Analyzing Hamlet's Sanity in the Play

Essay add: 29-09-2015, 19:29   /   Views: 262
Analyzing Hamlet's Sanity in the Play

Hamlet and his sanity can arguably be discussed. Two ways that this could be so are discussing the possibility of "his loss of control in his actions or his ability of dramatic art" (Hamlet's Madness). When we first met Hamlet he is in a state of despair. He is an emotional young man who is struggling with the death of his father .At this point; his entire life is consumed by depression. This to me is presumed as normal, for a person who as suffered a lost, of someone dear to him or her, as was his father.

Now with the death of his father, comes his mother's, Gertrude, second marriage. "She married. O, most wicked speed dexterity to incestuous sheets"(William Shakespeare; Hamlet Act I. SC.II, lines 162-163). Hamlet simply need look at his mother and Claudius and get a feeling of disgust and repulsion. Hamlet had aspired to be like his father, the king, in all ways. This included taking his father's place in his mother's affection. But seeing that Claudius had that place and on top of it, a member of the same family, bothered him greatly. "Without his being the least bit aware of these desires…he is reduced to the deplorable mental state he himself so vividly depicts"(Ernest Jones; Hamlet and Oedipus). Yet still Hamlet is seen as a stable individual. "But regardless of how grief stricken he might outwardly appear, his appearance cannot hold a candle to how miserable he feels inside"(Emotional Young Hamlet). Claudius comments to Hamlet that he is taking his father's death to extremes:

To give these mourning duties to your father; But you must know, your father lost a father; That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound/ in filial obligation for some term to do obsequious sorrow(William Shakespeare; Hamlet I.ii.94-98)

The Claudius tells him that death is a part of the natural order of things and he should get over it. Hamlet is obviously depressed. He clearly shows it in two of his soliloquies. On starts off with a reference to disease and decay: "Oh that this sullied flesh would melt/Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew," (Act I.ii.129-130). Here Hamlet makes his first reference to suicide. He also expresses an enormous dissatisfaction with the state of the world. "How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable/Seem to me all the uses of the world!"(Act I.ii.133-134) Once again we see feelings of uselessness and depression. With this Hamlet also finds disappointment at his mother for her seeming disregard for his father's death. "His feeling are justified and his actions are rational at this point, he describes himself as being genuine"(Manic Hamlet).

When the tragedy starts, we are introduced to Marcellus, Bernardo, and Francisco who guard the castle at night. While on watch an apparition of King Hamlet appeared to them. Soon after Horatio tells Hamlet what has happened and at once Hamlet insist that he go on watch to witness his fathers return. The next night Hamlet's father does appear. King Hamlet tells of how his brother murdered him. Hamlet asks his father 'What should we do?' C.S. Lewis believes that this question expands from a specific to a general appeal for guidance, a direction and a purpose in one's life.

"The ghosts response indicates that the doings of a corrupt mortal world are integrated within an eternal world. What Gertrude has done will be taken care of: `Leave her to heaven.' But Claudius for his crime is not to be permitted to continue among men and enjoy his booty of crown and queen: `Bear it not.' What is unedurable to heaven is not to be endured by men. Hamlet's reaction to this communication is like a conversion or a baptism. He ostentatiously wipes away all previous values, and dedicates himself as a new man."(Philip Edwards; Tragic Balance in Hamlet)

This news is the catalyst that brings Hamlet deeper into his depression. He Berates himself for not "stepping up to the plate" and avenging his father's death. Hamlet wonders, "How stand I then,/ That have father killed, a mother stained"(Act IV.iv.58-59). He's basically asking himself if he plans on doing anything about his father being murdered and his mother marrying his uncle soon after his father's death. Now, "Hamlets' composure, wit, and strength would now be tested to their limits. With one wrong slip of the tongue, one hateful glance, Hamlet would go straight to his death."(Inner Hamlet) Hamlet then lives in madness and by that madness hopes to force Claudius to confess his sin.

On the other hand we have a clear picture of exactly what Hamlet must do but he "shirks it at every opportunity"(Ernest Jones; Hamlet and Oedipus). It seems to me that Hamlet does not have the will power to do much. He's thoughts are all of thing he should to but he doesn't take immediate action. It is as if he expects revenge to play out the role itself. Ernest Jones concluded:

"whenever a person cannot bring himself to do something that every conscious consideration tells him he should do-and which he may have the strongest conscious desire to do-it is always because there is some hidden reason why a part of him doesn't want to do it; this reason he will not own to himself and is only dimly if at all aware of. That is exactly the case with Hamlet."



Through the second act the plot thickens as Hamlets' mind begins to think of what the chance are that the king might confess. His love for Ophelia are strongly noted. Queen Gertrude wishes to use Ophelias' love to bring her only son out of madness. Claudius wishes to do the same. His reason is different though. He basically just want to be on the safe side and have his life out of danger. Once the king and queen notice this might work they persuade Ophelia to court Hamlet.

In this scene true madness comes into play. When Ophelia comes to him and talks about their love Hamlet plays smart and notices the little catch. He realizes that he must destroy all and any feeling that might have been between them. Hamlet tries hurting her with his insults. At one time he even mocks her sexual discretions by saying "Get thee to the nunnery!"(Act III.iii,121) In this scene he treats her very aggressively slaming her around. Once again he acts mad as if he never loved Ophelia.

"This is a major component in refuting the argument that his instability is due to love sickness over Ophelia. In the later part of the play when Hamlet is not manic he express much feeling to Ophelia and when he finally did say something he insults her and showers her with the rage he feels toward the state of his world. The actions the Hamlet performs mirror the patterns of a manic depressive."(Manic Hamlet)



Hamlet also has outbursts toward his mother. His outbursts seem to be out of jealousy, as a victim to the Oedipus complex. He alone sees his father's ghost in his mother's chambers. Every other time the ghost appeared someone else has seen it. During this scene he finally show his madness, because his mother does not see the ghost. "On him, on him! Look you how pale he glares!/ his form and cause conjoined, preaching to stones/ would make them capable"(Act III.iv.126-128)

Throughout the play, there are also supporting factors to argue Hamlet's sanity, as these details compromise his madness, to balance out his mental state. Hamlet tells Horatio that he is going to feign madness, and that if Horatio notices any strange behavior from Hamlet, it is because he is putting on an act. [Act I,v.166-180]

Other characters confess that Hamlet's actions are still unsure whether Hamlet's insanity is authentic or not. Claudius confess that Hamlet's actions although strange, do not appear to be from madness. "And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose/ will be some danger; which for to prevent/ I have in quick determination" (Act III.i.165-167) Polonius admits that Hamlet's actions and words have a method to them; there appears to be a reason behind them, they are logical in nature. Though this be madness, yet there is method in't [Act II. ii. 206] Hamlet tells his mother; "I essentially am not in madness/ but mad in craft. [Act III.iv.188-199]

Hamlet believes in his sanity at all times, and never doubts control over it. I believe in Hamlet's sanity at first. But as things move on and more stress is put upon Hamlet, I believe he loses control of his sanity. Basically, it all got out of hand. Regardless, of sanity or insanity;

"Hamlet , a tragic hero, meets his tragic end not because he was sane or insane. He end tragically because of his own flaw, procrastination and grief. Whether he is sane or had lost control of his actions, both theories have their own support. The support makes each theory a sensible decision either way. Hamlet as seen from the beginning to end, a prince that was grieve stricken, until a prince of rage and passion, has developed through the stages by his own sanity and madness. Even is the madness was true or false, as Hamlet portrayed the role of a mad man, he took it upon himself to be lost in his control of actions."(Hamlet's Madness)

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