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Essay/Term paper: 'madness'

Essay, term paper, research paper:  College Book Reports

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Rodda
Bires 2
4/13/96
Hamlet"s Madness
`What is madness? Is someone mad merely because they are different, and do they in return see the same about the world? The dictionary defines madness as, "1. the state of being mad; insanity. 2. senseless folly. 3. frenzy; rage. 4. intense excitement or hilarity." Though is there a difference between madness and wrath or rage? Was Hamlet mad, or was it one big act in order to give reason for his irrational actions and to keep his vengeful motives confidential?
In Shakespeare"s tragedy, Hamlet, these questions are continually asked and some are answered. Hamlet, the protagonist, has lost his father by murder, and is urged to seek vengeance by his father who appears to him as a ghost. This raises the first bit of suspicion of madness. Hamlet talks with his father and is told,

Hamlet: If thou didst ever thy dear father love-
Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.

Most would say that the fact that he saw the ghost of his dead father would be enough to warrant that he is insane. The only fact that hinders this observation is the fact that others saw the ghost as well and were even the ones who told young Hamlet of his appearance.
Many may see Hamlet being insane only by the worldly view of him being different. Though towards the end of the play in Act III, Gertrude calls her son to her chambers to discuss the reasoning of his putting on a play so closely related to the death of his father. She tells him how upset Claudius is and is weary of Hamlet"s recent actions. At this Hamlet explodes on his mother and threatens to kill her. Gertrude cries for help, and Pilonius answers this cry. Hamlet runs him through with his rapier without even thinking. Hamlet tells her to report to Claudius this message:

Gertrude: Mad as the sea and wind when both contend
Which is mightier. In his lawless fit,
Behind the arras hearing something stir,
Whips out his rapier, cries "A rat, a rat,"
And in this brainish apprehension kills
The unseen good old man.

This incident shows Hamlet"s wanting others to think that he is truly mad. But was it his insanity that brought about the rash action of killing the unknown man behind the tapestry or was it his postponed revenge that consumed him. Is there a difference?
Hamlet in many incidence"s tells people of his insanity, he tells Guildenstern that he is mad.

Guildenstern: My lord, we were sent for.
Hamlet: I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the King and Queen molt no feather. I have late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth, forgone all customs of exercises, and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition...

Hamlet trusts neither Rosencrantz or Guildenstern. Since he is no friend to either of them, he decides that they might as well think he is insane, in addition to this, he knows that whatever he tells them, will be relayed back to the King and Queen. It is for the better that he does not trust the two because it is them who try to carry out his death sentence. In another incident, Hamlet plainly tells them that he is mad without any puns to hide the meaning.

Hamlet: I am mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.

If Hamlet was truly mad, why would he talk of it?
Everyone, with the exception of his dear friend Horatio, believe that Hamlet is truly mad. The Queen even questions this when seeing the look on Hamlet"s face when the ghost appears to him.

Hamlet: How is it with you, lady?
Queen: Alas, how is "t with you, that you do bend your eye in vacancy and with th" incorporeal air do hold discourse? Forth at your eyes spirits wildly peep, and, as the sleeping soldiers in th" alarm, your bedded hair, like life in excrements, start up and stand on end.


It is hard to tell whether Hamlet was truly insane or simply acting. He certainly did have allot of rage and made many rash actions. But could his rage have been his madness? If Hamlet was truly insane, he certainly did not lose any of his cunning. He devised a way to make the King pay for his sins and he did just that.


 

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