.. o’er me with your wings, you heavenly guards! What would your gracious figure?” The queen, oblivious to Hamlet’s hallucinations, cries out: “Alas, he’s mad!” (III.iv.107-109). The queen is now convinced of Hamlet’s psychosis, as she has what appears to be solid evidence that Hamlet is hallucinating and talking to himself. After Hamlet kills Polonius, he will not tell anyone where the body is. Instead, he assumes the role of a “madman” once again, speaking in a grotesque and ironic manner.
The king asks him, “Now Hamlet, where’s Polonius?” Hamlet replies with a sarcastic remark: “At supper.” He continues, “Not where he eats, but where ‘a is eaten.” (IV.iii.16-19) Hamlet is clearly disrespecting Claudius, and making him look like a fool. Yet again, Hamlet does not act upon his plan to seek revenge of his father’s murder, but merely attacks Claudius verbally, as he did to his mother in a fit of rage. From the beginning of the play, Hamlet has a great fascination with death, another common symptom of schizophrenia (Goldman, 3). Despite being warned by his friends that following the ghost was a bad idea, Hamlet’s obsession with death was so great that he was prepared to risk all to follow. Taking such a risk, Hamlet organized a play that revealed the truth about his father’s death.
This play was to serve as a strategy to force Claudius to admit to the killing of Hamlet’s father. Claudius’ reaction to the play served as solid evidence against himself; it was all Hamlet needed to be convinced that he was the true murderer. While he is struggling with the truth of his father’s death, Hamlet is also struggling with thoughts of suicide: “Devoutly to be wished; To die, to sleep..” (III.i.65). This soliloquy shows how Hamlet’s obsession with death turned on him, to the point where he is considering taking his own life. Another instance of madness in Hamlet is found in Ophelia, Hamlet’s true love.
Before the tragedy began, Hamlet and Ophelia were already in love, and was shown through Ophelia’s words: “My lord, he hath importuned me with love in honorable fashion..and hath given countenance to his speech, my lord, with almost all the holy vows of heaven” (I.iii.111-115). Ophelia’s madness was caused by the repression of their true love; Claudius wanted Hamlet removed, and Polonius was determined to not let Ophelia be caught in a harsh social class (Desmet, 2). This subplot even furthers the theme of madness in Hamlet, and plays an important role in the other characters’ rationalization of Hamlet’s madness. The appearance of Ophelia’s madness is sudden; Hamlet is unaware of her condition, preoccupied with his own mental deterioration and his lust for revenge. The repression of her love for Hamlet, his rejection of her, her father’s death, and Hamlet’s own mental incapacity all drive Ophelia across the line between sanity and insanity; in this madness, she takes her own life.
Hamlet’s behavior towards Ophelia is inconsistent throughout the play. After her death, as he was visiting her grave, he jumped in the grave to fight with Laertes. During the fight, Hamlet states “Forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my sum (V.i.250-253). This statement contradicts his words when she returned his gifts, stating that he never loved her. Hamlet’s madness does not reflect Ophelia’s true madness, his actions contrast them (Soon, 4).
When Hamlet was sent to England, he carefully exchanged the letter that accompanied Guildenstern and Rosencrantz; the result was these men going to their death, because of Hamlet’s clever exchange. Even though they were not part of his plot of revenge, he had them killed, a demonstration of his madness once again. In the final scene when Hamlet is confronting Laertes, his thoughts and words turn again to the topic of madness: Was’t Hamlet wronged Laertes? Never Hamlet. If Hamlet from himself be ta’en away, Then Hamlet does it not, Hamlet denies it. Who does it then? His madness (V.ii.223-226). By these words, Hamlet is speaking of his true madness, which caused him to kill Polonius. He is apologizing to Laertes, and admits that his loss of control is due to his madness.
In this final scene, Hamlet comes to terms with his own madness, and apprehends that it was his suffering and procrastination that kept him from killing Claudius sooner. He loses control over his revenge, and it is at this time that he finally finds the right opportunity to kill Claudius, and satisfy the wishes of the ghost of his father: “Hamlet is of the faction that is wronged; his madness is poor Hamlet’s enemy” (V.ii.227-228). The theme of madness in Shakespeare’s Hamlet has been a widely popular topic in the discussion of the play by both critics and readers alike. It is quite simple to see the reason why, since the play confronts us with evidence to prove the validity of the claim to Hamlet’s true madness, or, rather a view that the actions and words arising from the apparent madness is but a feigned “antic disposition” as proclaimed by Hamlet himself. (Soon, 1) The psychological case study of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, presents the theory that Hamlet did have a break with reality, and should be diagnosed with schizophrenia, a devastating disease that affects a mere 1 percent of the world’s population. The preponderance of evidence that has been displayed clearly points to the conclusion that Hamlet was indeed mad; the disease’s onset is in the young adult years, it is disabling, resulting in a period of productive time lost, and it has social effects on the patient, as well as his family. In Hamlet’s case, all criteria have been met, and therefore can be declared schizophrenic, or “mad.” Bibliography Bloom, Harold.
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