Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays and it is no wonder why. The story of Hamlet, a young man who must avenge his father’s death, is full of emotion, intrigue, and suspense. Hamlet is also well-known for its main character’s descent into madness.
Many people have wondered what causes Hamlet’s madness and how it affects the overall story. Some believe that Hamlet’s madness is simply a plot device used by Shakespeare to add suspense and intrigue to the play. Others believe that Hamlet’s madness is a real, psychological condition that he suffers from.
There are many theories about what causes Hamlet’s madness and what role it plays in the overall story. Some say that Hamlet is mad because of the death of his father, some say that he is mad because of his love for Ophelia, and some say that he is mad because of the pressure to avenge his father’s death.
No one can be sure what caused Hamlet’s madness or how it affected the overall story. However, it is clear that Hamlet’s madness plays an important role in the development of the plot and in the character of Hamlet himself.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare mixes themes of insanity with two characters: one who is genuinely insane and another who only plays the role to serve a purpose. We may see this point through two figures: Ophelia and Hamlet. The lunacy of Hamlet is often disputed. Ophelia’s breakdown, as well as Hamlet’s type of madness, support the idea that Hamlet has a method to his apparent insanity. On each side of sanity is a character in the play.
Hamlet’s state is paradoxical; he functions ostensibly as a madman, but in many scenes he appears to be in complete control of himself and his surroundings. Hamlet never stops talking to himself, but it is hard to tell when Hamlet is speaking to Horatio, the audience, or Gertrude.
Many readers have argued that Hamlet feigns madness. Hamlet often speaks in riddles and leaves out important information so people will not understand him. He also sometimes talks about things that are happening offstage which the other characters would not know about. Hamlet’s speeches are full of literary devices such as allusions and metaphors.
Hamlet’s disposition, on the other hand, has more indicators. Ophelia’s collapse is rapid but more precise in its precision. Shakespeare provides clear evidence that Hamlet is sane starting with the play’s first scene. The appearance of the ghost is aided by guards who are primarily important in the play to lend credibility to the ghost. If Hamlet were to encounter his father’s spirit privately, his case for insanity would significantly improve. However, before any of them consider reporting it to Hamlet, three individuals see the ghost together.
Hamlet’s first words to his mother are about the ghost and Polonius, Hamlet’s father’s friend, is also in attendance. Hamlet is not mad at this point, but he is certainly troubled. Hamlet has good cause to be suspicious of Gertrude, Claudius, Polonius and even Ophelia. It is only after Hamlet kills Polonius that he goes completely off the deep end.
In order to understand Hamlet’s madness, it is important to look at all the aspects of his life that may have led to it. Hamlet had lost his father at a young age. His mother quickly remarries Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle. Hamlet is not the only one who suspects something is amiss with Claudius, Gertrude Hamlet quickly learns of Hamlet’s suspicions and tries to get him to stop talking about it.
The ghost’s revelation that Ophelia has been impaled comes as a shock to Hamlet, but it does not render him insane. After meeting the ghost for the first time, Hamlet greets his companions smilingly and appears to believe the news is good rather than the reality. This is Hamlet’s initial evidence of his talent and desire to influence his actions in order to achieve effect. Despite Hamlet’s apparent unhappiness, if he informs the guards of the tragedy, they may guess what it is about.
Hamlet does not want to alarm his loved ones and so he hides his true feelings. Hamlet feigns madness throughout the play in order to protect himself and those he loves. The first time Hamlet contemplates pretending to be mad is when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are sent by Claudius to spy on Hamlet (2. 2. 553-556). Hamlet knows that they are up to no good, but instead of just killing them, Hamlet decides to put on a show for them instead. He will make it look like he has gone completely mad so that they will stop bothering him.
Hamlet says, “Why, what should be the fear? / I do not set my life at a pin’s fee; / And for my soul, what can it do to that, / Being a thing immortal as itself?” (2. 2. 563-566). Hamlet is not really afraid of death, but he knows that if he kills Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, it will look bad for him. Hamlet wants to make sure that he looks like the victim in this situation, so he decides to pretend to be mad instead.
Hamlet’s meeting with Ophelia while his uncle and Polonius are hiding behind a curtain is another example of his behavior manipulation. Hamlet has already shown his affection for Ophelia, and his total rejection of her and what occurred between them is evident duplicity.
Hamlet’s pretended madness is a form of manipulation to further his goals. Hamlet knows that he can trust Horatio, so he tells him the truth about what is happening and what he plans to do. Hamlet also trusts Horatio not to tell anyone about the ghost. Hamlet needs time to figure out how to take revenge on his father’s murderer and this plan would be spoiled if Claudius knew Hamlet was still alive and aware of what was happening.
Hamlet is very careful in his dealings with everyone and nothing is done without a purpose. Hamlet’s final plan is successful and results in the death of Claudius. Hamlet’s madness, as well as everything else he does in the play, is a method to achieve his goals. Hamlet is not actually insane; he is very much in control of all his actions. Hamlet’s madness is just a tool that he uses to get what he wants.