Hamlet's Madness In William Shakespeare's Hamlet

1373 words - 5 pages

Hamlet's Madness in William Shakespeare's Hamlet

At any given moment during the play, the most accurate assessment of
Hamlet's state of mind probably lies somewhere between sanity and
insanity. Hamlet certainly displays a high degree of mania and
instability throughout much of the play, but his "madness" is perhaps
too purposeful and pointed for us to conclude that he actually loses
his mind. His language is erratic and wild, but beneath his
mad-sounding words often lie acute observations that show the sane
mind working bitterly beneath the surface. Most likely, Hamlet's
decision to feign madness is a sane one, taken to confuse his enemies
and hide his intentions. On the other hand, Hamlet finds himself in a
unique and traumatic situation, one which calls into question the
basic truths and ideals of his life. He can no longer believe in
religion, which has failed his father and doomed him to life amid
miserable experience. He can no longer trust society, which is full of
hypocrisy and violence, or love, which has been poisoned by his
mother's betrayal of his father's memory. And, finally, he cannot turn
to philosophy, which cannot explain ghosts or answer his moral
questions and lead him to action. With this much discord in his mind,
and already under the extraordinary pressure of grief from his
father's death, his mother's marriage, and the responsibility
bequeathed to him by the ghost, Hamlet is understandably distraught.
He may not be mad, but he likely is close to the edge of sanity during
many of the most intense moments in the play, such as during the
performance of the play-within-a-play (III.ii), his confrontation with
Ophelia (III.i), and his long confrontation with his mother (III.iv).

Explanation for Quotation 1 'first soliloquy.'
This quotation, Hamlet's first important soliloquy, occurs in Act I,
scene ii (129-158). Hamlet speaks these lines after enduring the
unpleasant scene at Claudius and Gertrude's court, then being asked by
his mother and stepfather not to return to his studies at Wittenberg
but to remain in Denmark, presumably against his wishes. Here, Hamlet
thinks for the first time about suicide (desiring his flesh to "melt",
and wishing that God had not made "self-slaughter" a sin), saying that
the world is "weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable." In other words,
suicide seems like a desirable alternative to life in a painful world,
but Hamlet feels that the option of suicide is closed to him because
it is forbidden by religion. Hamlet then goes on to describe the
causes of his pain, specifically his intense disgust at his mother's
marriage to Claudius. He describes the haste of their marriage, noting
that the shoes his mother wore to his father's funeral were not worn
out before her marriage to Claudius. He compares Claudius to his
father (his father was...

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