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Shakespeare's Hamlet And His Hallucinations Essay

1732 words - 7 pages

Hamlet is arguably the most famous play written by the highly renowned English playwright, William Shakespeare--a man known in much of the western world as the father of english literature. Part of the reason for this title is for Shakespeare’s ability to take a character, and through a basic plot, transform said character into becoming something that many scholars have debated over for years. Hamlet in this play is this character; a character whose mental instability or sheer lack of perception has lead to countless debate and argument over the actual explanation for the characters behavior. Schizophrenia can be defined as a lasting mental disorder that forms a fundamental impediment in thought and emotion (as well as behaviour). This disorder can then lead to a lack of judgment in perception, and unusual actions and feelings, all in addition to an overall withdrawal from reality and a devolution of personal relationships to delusional perceptions of oneself and his surroundings--in all, schizophrenia is a mental disorder involving the breaking down of the mind and one’s grip on reality (National Library of Medicine). With the above definition, it may at first seem rash to criticize Hamlet and declare that he has Schizophrenia; however, once it is considered the varying degrees in which Schizophrenia can manifest itself, it no longer becomes such a farfetched thought. It must be contended then, that Hamlet is neither insane nor lazy, but merely a man who suffers from Schizophrenic-hallucinations; hallucinations that spiral up the plot into one focused primarily on Hamlet’s search for truth.
Seventeenth century Denmark was largely Protestant, and is home to the University of Wittenberg, the school where Hamlet matriculated. In light of these facts, Hamlet must be Protestant and therefore cannot officially believe in the doctrine of Purgatory, the place where ghosts come from. The ghost asserted, “My hour is almost come. When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames..Till the foul crimes done in my days..Are burn and purged away” (Shakespeare 1.5.5-15). This quote evidently implies that where the ghost is now is Purgatory, the area where sins had to be purged before it could ascend to heaven. However, since spirits in Purgatory had to ask to have their sins purged, they could not ask for people to commit revenge for them. Hamlet may indeed understand all that is going on but he can’t exactly know just yet until he knows the truth and for that reason, the ghost does indeed set the revenge plot into motion, but it also delays the plays action since now Hamlet doesn’t completely understand the truth. He even asks himself, “Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned” (Shakespeare 1.4.40). This analysis of Hamlet’s encounter with the ghost presents an interesting scientific explanation: the appearance of the ghost is not the result of some supernatural interference, but the result of mental illness, in this case especially schizophrenia as one of the...

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