An Exploration of the Way Shakespeare Presents Madness in Hamlet
Does Shakespeare intend to present Hamlet and Ophelia as insane? This
is a question which has baffled English literary critics for more than
400 years. There is still no definite answer, and throughout the play
there are numerous points where you stop and wonder whether Hamlet and
Ophelia are sane or not. They both change dramatically from one scene
to another, often drastically.
Although in my opinion, Hamlet is not crazy at all, he is merely
forced to act insane to avenge his fathers’ death. Hamlet is in fact
so good at acting insane that many people question whether or not he
is actually insane. Although many believe he is just exceptionally
depressed as a result of his father's death. Gertrude rushed into
marriage only two months after her husband’s death and this can
certainly be seen as a key reason for Hamlet’s profound depression. It
was a very little space of time between his father’s death and his
mother’s re-marriage, this time to Claudius who was next in line to be
King anyway – and now became so. This was another factor which upset
Hamlet, as he would have potentially became king eventually whereas
now this may not be the case.
Personally, I believe that Hamlet set out to act insane – but, as a
result of constant recurring betrayal – actually did turn genuinely
insane. Throughout the play, with the exception of one character,
there is not one soul who sticks with him; they all betray him in one
way or another, with the exception of Horatio.
At the beginning of the play, Hamlet first expresses his grief for his
father’s death when his mother and Claudius, the new King, enter the
room and confront him regarding it, he replies to her:
“Seems, madam! Nay it is; I know not 'seems.'
Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother”
This is the point in the play Shakespeare first presents Hamlet’s
allegedly unbalanced mind. His mother suggested that he was merely
pretending to mourn his father’s death, and in the above quotation he
is basically replying with anger, as it is extremely evident he does
not appreciate his mother making such accusations. Gertrude, his
mother, used the word ‘seems’ when she initially said to him:
“Why seems it so particular with thee”
This is what sparked such a reply from Hamlet, as he said “Seems,
madam! Nay it is; I know not 'seems.”, as also quoted above.
It is essentially quite ironic that Gertrude said this to him, as he
is in fact contemplating suicide! He says in his soliloquy that
"O, that this too too solid flesh would melt Thaw and resolve
itself into a dew!”
Hamlet is very unhappy that his mother is not mourning his father and
cannot understand. So he says to her:
"frailty, thy name is woman”
Shakespeare uses this as an obvious way...