Literary Criticism Hamlet Madness Essay

Madness In Hamlet

Hamlet is one of the most famous and the longest tragedy plays by Shakespeare. The main character in the play, Hamlet, depicts various themes throughout the play. Shakespeare brings out various issues associated with love and death. Hamlet faces the most critical issues in life in the play but lives in ambiguity. Shakespeare does not offer solutions to life’s most critical issues throughout Hamlet’s experiences. This play is viewed as a revenge tragedy because it has all the characteristics of a revenge tragedy. These include revenge by a hero, a hero’s violent death, sub-plays and insanity. Shakespeare uses several scenes in the play to bring out the theme of madness.

Madness in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Madness is one of the dominant themes in this play. The main character is mostly used to depict this theme. Hamlet and other characters question their sanity for believing that his father’s ghost exists. Ophelia is also used to bring out the madness theme. She becomes somehow insane after her father’s death and after realizing Hamlet had betrayed her. After the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears, Hamlet states his intention to fake madness in his discussion with his closest friend. Hamlet manages to confuse Ophelia, Claudius and Polonius with his madness acts. They do not investigate Hamlet’s madness pretense and this gives him room to continue with the act. Hamlet reveals his act to his friends Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, who are too ignorant to notice the truth. Hamlet is sure that his friends would not share information, which proves true in the play. He then reveals the truth to his mother Gertrude and explains why he chose to act mad. Gertrude has a chance to reveal this truth to Claudius but instead tells him that her son is mad. Gertrude’s response to Hamlet’s revelation leaves most readers confused on whether Hamlet faked madness or was actually mad.

Is Hamlet really insane?

Hamlet’s madness has been a point of controversy since the play was publicized. Some people argue that Hamlet starts by acting mad but in the end becomes insane. Hamlet clearly depicts his intention to feign madness to achieve his revenge mission. In his act, sometimes Hamlet loses his focus on his mission and appears to be mad. However, his actions when alone show that he is self-aware and conscious of his actions. A comparison between Hamlet’s and Ophelia’s madness acts reveals that Hamlet is not insane. Hamlet seems to gain more self-awareness while Ophelia loses it. The decision by Hamlet’s not to tell Claudius the truth does not necessarily mean she believes her son is mad. It could be that she just chose to conceal the truth and was probably in support of Hamlet’s revenge mission.


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