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Comment on Hamlet’s madness. Do you think it was altogether assumed or can you offer evidence to suggest that Hamlet was not always in complete control of his action?
Shakespeare’s tragic hero, Hamlet, and his sanity can arguably be discussed. Many portions of the play supports his loss of control in his actions, while other parts uphold his ability of dramatic art. The issue can be discussed both ways and altogether provide significant support to either theory. There are indications from Hamlet throughout the play of his mind’s well being.
Hamlet’s antic disposition may have caused him in certain times that he is in a roleplay.
Hamlet has mood swings as 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 whirling words:Why, right; you are I’ the right; And so, without more circumstance at all, I hold it fit that we shake hands and part… [Act I, scene V, lines 127-134]. It seems as if there are two Hamlets in the play, one that is sensitive and an ideal prince, and the insane barbaric Hamlet who from an outburst of passion and rage slays Polonius with no feeling of remorse, Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell! / I took thee for thy better. Take thy fortune;/ Thou find’st to be too busy is some danger.- [Act III. scene IV, lines 31-33] and then talks about lugging his guts into another room. After Hamlet kills Polonius he will not tell anyone where the body is. Instead he assumes his ironic matter which others take it as madness. Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. / A certain convocation of political worms a e’en at him. [Act IV, scene III, lines 20-21]
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.
[Act IV, scene iii, lines 33-36].
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 loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers/Could not, with all their quantity of love,/ Make up my sum [Act V, scene I, lines 250-253], 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 awareness of his dissolving sanity as he tells Laertes that he killed Polonius in a fit of madness [Act V, scene II, lines 236-250]
Hamlet has violent outbursts towards his mother. His outburst seems to be out of jealousy, as a victim to the Oedipus complex. He alone sees his father’s ghost in his mother’s chambers. Every other time the ghost appeared someone else has 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 conjoined, preaching to stones / Would make them capable. [Act III, scene IV, lines 126-128].
Throughout the play, there are also supporting factors 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. [Act I, scene V, lines 166-180].
Hamlet’s madness in no way reflects Ophelia’s true madness, his actions contrast them. 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 unreasonably. When Hamlet in the presence of Horatio, Bernado, 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 [Act III, scene I, lines 165-167]. Polonius admits that Hamlet’s actions and words have a method to them; there appears to be a reason behind them, they are logical in nature. Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t. [Act II, scene II, line 206]
Hamlet tells his mother That I essentially am not in madness,/ But mad in craft. [Act III, scene IV, lines 188-199]. Hamlet believes in his sanity at all times, He never doubts his control over his sanity. He realizes his flaw as a man of thoughts and not actions. His cold act of Polonius’ murder is out of rage and furious temper. He is sorry for it has no great compassion towards Polonius, for he already has enough grief over his father’s death.
Hamlet, a tragic hero, meets his tragic end not because he was sane or insane. He ends tragically because of his own tragic flaw, procrastination and grief. Whether he sane or had lost control of his actions, both theories has it own support. The support makes each theory a sensible decision either way. Hamlet as seen from the beginning to end, a prince that was grieve stricken, until a prince of rage and passion, has developed through the stages by his own sanity and madness. Even if the madness was true or false, as Hamlet portrayed the role of a mad man, he took it upon himself to be lost in his control of actions.