When we first meet Hamlet, he is a sad, dark, loathsome figure; the loss of his father and the whoring of his mother have upset him indefinitely. Like a ticking time bomb, Hamlet's noticeable temper reflects the storm of emotions and thoughts brewing in his head, and then like a catalyst, his meeting with the Ghost of King Hamlet brings his anger to a boil. With revenge in mind, Hamlet plans to fake his madness so that he may be free to pursue his father's killer. Everyone, except his close friend Horatio, seems convinced that he is mad. Claudius however, fearful that someone will discover his evil deed, has also had his perceptions heightened by his guilt and he experiences chronic paranoia throughout the play as a result. He is doubtful as to whether Hamlet is really mad, as we find him telling Polonius, "...what he spake ...Was not like madness. There's something in his soul O'er which his melancholy sits on brood, And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose Will be some danger" (3, 1, 157-161). On the contrary, I believe that Hamlet, lost in his soliloquies and vengeful thoughts, actually becomes mad. Ironically, his form of madness is paranoia. In a Mental Health Forum created by Med Help International, an anonymous doctor describes paranoia as a "personality disorder characterized by long-standing suspiciousness and mistrust of people." He continues by saying that "suspicion, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, deceiving, or harming the person" is a common condition. Also, "persistently bearing grudges, i.e., being unforgiving of insults, slights, or injuries" easily describes a person afflicted with paranoia. As if the doctor couldn't describe Hamlet any better, he continues to state that another condition of this disorder includes "perception of attacks on the person's character or reputation that is not apparent to others, with quickness to react angrily" (med help). Throughout the play, Hamlet is being watched and he feels that he is...
Cited: Andrews, Richard, and Rex Gibson, ed. Hamlet. Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress, 1998.
Med Help International. 19 Dec. 2004 .
"Paranoia--The World." National Institute of Mental Health. 15 Dec. 2004 .
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