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Two Types Of Madness In Shakespeare's Hamlet

1873 words - 7 pages

    In Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, the principal character, Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, uses a charade of madness in order to further his plot of revenge. However, his mind is not able to justify murder for any reason; therefore, he truly goes insane before he is able to fulfill his scheme. In contrast, Ophelia is openly mad and is used by Shakespeare to show the various forms of insanity.

According to Carney Landis and James D. Page, there are "three levels of social adjustment:" there is the "normal individual," the "neurotic," and the "psychotic"(Landis and Page 9). The normal individual is just what the title says. He is accepted into society as a logical and stable person. Most people are classified as normal. The second level is the neurotic. These people have "desires, emotions, and interests" that are not accepted by their society (Landis and Page 9). Some symptoms of the neurotic person include "undue worry, chronic fatigue, absurd fears, obsessions, and compulsions" (Landis and Page 9-10). Despite all of this, these people are generally able to maintain a life within the demands of society. He is able to recognize his problems even though he cannot fix them. The third level is psychotic, completely maladjusted to society. These people's actions are uncontrollable by either themselves or others. "His behavior is...looked upon as irrational and incomprehensible by his associates" (Landis and Page 10). People with this mental disorder are usually hospitalized. There are many differing varieties of neurosis and psychosis, all are characterized by a lack of judgment, childish or incomprehensible behavior.

Bernard Hart identifies the presence of complexes within the human psyche. He says that, "Complexes[...]are causes which determine the behavior of the conscious stream, [which then produces] action[s]"(Hart 62). Therefore, the complex can be seen as a form of obsession within a person's mind and is labeled as causing neurotic behavior. These complexes are not always active, but when they are, the emotional and physical reaction to them can be very strong. Hart then explains that if a person's complex is "out of harmony with the mind as a whole...because it prompts to actions which are incompatible with the individual's general views and principles," then "a state of 'conflict' arises" (Hart 77-8). This incites a struggle between the person's complex and their personality or moral beliefs, and causes the mind to become divided and the person's actions to be paralyzed. This conflict causes "unpleasant emotional tension" until a crisis is reached and the person is forced to decide whether to follow their complex or their personal beliefs (Hart 78-9). Many times this conflict leads to the disintegration of the mind, as is true in Hamlet's case.

Hamlet develops a revenge complex which eventually leads to his downfall. When his father's ghost tells him to "Revenge this foul and most unnatural murder" (1.5.25), Hamlet replies...

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