Use of Guilt and Madness in Macbeth and Hamlet

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Throughout Shakespeare’s greatest works there is the ever present use of guilt and madness to add depth to characters, further drama and plot and sometimes to even lengthen the work itself. From Hamlet’s constant struggle to murder his incestuous uncle to Macbeth’s sudden ability to see ghostly blood-covered daggers, it is clear to see that Shakespeare has a method to his madness. Shakespeare uses guilt as a sort of net for the humanity of his characters. Throughout Macbeth and Hamlet shakes’ characters do some deplorable things and the easiest way to help the audience stay in favor of a major character is to have them feel bad about said acts. This converts into the “madness” that is ever-present alongside its buddy guilt. Shakespeare doesn’t just want the character to feel bad; He wants the audience to know it too. This is what creates the intricate visions, delusionary speaking, and general lunacy shown by many characters within his works. We will begin the analysis on the presence of guilt and madness with Hamlet.
What better character to start an analysis on hamlet with than the man (or teen) himself. Hamlet is the son of a once beloved and currently deceased, king. After his death, King Hamlet’s wife does what most women would do in that situation, marry his brother. This does not sit quite right with Hamlet as shown by his constant moping and inability to forgive his mother. All the while the supposed ghost of King Hamlet is wandering the Danish castle grounds looking for someone to tell Hamlet he is there. So with a nice dose of depression and a weakened mind Hamlet is brought face-to-face with his dead father’s ghost. Part of what makes Hamlet’s “madness” so intriguing is the fact that we don’t really know if he is truly insane. While many of the characters within the play believe Hamlet to be absolutely bonkers, he himself believes he’s fine. In i-5-line 175 Hamlet states that he will “put an antic disposition on” so that he may fool all of Denmark into thinking his revenge-motivated actions are just madness. However, just before this encounter Horatio warns Hamlet that this ghost may make Hamlet crazy and could truly do something horrible to him if he is not wary. One may think that since Hamlet was just acting he cannot be considered mad but take for example the amount of time it takes for him to exact his revenge on Claudius. Hamlet has ample time to kill his Uncle but whenever he has his opportunity he turns away at the last second and chooses not to go through with it. Upon showing his true weakness to himself he begins to belittle himself in a series of soliloquies that show his self-deprecating nature. This madness that Hamlet could have been cursed with does not necessarily have to be a vision-inducing nightmare but could very well be bipolar disorder or some other mental disorder that causes him to feel lower than the low and causes him to hate himself and furthers his Oedipus complex he has for his mother. The other argument...

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