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Madness/Mental Illness in Hamlet

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Miranda Sherell

on 16 December 2015

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Transcript of Madness/Mental Illness in Hamlet

Seminar Project:
Madness/Mental Illness in Hamlet

- Though the titular character in Shakepeare's "Hamlet" is the most famous for his madness/mental illness, there are several other characters whose struggles are more subtle than Hamlet's well displayed insanity.

-increased energy
-suspicious mood
-thoughts of conspiracy
Ophelia is an innocent, victim to the events of the play but undeserving of the bad things that happen to her
initially wooed by Hamlet, she plays the role of an infatuated young girl
however, as the play goes on, Ophelia falls into a grief-stricken madness that ends in suicide
symptoms of possible diagnosis--
extremely skillful at making the things they say sound believable
sociopaths are masters at influence and deception (he basically manipulates everyone in the play)
unlike psychopaths, sociopaths are capable of feeling remorse over their actions (expresses his guilt but is still not willing to change)
sociopaths seek to dominate others and win at all costs (his motivation to claim the throne and refusal to let it go)

-sang songs about death, chaos and unrequited love (specifically about a young maiden tricked into losing her virginity over false promises of marriage....?) both in the court and in the stream before sinking to her death
-commits suicide (potentially up for debate)..falls into the water and doesn't struggle/attempt to save herself
-her madness is a more genuine contrast to Hamlet (while he displays a fashionable melancholy and has much of the court-including Ophelia attempting to cure him, Ophelia-being female and of much lower social standing- is believed to be pregnant and is alienated)
-her tendency to sing songs relating to the events that happened to her highlight the possibility that she is suffering from PTSD
-displays symptoms of depression and hopelessness
-appears to be able to turn madness on or off depending on his audience.. when with Horatio he seems a little excited but hardly truly insane, whereas in the presence of King Claudius he comes off as a raving lunatic

-states that he will act mad in the first act, making all his supposedly insane actions after that point suspicious ”I perchance hereafter shall think meet/To put an antic disposition on” (1.5.171-172)

-says himself that it is an act to Gertrude “Make you to ravel all this matter out/That I essentially am not in madness/But mad in craft” (3.4.186-188)
- we rarely see other characters discuss Claudius, with the exception of Hamlet (but his raving comments concerning his mothers apparent incest are hardly reliable)
- nevertheless, Claudius gives us enough commentary on himself (though his soliloquies)
- Ophelia is consistently unfairly defined by her purity/sexuality
Gertrude: "And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish
That your good beauties be the happy cause
Of Hamlet's wildness: so shall I hope your virtues
Will bring him to his wonted way again,
To both your honours." (3.1)

-while Hamlet's madness is cast in doubt by the other characters, Ophelia's is confirmed..
Laertes: "Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia!
O heavens! is't possible, a young maid's wits
Should be as moral as an old man's life?" (4.7)

What Other Characters Have To Say:
What Other Characters Have To Say:
What Other Characters Have To Say:
Claudius- “what he spake, though it lack’d form a little/Was not like madness” (3.1.163-164)

the diagnosis:
Claudius is a sociopath.
Ophelia really is mad and may also have PTSD.
Hamlet is faking his insanity but may have mild borderline personality disorder.
Culminating Activity:
1) Go to
2) hit drop down menu at top right and find "Student Log-In"

3) enter class code: FCO35CLO
everybody! get your devices out and follow the steps below
-unstable relationships
-impulsive/destructive behaviour
-unclear/unstable self image
-extreme mood swings
-explosive anger
-feeling suspicious or out of touch with reality
symptoms of possible diagnosis:
insanity (what he tries to display):
borderline personality disorder:

Polonius- “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t” (2.2.295-296)
“Her clothes spread wide,
And, mermaid-like awhile they bore her up,
Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds,
As one incapable of her own distress
Or like a creature native and endued
Unto that element.” (4.7.200-205)
- Queen Gertrude
one of Ophelia's songs:
By Gis and by Saint Charity,
Alack, and fie for shame!
Young men will do't, if they come to't;
By cock, they are to blame.
Quoth she, before you tumbled me,
You promised me to wed.
So would I ha' done, by yonder sun,
An thou hadst not come to my bed. (4.7)

the diagnosis: Ophelia is mad too
(and may also be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Adams, Mike. "How to Spot a Sociopath - 10 Red Flags That Could save You from Being Swept under the Influence of a Charismatic Nut Job." NaturalNews. N.p., 08 June 2012. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <http://www.naturalnews.com/036112_sociopaths_cults_influence.html>.

Grohol, John. "Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms." Psych Central. N.p., 29 Oct. 2014. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <http://psychcentral.com/disorders/borderline-personality-disorder-symptoms/>.
Full transcript