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Hamlet: Madness

Contrast of Hamlet and Ophelia's Madness

on 1 September 2015

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Transcript of Hamlet: Madness

Madness in Hamlet and Ophelia
What is madness?
"Madness is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked"

"Insanity is knowing that what you're doing is completely idiotic but somehow you just can't stop"

Shakespeare shows us the contrast between Hamlet and Ophelia's madness and the difference between true and false insanity

How do their decisions influence their behaviour?
What causes their madness whether it be true or false ?
How do their actions hinder their future?

In the beginning Hamlet finds out that his father has died and his Uncle Claudius has married his mother and is now the new King

Hamlet seems disconnected and is suffering from depression because of his loss and the inconsiderate actions of his Uncle Claudius

Hamlet encounters with his fathers ghost who asks him to avenge his Uncle for killing him. The decision to accept his fathers request is what leads Hamlet to his "madness " and conclusively his death

Hamlet's madness
This was an example of Hamlet pretending to be mad in front of Polonuis in act II

Has Hamlet truly gone mad?
"The aspect of play in his madness allows him to express the crazy feelings he has but still keep his mental capacities in control" - Aaron Richner

"Thus it appears that in every single instance in which Hamlet's madness is manifested, he has good reason for assuming that disguise" - Dr Ray

I believe that Hamlet was never truly mad and was fully aware of his ambition to kill Claudius. Which he successfully does. He had a supported reason for acting mad because he states that it is part of his plan to kill the King. We all have moments of madness and though Hamlet may have expressed some mad decisions it was a cunning way to reach his goal.
His death was a result of his spontaneous murder of Polonius as Claudius became suspicious and felt he needed to get rid of Hamlet.

Shakespeare never states whether or not Hamlet had truly gone mad and leaves the audience with their own opinion on Hamlet's actions. Throughout the play Shakespeare leaves unanswered questions about characters and Hamlet's madness is a part of this theme that leave you to develop your own conclusion
Ophelia's role in Shakespearean society is the typical Elizabethan woman. She does whatever is asked by the male figures in her life such as her father Polonius and her brother Laertes telling her she can't be with Hamlet. She is always shown in a point of weakness and in today's world we would see her as pathetic because she is completely dependent on a male. In Shakespeare's era this was the position of everyday woman. They were seen as objects that could be sold and bought, becoming a possession that men would own instead of being recognised as an actual person. The decision to let others orchestrate her life influences her passive behaviour.

Ophelia's Madness
Unlike Hamlet it is obvious that Ophelia's madness is real.
Ophelia uses singing to express her feelings. The songs that she chooses to sing can be closely related to her feelings towards Hamlet. She chooses songs that have been influenced by death and that could be expressing her emotions.

Her death was influenced by her emotions that had been broken down by Hamlet's feigned madness because Hamlet was the one that destroyed her heart and the one who murdered her father and her brother. Now Ophelia had no male to depend on and with no one left to love she could live on.
I believe that Ophelia took her own life because of the traumatic tragedies that occurred. She felt she had nothing left living for. We are presented with the theme once again of unanswered questions. Just like Hamlet's madness we are never told that Ophelia killed herself but are left to collect our own thoughts and opinions.

Hamlet's revenge
Hamlet's "Antic-Dispositions"
This is Hamlet's plan to act mad in order for the people around him to talk freely so he can extract the truth about his father. It would also allow him to ask suspicious questions without others questioning what he is saying.

Hamlet's justification
Hamlet also does this as a way to make himself believe what he is doing is morally acceptable. It is his way of telling himself that if he is insane then he can't be held responsible for his actions making it easier to bring himself to killing Claudius.
Hamlet could be more or less insane but when he finds out Claudius is responsible for his fathers death he seeks revenge with the intentions of not stopping until the deed is done which could be seen as slightly obsessive and psychotic
The cause of Ophelia's Madness
Hamlet rejects Ophelia's love. This could be because of Hamlet's opinion towards his mother.
Ophelia is heart broken by what Hamlet has to say and plays a part in her downfall to insanity.

Her father Polonius was the "puppet master" of her life and when he died without him she was left with no guidance and ultimately lost her mind. His death was the breaking point of Ophelia and I believe was a leading cause of her madness

Her innocence emphasis the sympathy we feel for her and we are able to relate to her heart break and understand where he madness is manifested.
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