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Hamlet Analysis

A summary of characters and themes

Katrina Swart

on 16 May 2013

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Transcript of Hamlet Analysis

By William Shakespeare Madness is a key concept in this tragedy. It not only is attributed to Hamlet, but also to Ophelia. In the beginning, Ophelia appears to have a healthy state of mind, as she relies on her father and lover. However, during the play, she encounters several problems which cause her to lose the male figures she had in her life. Ophelia is not able to control her emotions and reaches a mental breakdown. Her state of depression leads her to her death. In conclusion, Hamlet was not mad throughout the whole play. Initially, he uses it to his advantage; however, in the end madness takes the best of him. The grief upon his father's death, his mum remarriage and all those death happening, took the best of himself in the end of the play. Him pretending to be mad became in the end his reality. Hamlet and Ophelia’s madness are both cause because of the loss of their loved ones. However, they manage it in a different manner. Hamlet contemplates suicide, although he never takes action. On the contrary, Ophelia is vulnerable and her madness overtakes her. Furthermore, Hamlet’s madness had a method behind it as he wanted to prove Claudius guilty. Themes: In the very beginning of Act I scene i, the guards dialog
"There is something rotten in the state of Denmark"
(I .iv.90).
is full of corruption, dishonesty, cruelty, and revenge. Hamlet’s mind cannot handle this situation, as he needs to find a sense of direction and a stable identity to overcome this difficult phase. Act i..... Corruption:
key motif
"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." -Marcellus (Act 1:4)
court corrupted by Claudius's influence (in medieval times people belived that the health of a nation was connected to the legitimacy of its king)...incestuous marraige and murdering the rightful king
Hamlet describes the world as an "unweeded garden" and is constantly referring to decomposing bodies
the rotteness in Denmark has corrupted the minds and souls of its citizens (Hamlet) This idea is reinforced many times in the play with various references to POISON, DISEASES, BODY BLEAMISHES, ROTTING FOODS, PLANTS AND BODIES
Two issues:
1) how Hamlet sees women: decidedly dark, furious at them. untrustworthy, beauty is a cover for deceit, and sexual desire.
2) women's social position: powerlessness, completely dependent on men
Madness is considered a mental illness and is a state that is characterized by:
extremely foolish behavior
wild or chaotic activity How is madness related to Hamlet?
Hamlet appears to act mad when he hears of his father’s murder. His behavior throughout the play, especially towards Ophelia, is very erratic. His mood changes abruptly all along the play. He has violent outbursts towards his mother. Hamlet tells Laertes that he killed Polonius in a "fit of madness" [Act V, Scene ii, lines 236-250]. He kills Polonius and will not tell anyone where the body is. These are some points proving Hamlet's POSSIBLE insanity as it shows extremely foolish behavior and wild activities. From the beginning of the play, Hamlet is distressed.
"O, that this too too- solid flesh would melt. Thaw and resolve itself into a dew! Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd.
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God! How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world! "
(I .ii.129-134)

In this quote, he states his desire for his own "flesh" to "melt" and dissolves his sufferings over his father's death and his mother's remarriage to his uncle. Clearly, these are Hamlet's first suicidal thought as he shows signs of mental and emotionally instability. We also know from his earlier conversation with Gertrude and Claudius that he's been in a melancholy mood. “How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself,
As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on” (I .v.171-173).
After the Ghost tells Hamlet that Claudius has murdered his father, Hamlet begins to plan his next steps. Here, he warns his friends that he will use the Mouse Trap to delay his revenge because he wants to see Claudius’s reaction as an evidence of him being guilty. Another way of proving that Claudius was guilty is Hamlet pretending to be mad. By acting crazy, Hamlet tries to gain time in order to plan his revenge. Act II
Act II is when Hamlet shows more signs of madness. The ghost’s presence puts him in distress and he is not sure whether to believe it or not. Madness is key in this part of the play as he uses it to his advantage so he can delay taking action and killing Claudius out of revenge. Furthermore, there is no secure proof that he has lost his sanity, as he still shows rational thinking and clarity in parts of the play.

