Throughout Hamlet the reader sees how Hamlet’s behaviors progresses from one extremity to another. The death of Hamlet’s father was the beginning of Hamlet’s drive towards insanity. After the King’s death, Hamlet’s mother remarried the late King’s brother, Claudius, which drove Hamlet’s behavior even worse. As the play continues, we can see that Hamlet’s sanity steadily decreases during the entire plot. Psychological analysis will reveal a perspective of what Hamlet is thinking and why his behavior dropped into the status it became. Initial Assessment: Hamlet is in a deep state of depression, the death of his father is causing a great deal of grief. His mourning at this stage seems to be at a more advanced stage of severity than it should be. His first soliloquy, “O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on’t ah, fie! ‘Tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature,
Possess it merely. That is should come to this!
But two months dead – nay, not so mush, not two!
So excellent a king, that was to this
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on; an yet, within a month –
Let me not think on’t. Frailty, thy name is woman! –
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she followed my poor father’s body,
Like Niobe, all tears – why she, even she –
O God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason
Would have mourned longer – married my uncle;
My father’s brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules. Within a month,
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not, nor it cannot come to good.
But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue!”
Act I, Scene 1 (129-158)
This statement is made by Hamlet shortly after witnessing Claudius and Gertrude together in their court, and after they had asked Hamlet not to return to Wittenberg to continue studying. He discusses the possibility of suicide, and how it may be a better alternative of the painful life he is in. He expresses his disgust in his mother’s marriage to Claudius. Assessment 2: Further observation has confirmed that Hamlet’s behavior indicate that he is losing his sanity. During Hamlet’s conversation with Polonius, Polonius asked Hamlet if he knew who he (Polonius) was. Hamlet replied,
“Excellent well; you’re a fishmonger.”
Act II, Scene 2 (173)
This statement is contradicting in that it is hard to really determine whether or not Hamlet is being completely serious or not. If he is being serious, it would obviously mean he has gone completely insane, but no one in the right mind would say something like this. Therefore, this is one of many things Hamlet states that result in the bewilderment of the people around him. Assessment 3: After Hamlet had discovered Claudius’ accountability for the murder of his father through the play he put on, Hamlet had a private discussion with his mother. He screamed at her, throughout the heated conversation he talked badly about Claudius. Hamlet compared his father with Claudius and questioned how Gertrude could go from a man like his father to Claudius. Shortly afterwards he discovered that he was being eavesdropped on by another person standing behind some curtains nearby. He drew his sword and stabbed the person through the curtain. Hamlet immediately asks,
“Nay, I know not. Is it the King?”
Act III, Scene 4 (28)
Due to Hamlet instantly questioning if it was the King, probably meant he assumed it was the King and meant to kill him. This makes it known to Gertrude that Hamlet means to kill the King. Hamlet goes on to tell Gertrude that he is only pretending to be crazy and that she has to promise not to tell Claudius that he is only pretending. This is similar to Assessment 2 in that it relates to how the audience and other characters don’t really know for sure whether or not Hamlet is insane. Assessment 4: After being sent to England to collect finances that England owes to Denmark, Hamlet returns home before he even gets to England. He was supposedly captured by pirates and managed to escape, and returned to Denmark. He was sent with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern who are currently still on their way to England. Not far from the castle in Denmark, Hamlet and Horatio are on foot travel home. They stopped in the castle’s graveyard and saw a gravedigger. Hamlet says, “That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing
once. How the knave jowls it to the ground, as if
‘twere Cain’s jawbone, that did the first murder!”
Act V, Scene 1 (79-81)
During this statement, Hamlet is watching a gravedigger removing skulls from a grave. This causes Hamlet to achieve a new perspective on his life and how his behavior has affected those around him. Assessment 5: After the funeral a fencing match is set up between Hamlet and Laertes which in reality is actually a plot to kill Hamlet with a poisoned sword. Hamlet is poisoned, Laertes is poisoned, the Queen drinks poisoned, and the King is both stabbed with a poisoned sword and force fed poison. Before dying Hamlet speaks to Laertes, “Heaven make thee free of it! I follow thee.
I am dead, Horatio. Wretched Queen, adieu!
You that look pale and tremble at this chance,
That are but mutes or audience to this act,
Had I but time (as this fell sergeant, Death,
Is strict in his arrest), O, I could tell you –
But let it be. Horatio, I am dead;
Thou liv’st; report me and my cause aright
To the unsatisfied.”
Act V, Scene 2 (337-344)
Hamlet is accepting Laertes apology for the things he has done, and says goodbye to him. This is another clue to Hamlet’s mental stability being normal.
Unfortunately, Hamlet is one of the most mysterious characters in any of Shakespeare’s work. Even after careful observation, there is still difficulty in getting a sense of knowing much about Hamlet. In more than one instance he directly states to other characters that there is more to him than meets the eye. When Hamlet speaks he is theoretical and reflective, he often questions things that cannot be answered with any assurance. Aside from this, he constantly acts carelessly and irresponsibly, all of these factors that create Hamlet makes it difficult to get a grasp on what he’s thinking.