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Hamlet Essay

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Topics: Mind, Thought, Hamlet
Madness is a condition of the human mind, as it eliminates all rational thoughts, therefore leaving an individual with no proper conception of what is happening around them. Ultimately, madness typically occurs to individual who experience an event or numerous events that their mind simply cannot cope with and, thus, to avoid their harsh reality, they fall into a state of madness. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, there is much questions and debate whether the protagonist, Hamlet, is mad or just pretending. In the disastrous state of Denmark, Hamlet has had his father pass away, his mother marry his uncle while he takes over the kingship, his love of his life no longer permitted to see him and instructed for revenge by the ghost of his deceased father. Hence, these numerous events may seem to be reasonable enough for an individual to lose touch with reality and fall into madness. However, even though Hamlet displayed numerous signs of madness during the play, the strong-minded Hamlet never lost touch with reality as he continued acting rational both in his thoughts as well as when speaking with certain individuals. Furthermore, the thought process in Hamlet’s soliloquies remains logical and sane through-out the play as he examines his life and ponders the question of suicide. Thus, in the play Hamlet, Shakespeare uses the power of words to establish Hamlet’s antic disposition by interacting dynamically with different characters. The sanity of Hamlet is rather then emphasized in his constant relationship with Horatio, the different tones of speech, and insightfulness of soliloquies.
The friendship and connection between Hamlet and his best friend Horatio, is very significant and utilized as an insight of Hamlet’s goodhearted and sane character through the play. After the event of the ghost appearing in the shape of Hamlet’s father, the feelings and moods of Hamlet towards the other characters became dynamic, while his interactions with Horatio were unwavering throughout. As Hamlet tries to restore the Great Chain of Being by proving his uncle’s guiltiness, Hamlet explains to Horatio; “ One scene of it comes near the circumstance which I have told thee of my father’s death. I prithee, when thou seest that act a-foot, even with the very comment of thy soul observe my uncle. If his occulted guilt do not itself unkennel in one speech, it is a damned ghost that we have seen” (III.II. l75-82). Hamlet is outlining his plan to Horatio and asking for some assistance with complete sanity. Any insane man would never seek out for help, as his own ideas and actions would be the only right ones in his mad state of mind. Thus, Hamlet seeks assistance from Horatio because he knows that any plot may have faults, therefore needs be proved impeccable by another perspective than himself. Furthermore, the constant relationship with Horatio is evident in the transition from Act 5 scene 1 to Act 5 scene 2, when Hamlet preaches his love for Ophelia and expresses his emotions in insane and compelling tone. Hamlet goes from saying “I loved you ever: but it is no matter” (VI.I. l284) in an upbeat and powerful tone when speaking to Laertas, to “So much for this, sir. Now shall you see the other.” (VI.II. l1) in a peaceful and calm tone as he changes subject when speaking to Horatio. An insane person has a constant irrational state of mind, highly incapable of expressing a calm speaking tone with a desirable person, while being upbeat with another; they are always acting the same with everyone as they blindly have no proper conception of what is happening around them. However, Hamlet displays two different characteristics, a feigned madness with Laertas, and the sane loyalty towards Horatio, an act only accomplished by someone who is able to switch personas as to cope with a harsh reality or foreplay the revenge plot. The transition from an insane persona to a sane persona is also evident with Hamlet’s interaction with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as Hamlet discovers that his supposed friends are really the king's spies. Hamlet tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that he knows that they were sent for because he has lost all of his "mirth" (II.II. l296). Not only that, but to him the earth is nothing but a "sterile promontory"(II.II. l299) within "a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors" (II.II. l302-303). Hamlet transitions from a kind-hearted friend to a crazy prince who starts to talk, and degenerate Denmark and human beings in attempt to create a “mad” persona in front of the spies. After Hamlet witnessed the appearance of his dead father’s ghost and heard what the spirit had to say, Hamlet’s only mission in life was to uncover the truth behind his father’s death. Thus, by putting on an antic disposition, the act would serve him better on his plot as opposed to going about his business in a sane and rational manner. The feigned madness allowed Hamlet to confuse all the characters what the cause of his troubled mind was and, also, about what his true intentions are behind any of his actions. Therefore, any implications of madness only support Hamlet’s plot to deceive people and allow his rational plot of revenge to pursue its path.
