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Topic: Madness Madness is a topic that you can never really get a grasp on unless one is also in that

state of mind. It is a taboo that is also very ambiguous because it is very judgmental to declare someone mad or not. In Shakespeares Hamlet, the protagonist Hamlet goes through a series acts where he seems to get more deluded and mad and it is not only noticed by the reader, but by the other characters in the play, and therefore plays a big part in how this play progresses and develops and ends. Before I get into the story, I want to talk about Hamlet as a character, I watched a 1948 film adaptation of the play and there is a line that describes Hamlet as This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind (Oliver). This is a very accurate description because of the way hamlet questions the motives of the ghost and his own actions. His madness can also be perceived by how much he overthinks, and how he expresses himself in a very limited yet philosophical way. This coupled with his how hastily and his dangerously impulsive behavior really magnifies his character as one that has lost his mind and a madman. From the very beginning act we see that Hamlet is a very troubled individual, in Act 1 Scene 2 :
HAMLET Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt, 130 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! 135 Fie on t, ah fie! 'Tis an unweeded garden That grows to seed. Things rank and gross in nature Possess it merely. That it should come to this. But two months deadnay, not so much, not two. So excellent a king, that was to this 140 Hyperion to a satyr. So loving to my mother


It is clear that he is mourning his fathers death to the point where it is debating suicide, and this already paints the picture of an unstable person. From the point where he encounters the ghost onwards he begins making his own rash decisions without much thought or proof, for example how bases Claudiuss guilt from the ghost and his play stunt. In the following scene during the argument between him and his mother he kills Polonius behind the curtain and shows no remorse in Act 3 Scene 4 line 31: Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool." (Shakespeare),
when he begins the conversation with the ghost the queen realizes that he has gone mad and the ghost is most likely a figment of his imagination.

The next incident of madness is shown with Ophelia who is wandering the castle, her madness is linked to her grief from her father (Poloniuss) death, and this enrages her brother Laertes who is instigated by the king to have a fencing match which will kill Hamlet. It seems that madness is linked to grief throughout this play and it spreads from person to person because of a death that connects the two. Towards the end of this part we learn that Ophelia has killed herself, suicide was foreshadowed in the beginning by Hamlet under similar circumstances. Next during the burial of Ophelia hamlet and Laertes fight but are broken up, this further intensifies the conflict between them, later during their fencing match, Gertrude is accidently poisoned, Hamlet and Laertes is mortally wounded by his the poison tipped sword. He then announces that Prince Fortinbras of Norway will succeed him as he sees everyone dying around him and the play concludes. Throughout the play we are given very subtle glimpses of Hamlets progressing madness through the dialogue and his own actions, when Hamlet and Laertes are fighting on the grave of Ophelia the king utters: "O, he is mad, Laertes" Scene 5 Act 1, Line 272 (Shakespeare) . Now at the very end of the play we see how badly Hamlet has deluded himself, he tries to get back into Laertess good books by blaming his own madness for his actions, which is most likely a lie. You must needs have heard, how I am punish'd / With a sore distraction" Scene 5 Act 2 Line 229 (Shakespeare). His very appearance also adds to this judgment of radical madness Even without Shakespeare providing an elaborate description of Hamlet's features, we can envision

his pale face, tousled hair, and intense, brooding eyes. Dressed totally in black, Hamlet displays all the 'forms, moods and shapes of grief' (Mabillard). It is ultimately the grief that he feels that makes him lose touch with reality on everything else; he cannot come out of this state of depression and his lack of consciously thought out, act as a catalyst that dictates his rash actions. His madness and instability is also clearly shown in the play scene, in one instance he is bashing Ophelia : I have heard of your paintings well enough God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another: you jig, you amble, and you lisp, you nick-name God's creatures, and make your wantonness your ignorance. Scene 3 Act 1 Line 144 (Shakespeare)

Then he is soon talking to her in a much different warmer tone during the play, someone who switches emotions like this must not have a very good grasp on reality. It is clear from these examples and the actions of Hamlet that his madness was instilled by grief, and his madness is also one of the main themes of the work as it dictates most of his actions, it stems from grief and his character persona. It also spreads from character to character and causes others to question and conflict with him throughout this very disturbing but compelling play.

Works Cited
Hamlet. Dir. Laurence Oliver. Perf. Laurence Oliver. 1948. Mabillard, Amanda. "Introduction to Hamlet Shakespeare Online." n.d. 15 5 2012 < >. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Sparknotes , n.d.