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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hamlett: Sane or Insane

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“Normal” or “crazy”. A very important question to ask when discussing Hamlet’s personality, mannerisms, and actions throughout the play. Which one of the two is he? There is no definite right or wrong answer, but there are equally insightful arguments for both, and it’s up to the reader to hear them and decide.


Shakespeare’s tragic hero, Hamlet, and his sanity can arguably be discussed. Many portions of the play support his loss of control in his actions and emotions, while other parts stay true to the idea of his ability of dramatic art. The issue can be discussed both ways and altogether provide significant insight and support for either side.


Throughout the play it seems as though Hamlet is in a sort of role-play, because Hamlet goes through mood swings like when his mood changes abruptly throughout the play. Hamlet appears to act mad when he hears of his father’s murder. At the time he speaks wild and sporadic words Why, right; you are I’ the right; And so, without more circumstance at all, I hold it fir that we shake hands and part…[II, v, 17-14]. It seems as if there are two Hamlets in the play, one that is a sensitive and ideal prince, and the other an insane barbaric Hamlet who from an outburst of passion and rage slays Polonius with no feeling of remorse of any kind, Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell! /I took thee for thy better. Take thy fortune; /Thou find’st to be too busy some danger. �[III, iv, 1-] and then talks about lugging his guts into another room. After Hamlet kills Polonius he refuses to tell anyone where the body is. Instead, he assumes his ironic form, which others perceive as madness. Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. /A certain convocation of political worms a e’en at him. [IV, iii, 0-1]. If your messenger find him not there, seek him I’ th’ other place yourself. But, indeed, if you find him not within this month, you shall nose him as you go up the stairs into the lobby. [IV, iii, -6].


Hamlet’s behavior throughout the play, especially towards Ophelia, is inconsistent. He jumps into Ophelia’s grave, and fights with Laertes in her grave. He professes I love for Ophelia Forty thousand brothers /Could not, with all their quantity of love, /Make up my sum. [V, i, 50-5], during the fight with Laertes in Ophelia’s grave, but he tells her that he never loved her, when she returns his letters and gifts, while she was still alive. Hamlet subtly hints his knowledge of his dwindling sanity as he tells Laertes that he killed Polonius in a fit of madness. [V, ii, 6-50]


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Hamlet has violent outbursts towards his mother. His outburst seems to arise from his jealousy, stemming from his Oedipus complex. He alone sees his father’s ghost in his mother’s room, while every other time the ghost had appeared someone else had also seen it. During this scene he finally shows his madness, because his mother does not see the ghost. On him, on him! Look you how pale he glares! /his form and cause confined, preaching to stones /Would make them capable. [III, iv, 16-18].


Throughout the play, there are also supporting details to argue Hamlet’s sanity, as these details compromise his madness, to balance out his mental state. Hamlet tells Horatio that he is going to feign madness, and that if Horatio notices any strange behavior from Hamlet; it is because he is putting on an act. [I, v, 166-180]. But although “mad”, his madness reflects in no way that of Ophelia’s, his madness and actions contrasts hers. Hamlet’s madness is only apparent when he is in the presence of certain characters. When Hamlet is around Polonius, Claudius, Gertrude, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he behaves irrationally and unreasonably. When Hamlet is in the presence of Horatio, Bernardo, Francisco, The Players, and Gravediggers, his actions are sensible. Other characters confess that Hamlet’s actions are still unsure whether Hamlet’s insanity is authentic or not. Claudius confesses that Hamlet’s actions, although strange, do not appear to stem from madness. And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose /Will be some danger; which for to prevent, /I have in quick determination. [III, i, 165-167]. Polonius admits that Hamlet’s actions and words have a method to them; there appears to be reason behind them, they are logical in nature. Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t. [II, ii, 06].


Hamlet tells his mother That I essentially am not in madness, /But mad in craft. [III, iv, 188-1]. Hamlet believes in his sanity at all times. He never doubts his control over himself or his sanity. He realizes his flaw as a man of thoughts and not actions. His cold act towards Polonius was out of rage and furious temper. He is sorry for it, but has no large amount of compassion or remorse for Polonius because of the immense grief he feels over his father’s death.


Hamlet, a tragic hero, meets his tragic end not because he was sane or insane, but because of his tragic flaw, procrastination and grief. Whether he was sane or lost controls over his actions and mind, both points have their arguments and support. The support makes each theory a sensible decision either way. Hamlet as viewed from beginning to end can be observed that he was a prince that was grieve stricken, until a prince of rage and passion had developed by way of his own sanity and madness. Whether the madness is true or false, Hamlet took it upon himself to portray the role of a mad man.





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