Theme Of Madness And Causes: Hamlet And Ophelia

2072 words - 8 pages

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, there are two characters that display qualities of insanity. Specifically, Hamlet and Ophelia, although they both appear to be mad at times, their downfall (or supposed downfall) is quite different. Ophelia's madness seems complete while Hamlet's is questionable throughout the play. Hamlet's madness comes and goes; Ophelia's does not. Ophelia tells no one that she is "mad"; on the other hand, Hamlet shows everyone about his madness. Hamlet turns his madness on and off depending on the company he keeps. Ophelia on the other hand, cannot handle the loss of Hamlet's love, her brother's absence, and her father's death. It is all too much for her and she snaps. Hamlet and Ophelia’s position in society, along with the actions of all the adults caused the deaths and insanity of Hamlet and Ophelia.
Hamlet’s madness whether actual or simulated, shows through his actions toward other main characters who threaten his revenge against Claudius. In proof of his diminished state Hamlet says, “O, that this too too solid flesh would melt / that and resolve itself into a dew! / Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d / his canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! O God! / How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, / seem to me all the uses of this world!” (1.2. 129–158). From the very beginning Hamlet is already reacting to the deaths of his father and his parents’ marriage. Hamlet registers some clear suicidal and or mental (emotional) depression. Hamlet’s madness starts out inconspicuous, with the soiling of his parents’ marriage apparent and the death of his father, he continues throughout the whole story to grief.
The character Hamlet is described through the medical terms of that time as having too much “black bile” in his body, causes of it include lifestyle, and environment, According to the philosophy of medicine during the time period, the way a human body is described was through the presence of four liquids: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. Hamlet’s state of clinical depression was diagnosed as having too much black bile in the body, but also during that time period the presence of psychological disorders is recognized through just one disorder, “madness”. Having too much black bile in the body would show melancholy moods and other abnormal behavior (Diderot Pg.308). First Hamlet puts on, “…an antic disposition.” (1.5.172) then he uses the symptoms of a madman to carry the disposition out. The symptoms from the excess black bile signals melancholia depression from the grief of “…his father’s death and our hasty marriage” as Gertrude explains to Claudius (2.2.57). The death of his father and marriage of his mother could be considered a significant conflict in Hamlet’s life. But because of his notoriety in Denmark he’s forced to grieve in silence and even in silence he is told to, “…cast thy knighted color off/ and let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark” (1.2.68). Gertrude persuades Hamlet through his love for her...

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