King have been confirmed and he has revealed the secret of his madness act to the King. The conversation with his mother is full of sexual connotations and angered outbursts. Therefore, Hamlet?s madness has reached its climax and his pretenses have now consumed him.

In order to diagnose Hamlet as having schizophrenia, the definition of the disorder should be given. According to the online Health Center, schizophrenia is ?a group of psychotic disorders characterized by disturbances in thought, perception, affect, behavior, and communication??. While there is no specific cause for schizophrenia, it is believed to have multiple explanations that rationalize the progression of the disorder. One theory is there are ?psychological and social factors, such as a disturbed family and interpersonal relationships, that may play a role in development? (Health Central). These and other symptoms can be seen in Hamlet. For example, the most common indicator is hallucinations. Hamlet displays this in act three scene four after he has seen the ghost a second time. He is vehement about his question ?Do you see nothing there?? (Line 136). Another sign of the disorder is in delusions. Hamlet has no proof his mother is guilty yet; he condemns her on the word of a ghost. A further indication of the disorder is in violence, Hamlet displays this on four occasions: Polonius? murder, the murders of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the attack and murder on Laertes and in the murder of the King. An additional warning sign in his state is his suicidal thoughts that can be seen in his soliloquy in act three scene one. Due to these symptoms stemming from ?more than one subtype of schizophrenia? (Health Central), it can be concluded that Hamlet displayed the signs of the ?undifferentiated type? (Health Central) of schizophrenia.

The idea that Hamlet is a young man on the brink of insanity is not unbelievable. The losses and events he sustained could drive anyone to madness. However, they merely aided in his mental deterioration and in disguising the real problem of schizophrenia. The theory that Hamlet had schizophrenia is not far fetched; the evidence provided proves he had the symptoms of a dying mind. In reality, this play explored the idea of how a person reacts to human responsibility, and choices between justice and revenge.

Bibliography What is Schizophrenia? November 1, 2001


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