On the Brink of Insanity
The main character, Hamlet, in William Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy, Hamlet is possible the most complex and controversial character in any playwright. Hamlet, the main character offers a puzzling and ambiguous persona and is often contradicting himself leaving readers to question who the real Hamlet is. Hamlet’s erratic behavior ultimately poses the question: Is he being rational in his acts and sacrificing his life for the greater good, or has he simple gone mad? Throughout the play, we watch Hamlet go through several different stages of his life, constantly being stuck in a somewhat torturous mental state caught between grief, love, and vengeance. These different states of mind relate the idea that Hamel is teetering on the brink of insanity induced by his actions and the actions of those around him.
At the very beginning of the play Hamlet, Bernardo sets the stage by asking the question “Who’s there?” (1,i,3) This question is repeatedly asked in several different ways throughout the play. Does Hamlet even know who he is himself? We often find ourselves asking if the “real” Hamlet will step forward and make a decisive and righteous decision about his life and father’s death, or will he be timid and an uncertain fumbler who is unable to make up his mind about life and death. Just before Hamlet poses the so famous question, “To be or not to be” (ii,I,105), the ghost of his father, King Hamlet, confronts him and informs him that “The serpent that did sting they father’s life now wears his crown.” (1,V 35-39). Hamlet now realizes that his father’s life was not taken by a random stranger, but rather by his father’s own brother, Claudius. The strange appearance of Hamlet’s father’s spirit, one would have thought, would have been motive enough for Hamlet to take action, but Hamlet’s indecisiveness causes him to hesitate in his actions and beliefs toward Claudius. Had Hamlet acted impulsively (as many would have done),...
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