During Hamlet’s conversation with Polonius he is clever and is able to outsmart him .
“Words, words, words!” (II.ii191)

This act is significant because he contemplates the thought of suicide in a soliloquy. By flirting with death, he shows how he has reached a mental breakdown and he is questioning himself. Suicide is often an action of despair and is attributed to a mental disorder. In this case, madness gave him the inability to think correctly.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question:Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to sufferThe slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,And by opposing end them. To die: to sleep …” (III. i. 57-61). Although, his sanity is questionable as the dialog proceeds. Even if he proves himself a rational thinker, he also has his first thoughts of suicide which could be connected to true madness.
“You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I will
More willingly part withal, except my life, except my
Life, except my life” (II.ii.214-216)". At this point of the play, the protagonist was not fully mad but was in a melancholy mood because of the series of event that occurred. Such as: the death of his father and the remarriage of his mother with his uncle. In the end, he was pretending to be mad to buy time and to think through a plan to avenge his father’s death. To have such clear thoughts he must have been sane. Furthermore, him repeating “Except my life” in the quote above could have been cause by his deep depression because of this situation, which could have led to his mental breakdown in the next act. In Act 4, after Hamlet had killed Polonius, the Queen says to Claudius that Hamlet is as
"Mad as the sea and wind, when both contend
Which is the mightier"
(iv. 1.7-8).

She may truly believe that Hamlet is mad due to this violent and chaotic behaviour. She goes on to tell how Hamlet killed Polonius, He's worried that he will be held responsible for what Hamlet has done, because he should have kept Hamlet under control. Then, when the King asks where is Hamlet , the Queen answers:

"To draw apart the body he hath kill'd
O'er whom his very madness, like some ore
Among a mineral of metals base,
Shows itself pure; he weeps for what is done" (iv. 1.24-27).

An "ore" is a vein of pure gold and a "mineral" is a mine, so the Queen means that Hamlet's tears show that even in his madness, he really has a heart of gold The King vows to get Hamlet out of the country before sunset, but he's feeling quite sorry for himself. He tells his wife that he will have to excuse Hamlet's actions as best he can. Claudius does not believe that Hamlet is mad.
"Alas, alas!" (iv. 3.26), the King comments after Hamlet tells him that "your fat king and lean beggar" (iv. 3.24) . The King almost certainly does not believe that Hamlet is mad, but saying "alas," as though he felt sorry for poor mad Hamlet, allows him to save face. Hamlet may be contemplating death because of a sense of sadness or depression, as he does not believe that human beings have the ability to be kind and not corrupted. He refers to his life as a “sea of troubles” and he does not want to continue to live because of his inner conflict. During the play, Hamlet is also in conflict with the female characters of this tragedy. The dialog with Ophelia is very strong as he denies his love for her.
“.. Get thee to a nunnery,
Go; farewell. Or, if thou wilt needs marry, marry a
Fool; for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them ..”
(III. i. 137-140)
Hamlet speaks harshly to his mother, too. He is shaming Gertrude as he believes it was immoral to marry his father’s brother. His actions are so strong that she fears that he might hurt her.
Throughout this whole scene Hamlet seems mad: the rage he expresses towards his mother, he kills Polonius in a ‘fit of madness', and also when King Hamlet's ghost appears. This is the point in the play when Hamlet seems the most mad. The final act is considered to be the resolution of the play. However, the first scene initially refers to Ophelia’s funeral, when Hamlet has his final breakdown and admits that he loved her, even though he once denied it.
“I loved Ophelia: a forty thousand brothers
Could not, with all their quantity of love,
Make up my sum. What wilt thou do for her?”
(V. i. 263-265). Act v The final scene is when the duel between Hamlet and Laertes takes place and order is back in Denmark.
Before the battle, however, Hamlet does not seem to fear the unknown and states that he will accept the idea of death, regardless of the outcome. Furthermore, he admits that he really was mad and that he temporary lost control of his mind.
“..I here proclaim was madness.
Was’t Hamlet wrong’d Laertes? Never Hamlet:
If Hamlet from himself be ta’en away ..”
(V. ii. 223-225)
He confesses that there were moments when he wasn’t fully himself and when madness overcame his sanity. Hamlet states that he wasn’t all himself. Act III Act iv Secondary Source The secondary resource argues that Hamlet’s grief can be blamed on many occurrences that happened within the play, the biggest influence being the death of his father. Other influences that this source states are the fact that his newly widowed mother marries his uncle only a month or so after his father’s death and the fact that Ophelia let her brother and father influence her love for hamlet. Another interesting theory was that nobody gave Hamlet any sympathy in his time of grief when he really needed it resulting to his madness. This source gives an appealing spin to the theme of Hamlets madness and relates to the topic well considering it gives many reasons and theories as to why he has so much grief resulting to madness. Citations:- Gertrude Ophelia Thesis Hamlet was not mad throughout the whole play. Initially, he uses it to his advantage; however, in the end madness takes the best of him. http://writingped.com/151W/2011/03/01/hamlet-two-scholarly-sources/




http://www.shmoop.com/hamlet/ophelia.html How about Ophelia? 1. Do you think that Gertrude thought that Hamlet was really mad or did she just lie to Claudius in order to protect her son?

2. Both Ophelia and Hamlet questioned death. Could it be that Hamlet was the weaker one since he did not follow through with suicide?

