Theme of Insanity in Act Iii of Shakespeare’s Hamlet

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Theme of Insanity in Act III of Shakespeare’s Hamlet

There is a fine line between madness and sanity—this is arguable. When one spends so much time acting as if he is crazy, at what point is he no longer pretending? The character of Prince Hamlet is an excellent example of this. Although the theme of mental instability is present throughout the entire play, Act III of Hamlet is especially filled with examples of Hamlet’s insanity. This is the culminati0n of his feelings over the past two months since his father died and his uncle married his mother. The actions that indicate Hamlet’s madness include emotionally fickle tendencies, insensitivity, obsession, and suddenly callous attitudes towards those he once loved. While several characters suspect that Hamlet has gone insane, he himself still seems to believe that he is only pretending to be mad to mislead them. One instance of his mental weakness, Hamlet’s famed “to be or not to be” speech, seems out of place within the play—because of its dark and abstract nature—as well as within the scene; since his focus has been on the death of his father and exposing Claudius’s guilt, he appears to be considering suicide rather suddenly. Hamlet is becoming preoccupied by his philosophical thoughts despite his task, which perhaps shows an inability to focus and a tendency to get engrossed in his own psyche. The purpose of the soliloquy itself may not be what it seems, however; Hamlet never actually says the at he wants to kill himself or that he is depressed, or even talks about his emotions at all. This suggests that his point here is more subtle and abstract. Rather, “to be or not to be” is presented as a topic of philosophical discussion for his non-existent addressees (and the audience) to examine. Hamlet never frankly acknowledges that the quandary he has propounded pertains to himself and his own life. The monologue, at a most basic...
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