Moral Responsibility In Hamlet

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Madness and Moral Responsibility in Hamlet XXX In Hamlet, Shakespeare indicates that observed insanity negates moral agency. The framing of Ophelia’s death as accidental by those who witnessed her in a state of mania enforce the concept that one can be found not guilty by reason of insanity. If so, this would explain Hamlet’s reason for acting insane, and whether or not he should have been held accountable for his actions. Having witnessed Ophelia in a state of madness, Laertes, Gertrude, and Claudius believe she is incapable of controlling her actions. In Act 4, Scene 5, Ophelia’s speech is disjointed, incomprehensible, and illogical; she chants songs about death and a heartbreak that confuses the King and Queen of Denmark. Laertes, upon…show more content…
This is proven because, as a Dane, he almost certainly had flaxen hair, and he also had a beard since Hamlet previously mocked him about it (2.2.215). If so, then other lines of the song,“he is dead./ Go to thy deathbed./ He will never come again,” could be interpreted as a suicide note, or an element of foreshadowing (4.5.215-217). This would mean that Ophelia’s use of the word “thy” is reflexive. As a result of her manic state, Laertes, Claudius and Gertrude view Ophelia as non-self-sufficient. Consequently, Claudius orders Horatio instructs Horatio to “Follow her close; give her good watch” (4.5.79). This line seems repetitive. “Good watch” means that Horatio should watch her closely, which would naturally occur if Horatio was following her close. Shakespeare likely used the word “watch” for it’s duplicity of meaning— it serves as a reference to time, and thus is an element of foreshadowing since Ophelia’s time is running out. However, some mourn Ophelia long before she is buried; her collapse into mania left some of the characters distraught. Claudius tells Gertrude that “this,/ Like to a murd’ring piece, in many places/ Gives me superfluous death”

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