3. Do you think Ophelia and Hamle coped with their feelings differently even though the loss of their father was the cause of their madness? Questions Two slightly bumbling courtiers, former friends of Hamlet from Wittenberg, who are summoned by Claudius and Gertrude to discover the cause of Hamlet’s strange behavior. The King of Denmark, Hamlet’s uncle, and the play’s antagonist. The villain of the play, Claudius is a calculating, ambitious politician, driven by his sexual appetites and his lust for power, but he occasionally shows signs of guilt and human feeling—his love for Gertrude, for instance, seems sincere. Gertrude:
The Queen of Denmark, Hamlet’s mother, recently married to Claudius. Gertrude loves Hamlet deeply, but she is a shallow, weak woman who seeks affection and status more urgently than moral rectitude or truth. The Prince of Denmark, the title character, and the protagonist. About thirty years old at the start of the play, Hamlet is the son of Queen Gertrude and the late King Hamlet, and the nephew of the present king, Claudius. Hamlet is melancholy, bitter, and cynical, full of hatred for his uncle’s scheming and disgust for his mother’s sexuality. A reflective and thoughtful young man who has studied at the University of Wittenberg, Hamlet is often indecisive and hesitant, but at other times prone to rash and impulsive acts. Hamlet’s close friend, who studied with the prince at the university in Wittenberg. Horatio is loyal and helpful to Hamlet throughout the play. After Hamlet’s death, Horatio remains alive to tell Hamlet’s story. The young Prince of Norway, whose father the king (also named Fortinbras) was killed by Hamlet’s father (also named Hamlet). Now Fortinbras wishes to attack Denmark to avenge his father’s honor, making him another foil for Prince Hamlet. The Lord Chamberlain of Claudius’s court, a pompous, conniving old man. Polonius is the father of Laertes and Ophelia. Laertes: Polonius’s son and Ophelia’s brother, a young man who spends much of the play in France. Passionate and quick to action, Laertes is clearly a foil for the reflective Hamlet. The specter of Hamlet’s recently deceased father. The ghost, who claims to have been murdered by Claudius, calls upon Hamlet to avenge him. However, it is not entirely certain whether the ghost is what it appears to be, or whether it is something else. Hamlet speculates that the ghost might be a devil sent to deceive him and tempt him into murder, and the question of what the ghost is or where it comes from is never definitively resolved. Polonius’s daughter,Ophelia, a beautiful young woman with whom Hamlet has been in love. Ophelia is a sweet and innocent young girl, who obeys her father and her brother, Laertes. Dependent on men to tell her how to behave, she gives in to Polonius’s schemes to spy on Hamlet. Even in her lapse into madness and death, she remains maidenly, singing songs about flowers and finally drowning in the river amid the flower garlands she had gathered. Actions and Inaction
Appearance vs. Reality
Religion, Honor, & Revenge
Poison, Corruption, Death Poison and death: Hamlet only seems comfortable with things that are dead (his father, Ophelia, Yorik's skull)
he is disgusted with life, argues that death is the one true reality, and that life's only purpose is to try to hide from that reality
Poison poured into Old King Hamlet's ear symbolizes corruption spreading through all of Denmark. Appearance vs Reality: every character is constantly trying to figure out what the other characters think, as opposed to what those characters are pretending to think.
characters try to figure each other out using deception of their own (Spying, plotting)
"seems, madam? Nay, it is, I know not 'seems'" Act 1:2 (Hamlet)
The difference between "seems" (appearance" and "is" (reality) is crucial in Hamlet
Hamlet's obession with what's real. It has 3 main effects: 1) he becomes so caught up in the search for reality that he can no longer act ( indecisiveness) 2) in order to prove what's real and what isn't Hamlet himself must hide his 'reality' behind 'madness' 3) the closer he looks the less real and coherent EVERYTHING seems to be.
appears in 3 main forms: clothes, cosmetics, and actions Action vs. Inaction: revenge play with a twist: the man seeking revenge, can't actually bring himself to take revenge
Hamlet fails to act while many characters do act, it's not as if the actions of other characters in the play work out.
the play makes the deeply cynical suggestion that there is only one result of both action and inaction-death Religion, Honor and Revenge: every society is defined by it's codes of conduct. Many scenes where Hamlet tells people how to act. This 'behavior' expectation, are largely defined by religion and an aristocratic code that demands honor and revenge if honor has been soiled.
Hamlet discovers that religion opposes revenge, which would mean that Hamlet could endanger his soul. Yorick's Skull As Hamlet picks up the skull and both talks to the deceased Yorick and to Horatio about the skull, it becomes clear that the skull represents:
the inevitablility of death
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