The idea of deceiving people is portrayed by Hamlet, when Polonius believes that his love for Ophelia was the root of his madness. Consequently, Polonius went immediately to the king and queen who remark: “Do you think ‘tis this? It may be; very like” (II.II. l151-152). The vast majority of the characters in the plot believe Hamlet has gone mad, even his mother and his lover. Furthermore, Hamlet obtains a great distrust and distaste for women after the encounter with the ghost as he says “Frailty, thy name is woman! (I.II. l146), as he undermines women and their morals. The feigned madness permitted Hamlet to express these deep emotions freely towards his love Ophelia: “...Get thee to a nunnery, farewell. Or if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them...” (III.I. l138-141). Hamlet becomes very vulgar towards Ophelia, as his view towards woman has changed every since his mother married his uncle very shortly after, but also because Hamlet cannot continue to be a caring loving boyfriend while attempting to avenge his father’s death. Shakespeare characterizes Hamlet to be very thoughtful and intelligent; therefore Hamlet’s uses of words are very powerful and meaningful. Hamlet says “I will speak daggers to her, but use none” (III.II. l396) emphasizing the belief he has in his words, inclining towards the idea that he may be able to deceive as he notices that the power of words can be equivalent to that of a dagger.
The other woman in the plot which Hamlet has established distaste for is Gertrude, his mother. However, when Hamlet speaks alone to Gertrude, we see the prince’s sanity reveal itself. Hamlet talks to his mother in a clear, truthful and rational manner as he offers: “...It is not madness that I have utter’d. Bring me to the test, And I the matter will re-word, which madness would gambol from...” (3:4:143-46). Hamlet denial of madness reinforces the idea of “true” madness, however the Oedipal Complex suggests an atmosphere between the two character as they must speak from honest truth, as see in the lines “confess yourself to heaven” (III.IV. l151). Thus, Hamlets denies madness and offers to rephrase everything he has said to Gertrude, an act impossible for a lunatic or a mad man. In Hamlet, Gertrude and Ophelia are both important women in Hamlet’s life, one being the love of his life and the other his mother. Even though Hamlet has developed an enormous hatred towards woman, the difference between his interactions with Ophelia and Gertrude are evident, as Ophelia has consistently received vulgarity, but Gertrude has seen a more truthful and rational Hamlet. If Hamlet was an individual consumed by madness, he would have entertained only irrational thoughts and would not have had the power to choose certain individuals to speak rationally or irrationally with.
The only time in the play where Hamlet truly talks about himself and what he feels is in his soliloquies. The first soliloquy emphasizes Hamlet’s hatred and disgust towards his mother, and women in general. Hamlet goes to say “a beast, that wants discourse of reason, would have mourn’d longer” I.II. l150-151) as he rudely describes his mother. However, his emotions and thoughts in the soliloquy are not justified by his interactions with Gertrude in the bedroom scene. Shakespeare therefore suggests that there is a difference between what Hamlet is actually thinking, and what he ends up doing. A “mad” person would not be capable of this interchangeable notion because within a state of madness, one simple irrational thought is pursued throughout the play, and no factors are able to change that thought. Furthermore, this idea is second guessing and not following through with initial thoughts is established in the “to be, or not to be” soliloquy. Hamlet ponders the question of suicide and what the ramifications of it are: “To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them. To die-to sleep, No more; and by a sleep to say we end the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to: ‘tis a consummation devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep; to sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub; for in that sleep of death what dreams may come (III.I. l57-67). Ultimately, any insane person questioning or even thinking about suicide would most likely pursue the idea as their mind simply cannot cope anymore nor avoid the harsh reality. Hamlet on the other hand does not commit suicide, as he is a sane person and realized that the rational choice is not to commit suicide. Ultimately, if the character of Hamlet had gone mad, the soliloquies would have consisted corrupt thoughts and irrational ideas, as madness is displayed my emotions, and feelings.
Madness can be seen as an illness that inhibits the mind of an individual and assumes total control of thought process. It is not a condition that flourishes only when called upon or that can be completely disregarded if the individual wishes to ignore it. Any irrational actions are justified by the illogical rationale within a mad individual; therefore one does not interact or speak sanely to some, while at the same time, insanely to others. Hamlet’s madness is feigned as he continued thinking rationally and speaking logically to characters like Horatio and Gertrude. Furthermore, his dynamic interactions with other characters emphasize the idea that Hamlet is sometimes playing mad, while at other times, he is the sane prince. Moreover, Hamlet’s soliloquies allow the BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH HELP ME IM CRYING!

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