An Inquiry Into Hamlet
’s Madness Essay, Research Paper
In the event of examining the nature of Hamlet’s madness,we will need to probe into Hamlet’s state of mind at different periods and circumstances in the play.
Hamlet can be seen to be and not to be mad by different people at different stages. From one perspective, Hamlet can be seen to be mad when Ophelia goes to her father and gives a description of Hamlet’s disposition when he goes to see her, also when he goes to see his mother in her closet as can be seen in his tone of voice and his murder of Polonius and his lack of repentance for his death. also, his psychological trauma and emotional depression at the begining of the play may have plunged him into emotional insanity, and lastly his encounter with Leartes in Ophelia’s grave.
Reversly, evidence is also shown to prove Hamlet’s sanitysuch as, when he initially tell Horatio about his intended change of disposition, also, when he tells both Rosencrantz and Guildestern that he is not mad. Also the things which he claimed to have done on the ship bound for England goes to show his sanity, and lastly his encounter with Leartes in Ophelia’s grave.
Upon the revelation of the ghost who is supposedly Hamlet’s father’s spirit, we witness a marked change in Hamlet’s disposition both in words and in deeds, one of such can be seen when (in Act 2 scene 1) Ophelia goes to see her father, apparently scared gives him a brief but vivid description of Hamlet’s disposition when he came to see her. she describes him as having “a look so pietous in purport” as if he had “been loosed out of hell”. This shows us a marked change in Hamlet’s disposition, the statement “As if he had been loosed out of hell” raises a lot of questions such as, what happened to Hamlet?.
Possibly,some spirit or demon may have taken over him thus his appearance as being “hellish” in nature or it could be that he had lost his wits to hell and thus is not aware of his appearance and we are made to believe that that he appears thus throughout most of the play.
Secondly, to further back up the point that hamlet was indeed mad is or can be seen with the encounter he had with his mother in her closet, where he lashes out at her to the extent that he is rude and also armed with such venomous words that frighten his mother. Possibly, he does this out of mere outrage at finding Claudius’ guilt and unable to take revenge but has to see his mother and thus speaks daggers to her heart and seizes her arm possibly in a fit of madness rather than outrage as it should be noted, the act was not premeditated but rather spontaneous and Getrude in shock screams for help and Polonious who is behind the arras(curtains) screams the same and Hamlet hearing him draws his sword and kills him. And when he finally realizes whom he had killed he shows no remorse whatsoever but rather sees his actions as being justified as he says “Thou wretched, rash, intrudig fool, farewell”. This action and statement show a completely different personality as in most periods in the book we see Hamlet in a suicidal melancholy but never in a murderous mood as we see him here so thus it would be safe to say that he was probably momentarily taken over by a fit of madness.
Also from the begining of the book, we see the tragic hero as being psychologically disturbed by the death of his father and the overhasty marriage of his mother to his uncle Claudius, and to further compound matters his love is rejected by Ophelia on the advice of her father over her true feelings and Hamlet’s feelings, thus driving him into a state of emotional depression as well as psychological instability as Hamlet now saw himself as loosing both parents as well as a confidant, thus leaving him with no womanly affection whatsoever as he could no longer enjoy the sole monopoly of his mother’s affection which had now gone to his uncle (Hamlet is said by some critics to have an Oedipus complex) and rejected love hence this two helped plunge Hamlet into his suicidal melancholies which we see him in almost throughout the entire cause of the play.
Therefore it could be said that from the begining of the play Hamlet was psychologically unstable as a result of the negativities of life which pluaged him thus plunging him into madness and his suicidal melancholies.
Lastly in defence of his madness, we have his encounter with Leartes in Ophelia’s grave (Act 5 scene 1)where he tells Leartes thus:
“For though I am not splentative and rash,
yet I have in me something dangerous
which let thy wiseness fear”
This statement shows or reveals to us that Hamlet has something in him which ought to be feared though we might see the statement as being an ordinary one which would be uttered by anyone found in such circumstances as we see Hamlet but however probing deeper for the meaning and its intricacies we realise that Hamlet is aware that he has something within him which could surface or take control of him at any moment in time and has the lack of control over it. This could possibly be a spirit or demon from hell which takes over Hamlet during certain periods in the play thus his fits of madness.
Reversly it could be argued that Hamlet was not mad as can be seen in certain points in the play.
Firstly it could be argued that Hamlet was not mad but indeed sane as can be seen in (Act 1 scene 5) where he tells Horatio thus:
“Here as before,never, so help you mercy
how strange or odd some’er I bear myself
As I perchance hearafter might think meet
to put on an antic disposition on”
This shows that Hamlet had preplanned his supposed madness as he also tells Rosencrantz and Guildestern that:
“I am but mad north-north-west;when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handshaw”
This statement goes to say that Hamlet is not mad, though Rosencrantz and Guildestern did not realize this we however do.
Some analysts and critics think that Hamlet feigned his madness for protection as he feared that he might indeed run mad and constantly made himself aware of this so as to prevent true madness from overbearing him as a result of seeing the ghost and thus he was fully aware of his actions.
Secondly further evidence can be brought forth in defence of his sanity. on the event on his exile to England. On the ship as he informs Horatio (Act 4 Scene 5)on how he discovrd Claudius’ plan to have him killed and writting a new letter for the King of england. This goes to suggest that Hamlet was sane as only a sane person would be able to do such things as he claimed to have done.Also he informs his mother of his sanity.
Also his encounter with Leartes in Ophelia’s grave goes to show a great level of sanity when he fights Leartes and also says:
“For though I am splentative and rash
yet I have in me something dangerous
which let thy wiseness fear”
This statement goes to show Hamlet’s self awareness as to his abilities as he says he has in himself something dangerous as this could be true as we can see in the deaths of Polonious, Rosencrantz and Guildestern, but rather than this throughout the entire play we see him lacking the ability of taking decisive actions when they are needed and thus this raises questioins such as what else happened on the ship bound for England?. Hamlet possibly on the ship bound for England found his long sought courage as witnessed in the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildestern his friends form childhood thus his reason for the threat.
However it is also interesting as other characters see Hamlet as Having a craftiness or wisdom in his madness and possibly a coincidence all who discover this died at his hands.
From the evidence given above for both sides I personally feel Hamlet was sane throughout the entire play but however the answer to the question Is Hamlet mad is still a matter of opinion.