What is it to be mad? Is it related to something of biological background? Or is it to do with the complex breakdown of one’s emotions? Or is it both? These questions are important to keep in mind when understanding whether Hamlet is truly mad or feigning madness as part of his ‘plan’ in which Shakespeare builds up throughout the play. This relates to the second aspect which must also be looked at when comprehending the fictional play Hamlet. This aspect is the certain ‘key’ events that take place, and how they not only provide a basis for, but also shape and mould the emotions of the character Hamlet.
When Hamlet is first introduced into the story, his dark mood can be perceived as an inveterate shape of mind which can be traced to his father’s passing. Shakespeare uses many statements, such as, ‘Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief, That can denote me truly’, to convey the dark mind of Hamlet. George Wilson Knight believes that Hamlets grief for his father’s death and his mother’s ‘quick forgetfulness’, both contribute, ‘if not wholly’, to Hamlet’s fragile state of mind, and that they are an important basis to Hamlet’s madness. The madness of Hamlet is first introduced when he learns of his father’s ghost, who has been taken by death, and discovers his uncle as the murderer, who now wears the crown. One can see the scene with the ghost as a phantasmagoria which Shakespeare uses to ‘play’ with the storyline. Is this ghost truly Hamlet’s father or is it a shade of the Devil? The answer for this is left completely up to the discretion of the reader. Shakespeare does however litter the text with clues that can justify either side of the Arcanum. One such comment is by the guard Marcellus when Hamlet leaves with the spirit. He says, ‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.’
Hamlet’s madness can be seen in many scenes; however it still cannot be labelled as ‘real’ or not. During Hamlet’s talk with Polonius... [continues]
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