The Question of Hamlet’s Madness
Insanity is defined as doing something over and over again and expecting a different outcome. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the young and not fully mature Hamlet might be thought of as insane. However, although he says and does things that are out of the ordinary, he is not doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome. It is a given that he does rant on about wild things that may not be true, and he expresses his own personal opinions that are slightly deranged, but he is not insane. Hamlet is a man who is experiencing a very hard, gut wrenching time in his life, and he’s just trying to make it through the present moment.
Hamlet is overwhelmed by his father’s death, as any other son or daughter would be. It is not expected for a human being to just get over a familial death without having some outbursts or troubled times, as stated in the text by Hamlet: “But two months dead- nay, not so much, not two. So excellent a king” (1.2 142-143). As Hamlet says here, his father, the king, was a great man. It has not even been two months yet and people are expecting him to forget about the death and carry on as if all is well. Previous to this quote from Hamlet as was just showed, he was in the castle meeting hall where a new king was giving out orders. That new king happened to be Hamlet’s uncle, who shows no mercy about the original king’s death. The text shows that Claudius, the new king, shows no remorse when he says, “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 sorrow. But to persever in obstinate condolement is a course of impious stubbornness.” (1.2 93-98). Claudius gives no help and show no sympathy to Hamlet in this tough time of need. He is simply saying that Hamlet is being a selfish brat and needs to move on. With all of this being laid upon Hamlet, and the pressure to forget about his father, who was a great role model, it is no suprise that Hamlet acts out in this situaiton.
Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, marrying Claudius, affects her son immensely. This could be one of the worst things that could happen in Hamlet’s life following his father’s death. As stated in the previous paragraph, Hamlet needed someone to mourn with about the death of his father, but instead, his mother marries his father’s murderer. Hamlet’s built up hostility has an impact on how he speaks to others. He says that his mother “calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose from the fair forehead of an innocent love and sets a blister there, makes marriage vows as false as dicers’ oaths.” (3.4 51-54). Hamlet brings up in a very snide way that his mother betrayed his father by having this disgusting marriage. Gertrude has simply thrown away the love the she had shown Hamlet’s father for many years. Hamlet is basically calling her new marriage false and unacceptable. Now that this marriage has happened, Claudius has invaded the castle’s lifestyle, and he has entered violently and uncomfortably into Hamlet’s life. All these changes can make someone act differently, and want to expose the wrongdoing of a person at fault. Hamlet wants to convict Claudius of the murder of his father, and many think that he is insane for doing so. Hamlet is simply trying to prove here in this text that Claudius is a phony, and moreso, a murderer. “He poisons him in the garden for his estate…. You shall see anon how the murderer gets the love of Gonzago’s wife.” (3.2 287-290). Hamlet tells the players to insert parts of a play that he had in mind, which would show how Claudius murdered the king as Claudius is watching. This causes a big scene during the play, and Claudius reacts in a big way. which is exactly what Hamlet wants. He is unable to acheive any kind of justice or revenge for his father’s murder, so he instead must cause as much chaos in court as possible.
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