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Hamlet Madness Essay Research Paper Shakespeares Hamlet

Shakespeare?s Hamlet is a most enigmatic and complex character, his psyche the

subject of more detailed psychoanalysis than any other character in English

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literature. It is only once in a great while that the reader of literature comes

across a man who fakes madness, and ultimately immerses himself so deep into

this feigned madness to a point of total metamorphosis into a new being.

Hamlet?s ostensibly concocted madness ultimately catalyzes the development of

his dormant, inward madness and natural inclination for pretense and

dissimulation. Within Hamlet there are two types of madness: the very apparent

outer madness, and a hidden madness that isn?t even realized by Hamlet. The

inner madness is the result of the tragedies within this play; namely, the

incestuous marriage of his widowed mother to his uncle and her brother-in-law

which followed the tragic and sudden murder of his father. It is this depression

and anger that set the stage for the rest of the play. Afterall, had he not

cared to avenge his father?s death, the words of the ghost would have been

totally ignored and there would have been no reason to feign madness. But

because he was hurt, depressed, and incensed, he channeled all his power and

energy to gain revenge, successfully. The forged madness was a product of

Hamlet?s attempt to confuse the people of the castle and divert any suspicion

that may be targeted at him in his mission of vindication of his father?s

death. But what exactly is madness? In Act I, Scene 5, Hamlet urges the ghost:

Haste me to know?t, that I with wings as swift as the meditation or the

thoughts of love may sweep to my revenge.? (lns. 33-35) Madness is condition

that results from a person?s obsession with his objective. This total

preoccupation with a specific mission blurs the person?s reality. It?s as

though the victim has become inhabited by himself and some other supernatural

power that takes over his senses and narrows his field of vision, limiting it to

his objective, mission, and purpose. All other aspects of his life degenerate

into chess pieces in the greater game. His mission consumes him, devouring his

life and leaving him an uncomplete person. Rages, unwarranted erratic behavior,

and evil-doing are symptomatic such a state of being. Much of Hamlet?s

madness, when feigned, was due to necessity, however, he definitely had a

natural inclination towards pretense and dissimulation. To limit the word

natural to ?part of one?s nature,? meaning inherent and innate, is

close-minded. With a broader meaning of the term, it becomes easier to explain

Hamlet. By ?natural,? I mean unfaked, sincere, genuine. Therefore, a natural

inclination is not necessarily congenital since it can be developed. Simulating

madness, although it was for a good cause, ruined Hamlet. After acting deranged

for an extensive period, he became mad. When acting mad for long enough, an

inclination develops for dishonesty, dissimulation, and deception. In an ironic

sense, Hamlet contaminated himself. He became plagued with his own illness- the

illness he created. Following that transitional evolution into a truly mad self,

Hamlet begins to act in ways that do not call for his evil, pretentious

behavior. First, Hamlet has Rosencrantz and Guildenstern killed, even though

they were not aprt of his revenge-against-his-father?s-murder plan. He could

have simply let them on their way since he was a free man anyway. Such harsh

treatment was totally unnecessary in fulfilling his original objective. See, the

only reason Hamlet feigned madness was to take revenge. If one applies this

logic, one must ask: Were the deaths of these two men ?necessary? in taking

revenge on the killer? Afterall, who is the killer? Clearly, his irrationality

led him to kill two people whose deaths were unnecessary (though they may be

justified, of course). He must have done them, therefore, irrespective of his

revenge on Claudius and his motivations and one can conclude that it was his

mental madness that seized his spirit. Further evidence of this inner madness is

Hamlet?s encounter with his mother in Act III, Scene 4. It is in this scene

that Hamlet attempts to play the moralist and forces his mother to see her

wrongs. It is more than this which signifies Hamlet as mad. It is his obsession

with purging his mother of her sins that shows his madness. He screams: ?Nay,

but to live in the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,/stewed in corruption, honeying

and making love/ over the nasty sty-? (III.iv.92-95). He has gone beyond

moralist at this point. He is wildly attacking her in a fashion so symptomatic

of a natural-born madman whose obsession leads to compulsion. Mixed with this

wild attack of his mother, Hamlet also irrationally attacks and kills Polonius

who was standing behind the curtain. His actions are much like a rabid dog

attacking anything which would get in his way. From what Hamlet says after the

slaying, he seems to think that it may have been Claudius (III.iv.27). This is

an irrational excuse, as Hamlet just left Claudius a scene before. Hamlet is

indeed acting madly and without a reason. But the clearest proof of his madness

is his obsession with death. As the horrors mount up, it becomes blindingly

clear that Hamlet descends from pretending madness to really being mad. After

the killing of Polonius, Hamlet is questioned about the death and whereabouts of

the body and his answer reveals a man who is in a morbid state of mind. Hamlet

exclaimedhow once the body dies it goes through a cycle where it is eaten by

worms who devour the flesh for the purpose of getting food for another person.

Therefore, people, he believes, digest corpses. ?Not where he eats, but where

he is eaten: a certain convocation of politic worms are e?en at him. Your worm

is your only emperor for diet: we fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat

ourselves for maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable

service, two dishes, but one table: that?s the end.? (IV.iii.20-26) Finally,

the graveyard scene depicts Hamlet?s epiphanic moment, the moment when he

contemplates the true meaning of life. ?No faith, not a jot; but to follow him

thither with modesty enough and likelihood to lead it; as thus,: Alexander died,

Alexander was buried, Alexander returned into dust; the dust is earth; of earth

we make loam: and why of that loam, whereto he was converted, might they not

stop at a beer-barrel?? (V.i.201-206) Upon completion of the play and thorough

analysis of the facts, one comes to the realization that Hamlet was indeed a

most insane, yet unfortunate, man. Destroyed by the pain of his family scandal,

he fell into a manic depression and mental state of insanity which ultimately

stirred anger within him. Within him lurked bubbled the desire to avenge his

father?s death. Fabricating a madness proved to be counter-productive because

Hamlet ended up suffering from a disease he created to help himself.

Shakespeare?s Hamlet is as much about normal, sane men as it is about Hamlet.

It is true that Hamlet developed this natural inclination, however one must

recognize that he caused his own insanity and pity the callow orphan for that.


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