Madness in Hamlet

Topics: Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, Melancholia Pages: 5 (1950 words) Published: October 21, 2012
Hamlet-Melancholy, Madness and Sanity
Hamlet, a play by William Shakespeare, is as much a mystery as a tale about depression, madness and sanity. Shakespeare reveals how the scourge of corruption and decay rapidly spread; and the emotional consequences that follow. Insanity, madness and depression are as intolerable as corruption and deceit; and just as intertwined. The play makes one ponder if it is possible to be sane in an insane world full of treachery, revenge, incest, and moral corruption? By examining the themes of melancholy, madness and sanity in Hamlet, Shakespeare details his character’s descent from depression to madness. Additionally, Hamlet’s psychological state can be analyzed by utilizing modern psychological diagnoses, in order to understand his mental state. Throughout the story, Hamlet exists in a melancholy state, "essentially not in madness, / But mad in craft" (3.4.204-205). Hamlet states to Horatio “as I perchance hereafter shall think meet/ To put an antic disposition on” in order to deceive the king that he is insane (Act I, Scene V, Line 190). However, was Hamlet acting or was he already mentally disturbed? Did Hamlet go mad in the end, or was Hamlet insane from the start of the play, and his mental condition only worsened as the play unfolded? The world in which Hamlet existed appears hostile. The king is a murderer; his mother the queen lusts after her deceased husband’s brother; friends spy and deceive one another; and Hamlet’s lover Ophelia literally loses touch with reality. Hamlet believes that only suicide can free him from his misery. Hamlet is not the only person struggling with depression. From the beginning, Francisco says, “’Tis bitter cold, / And I am sick at heart”. Marcellus states that “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (). Fear is spread by the ghost of King Claudius wandering the city streets. Reoccurring themes of corruption result in Hamlet stating “The dram of evil / Doth all the noble substance of a doubt / To his own scandal” (Shakespeare 51). One evil person can contaminate an entire kingdom. As the kingdom decays, emotional trauma increases. Hamlet concludes that the world “’Tis an unweeded garden / that grows to seed. Things rank and gross in nature / Possess it merely ( ). The weeds represent decay in a world of evil and sin. The “things” are symbolic of man and his temporary dominance over himself, his fellow man and nature. Pessimism permeates the screenplay and the reader is led to connect the dysfunction with the resulting mental states of depression that infect Hamlet. Hamlet’s psychological status can also be analyzed from a modern perspective. Today we have the diagnostic tools to identify and treat the disorders that afflicted Hamlet. Though Hamlet presents as melancholy throughout the play, there are three additional disorders that afflict Hamlet including post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and bipolar depression. Three traumatic events contribute to Hamlet’s descent into madness: the death of his father, the incestuous marriage between his uncle and mother, and the discovery of his father’s murder by Claudius. These emotional traumas contributed to Hamlet suffering from what we would now diagnose as Post-traumatic stress disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized by the inability to properly construct emotional appropriate responses to situations and an emotional blunting. Throughout the play, Hamlet had issues with people in his social circle. Hamlet becomes enraged with Laertes because of his dramatic sorrow over the death of Ophelia (Act V, Scene I). Soon thereafter, Hamlet realizes his reaction to Laertes was inappropriate and later apologizes to Laertes. Hamlet demonstrates impulsive behavior and lashes out at people without considering the ramifications. In addition to Laertes, Ophelia, Hamlet’s beloved, is also not immune to his rage....
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