What Is Madness In Hamlet

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Shakespeare is famous for his portrayal of the human condition at its rawest, most intimate levels, and it is in this same vein that Hamlet demands the reader to consider a highly intuitive abstraction: madness. What is madness? Countless men and women have attempted to pinpoint it, often to the detriment of those both truthfully and falsely labelled under that unfortunate tag. In the debate over what truly constitutes “madness” in Hamlet, particularly as it relates to the mental state of Shakespeare’s eponymous lead, it is very important to take into account both sides of this debate, to comprehend the possible lapses of judgement and wit in Hamlet’s character which could be seen as indicative of a slipping mind: erraticism, incoherent speech,…show more content…
In fact, the subsequent actions of the young prince seem specifically tailored to realize his desire for royal attention. It isn’t long after Hamlet’s pledge that Ophelia runs to her father Polonius, explaining that, “Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced, / Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other, / And with a look so piteous in purport / As if he had been looséd out of hell / To speak of horrors-he comes before me” (2.1. 88, 91-94) . Some may argue that this erratic behavior Hamlet displays in front of people is just what it seems: neurotic and random. What role could Ophelia possibly have in his “grand plan”? However, to ignore the significance of such an interaction with such a connected person as Ophelia would be highly superficial. Indeed, all those he is seen to act crazily around possess the ability to notify the king of his strangeness. She, the daughter of Polonius, adviser of the king, is no exception. In disturbing Ophelia, Hamlet’s madness reaches the ears of her highly influential father, who says to her, “Come, we go to the King” (2.1. 130) . Their subsequent report provokes the interest of the royal couple, who send Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to learn more. Hamlet then ups the ante, persisting in his act around Polonius himself. This only serves to heighten the concerns of the king, so much so that he devises a plot to discern the cause of the prince’s madness for himself. Taken aback by the weirdness of Hamlet’s following actions, Claudius remarks, “Madness in great ones must not (unwatched) go” (3.2. 203) . It is in these words that Hamlet’s aim seems to be fulfilled. Masterfully crafting a false insanity, the young prince is in complete control, both of himself and of others’ perceptions of him. His “mad” cover intact, Hamlet is now clear to investigate
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