Hamlet Madness Analyzed

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Gabrielle Donofrio
February 16, 2012
AP Literature
Free Response
2001. One definition of madness is “mental delusion or the eccentric behavior arising from it.” But Emily Dickinson wrote “Much madness is divinest sense to a discerning eye.” Novelists and playwrights have often seen madness with a “discerning eye”. Select a novel or play in which as character’s apparent madness or irrational behavior plays an important role. Then write a well-organized essay in which you explain what this delusion or eccentric behavior consists of and how it might be judged reasonable. Explain the significance of the “madness” to the work as a whole. Do not merely summarize the plot.

It is safe to say that many of Shakespeare’s plays have some sort of madness intertwined in the plot which plays an important role in the story. In the play, Hamlet, the madness as a whole and within the main character himself, Hamlet, plays a vital role. At the start of the play, the main character, Hamlet encounters the ghost of his recently murdered father, King Hamlet. Hamlet learns that the new King Claudius, who is the deceased King’s brother, is the one who murdered King Hamlet. Claudius also married his deceased brother’s wife, who is also Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude. The mere plot of the story is an obvious reason to why Hamlet behaved the irrational way that he did.

However, while some may say that the concrete events that went on in the play such as talking to his dead father’s ghost and his mother remarrying so quickly to his uncle drove him mad, some also argue that his madness was merely an act. The ghost of King Hamlet simply tells Hamlet to pass on the truth and get revenge on Claudius without hurting or involving Gertrude. For Hamlet to do so, he decides to put on an act that he has gone mad to divert anyone from truly understand what his plan was for justice. While this method did work at first for Hamlet, his act of madness soon became a reality. This is illustrated in his...
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