Hamlet, Madness or Sanity
Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, is about a young prince who wants revenge when he learns about the murder of his father. As the play begins, Hamlet’s character appears to be a normal, sane person. Moving through the acts Hamlet’s personality changes from normal to depressed. There are hints of insanity that try to convince people Hamlet is “mad”. Others might say that Hamlet is faking madness to pursue his goal of revenge. First, he sees a “ghost” that tells Hamlet who killed his father and married his mother. Was this a dream or was this real? Second, Hamlet kills more than one person to avenge his father’s death. Where these accidents or intentional? “Insanity: a legal term for mental illness of such degree that the individual is not responsible for his or her acts.” (Dorland’s Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers 2007). Lastly, Hamlet becomes depressed and considers suicide.
The ghost appears three times in the play. First appearing to Barnardos, Marcellus and Horatio, but disappearing at sunrise. The ghost then appears at midnight and tells Hamlet that he is his father and was poisoned and murder by his brother Claudius. Then asks young Hamlet to avenge his death. “But know, thou Nobel youth, the serpent that did sting thy Father’s life, now wears the crown” (Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 1 Scene 5 page 1029). This leaves Hamlet angry and tells Horatio and Marcellus to swear they didn’t see anything and that he may act “mad” to carry out his assignment. In Act 2 Scene 2 “The spirit that I have seen may be a devil and the devil hath power t’assume a pleasing shape...” (Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2 page 1049). This says that Hamlet is not sure if he actually saw a ghost or if it was just a dream. The third appearance of the ghost is in the Queen’s closet. She hears her son talking to someone, but because she cannot see the ghost, she says her son is “mad” talking to himself. (Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 3 Scene 4 page 1070). Hamlet tells his mother that he is pretending to be “mad”. Talking to the ghost makes Hamlet worried because he feels he did not do the job the ghost wanted him to do. “Mood disorder: although Hamlet worries a lot, he doesn’t avoid situations that cause him to worry. He confronts the ghost of his father as it appears before him. Also, he presents two symptoms namely restlessness or feeling on the edge and irability.” (Character Analysis of Hamlet, Psychological Disorders, Sept. 22, 2012).
The next area that questions Hamlet’s sanity is that of deaths though out the story. Polonius, who is hiding in Queen Gertrude’s room, is stabbed through the drapes by Hamlet because he thought it was the King. This might have been an accident, but Hamlet’s irrational behavior leads us to believe he is becoming impulsive and unforgiving. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are executed in England by Hamlet’s clever idea to change the name on the death warrant. Here is where Hamlet displays signs of...