Is Hamlet insane? That is the question. Literary scholars have debated this question for more than 400 years. Throughout the play “Hamlet,” by William Shakespeare, there are questions of whether Hamlet is sane or not. In general there two types of theories about him, one is that he suffers from some sort of malady, either insanity or neurosis. Then there are those who believe Hamlet is a genius and a hero. A character who was put through an extreme test and triumphed over his moral problem. In the Article “Hamlet’s Precarious Emotional Balance,” by Theodore Lidz, he states that although he is clever, he still doubts himself. In the article “Madness,” by P.J Aldus, he states that hamlet suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Hamlet was definitely a genius and a moral man. He does struggle with the decision to avenge his father’s death. He is so obsessed with his father’s murder that he over reacts to and rejects the people around him, giving reason to suspect his insanity. In the end Hamlet does get revenge for his father’s death, thus winning a very spiritual victory in the face of death.
In Aldus’ article, “Madness,” he states that Hamlet is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. He says that Hamlet is in a “paranoid state,”(Aldus 4). He says that Hamlet is “most often in a state of suspicion; he is surrounded by spies who intend to harm him even to kill him, and therefore he must spy on everyone and seek to kill,” (Aldus 4). Aldus says that Hamlet’s “paranoid quality is locked to the arrogance, which is often violent, always potentially. He is also obsessed by the compulsive power of sex,” (Aldus 4). First Hamlet is never violent,
the only time he acts violent is in the end when he fights Laertes, which he thinks is just for fun. Then when he kills Claudius, after everyone knows that Claudius is a murderer. Hamlet never has sex in this play. He vows to forget about everything, even Ophelia, to avenge his father’s death. Aldus also says that all the “schizophrenic’s enemies–the spies, the hunters, the ever present threatening killers–are extensions of his own distorted dream,” (Aldus 5). Hamlet didn’t dream any enemies up. He knew when Claudius was trying to have him killed. He outsmarted Claudius when he sent him to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, only to be killed. Hamlet figured out his plan. He didn’t dream up where Laertes wanted to kill Hamlet. Claudius set that up. Hamlet didn’t make up anything; everything was brought upon him by Claudius.
In Theodore Lidz article “Hamlet’s Precarious Emotional Balance,” he knows that Hamlet is faking his insanity. He says that Hamlet is becoming unstable, “Claudius is still alive and Hamlet’s emotional balance has become precarious,” (Lidz 1). Hamlet is so torn about killing Claudius, he knows that it is wrong, “The time is out of join: O cursed spite, /That I was ever born to set it right,” (1.5.189-190). He wants to make things right, but he does not know how to do so. Lidz says that Hamlet “has become a tormented soul struggling to survive in a world has lots its meaning to him, and scarcely cares if he survives or not,” (Lidz 3). Hamlet is still struggling with the murder of his father who was killed by his uncle and now married to his mother. Of course Hamlet is going to feel like this, but this does make him insane. Lidz says that Hamlet “conceives a way out of uncertainty, a way to make certain that he has not, because of melancholy, simply hallucinated the ghost’s revelations or been tricked by an evil spirit.”(5). He puts on a play to gain proof that Claudius is guilty of murder, “The play’s the thing/wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king” (2.2.539-540). This proves that Hamlet is a very smart man. He knows that once Claudius sees the play his reactions will show that he is guilty of killing his father. Lidz says that Hamlet is suicidal. Hamlet does speak of suicide,
To die: to sleep:
Cited: Shakespeare, William. “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.” Making Arguments About Literature. Eds. John Schilb and John Clifford. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2005. 771-876.
Lidz, Theodore. “Hamlet’s Precarious Emotional Balance.” Shakespearean Criticism 35 (1975): 60-67. Literature Resource Center NVCC Library, Manassas. 20 June 2005. http://galenet.galegroup.com
Aldus, P.J. “Madness.” Shakespearean Criticism 35 (1977): 209-219. Literature Resource Center Prince William Public Library, Manassas. 21 June 2005. http://galenet.galegroup.com
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