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Essay/Term paper: Hamlet: emotional states

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Hamlet

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Hamlet: Emotional States

Hamlet went through various emotional states because of different
unfortunate circumstances that confronted him. Yet Hamlet never went so far
over "the edge" so as to not come back from reality, yet for reasons
psychological, he procrastinated actions that he should have taken, until it was
too late. I will first discuss Hamlet, the origins for his queer behavior and
if it twas feigned or not.
In the first act we see that Hamlet is a sort of idealistic man coming back
to the world from university in Wittenburg. Coleridge described Hamlet in this
point of the play as a "Renaissance" man, who has never really come in contact
with the dark side of humanity. In the very beginning of Act 1 scene i the
guards dialog reflect that "there is something rotten in the state of Denmark".
It is full of corruption, deceit, passion, ruthlessness, and ambition that
Hamlet is not used to (Lidz, 71). His mind temporarily can not handle his
situation because, as I will mention later, his mother is at the center of it.
He has to try to find meaning, direction and a stable identity in the midst of
all the evil about him (Lidz, 73).
We clearly see that Hamlet is quite upset by his mother's quite hasty
marriage to is uncle, and this causes some deep seeded emotional problems for
Hamlet. I can not talk about Hamlet's emotional state without also going into
the fact that Hamlet already suspects the King of killing his father, before the
ghost tells him so (Leavenwoth, 34). First I will go elaborate on how Hamlet,
at certain times, was clearly not feigning insanity, but that insanity only
lasted for brief periods of time because of the emotional blows that Hamlet
I and many literary folk believe that Hamlet suffered from a Oedipus
complex. Freud described this as a desire for a young boy to kill his father
and become sexually involved with his mother. Now that Hamlet's father is
eliminated, he believes that he will now be the number one person receiving
affection from his mother, Queen Gertrude (Lidz, 48). This is the principal
reason of why even though Hamlet should have grown out of the Oedipal, it gets
reawakened (Lidz, 48). But, to Hamlet's great disappointment his mother has
remarried and he will not be the number one person to receive his mother's
affection and his superego is greatly damaged (Leavenworth, 95). He feels like
his mother has betrayed him in, by marrying, and to boot that she married with
great haste. It is this anger that gets pent-up inside of Hamlet and he
releases it by way of lashing out at Ophelia and his mother. However, while
this anger is still brewing inside him he is truly mad until it is released by
some cleansing means (Babcock, 112).
It can be clearly stated that Hamlet really is in love with his mother,
and expects her to be a supporting mother figure that is going to cradled Hamlet
and take care of his needs, basically mother Hamlet. I think that Hamlet also
needed the comfort of a loving mother badly because he returns home to find his
father dead and the world he once thought would be so perfect, collapsing around
him and the only thing that can make him feel truly safe and out of harm's way
is his mother. That yearning and extreme need for the comfort of his mother is
a pivotal point of why Hamlet feels betrayed by his mother, when she can not
afford him the love he expects.
Besides Hamlet's desire to find comfort in his mother, it is evident
that he is sexually attracted to his mother in a sexual fashion. Because of
some of Hamlet's actions in the "closet scene" it is first apparent that he is
making some sort of sexual advance towards his mother the Queen. This is where
Hamlet's Oedipus complex really bears itself completely, we know exactly what
Hamlet wants, but like in the rest of the play his words seem haphazard and
spurned on by disillusionment (Lidz, 130). He is here making an attempt to not
only regain the love of his mother, but a passion whose flames were ignited by
Gertrude's hasty marriage.
The dear and lovely Ophelia is another person who plays a pivotal part
in confusing Hamlet even more than he already is. Hamlet, me thinks, is truly
in love with Ophelia through the duration of the play. Even though is seems
that Hamlet's love for her wanes at certain times, he needs her in his live.
She (and I'm going out on a limb with this one) in Hamlet's mind might be
considered a temporary substitute for his mother. He needs her as a support for
his life. He is desperately grasping for something to hold onto and someone
that will hold onto him.
Hamlet at one time admitted that he was mad, but only because of how the
events that transpired effected him and how he felt he was extremely wronged by
his mother (V, ii). As I stated before, this feeling of betrayal is because
Hamlet did not have primacy with Gertrude's affections. He just becomes very
disillusioned and hostile toward the one person he thought would support him in
his time of need (Lidz 230). He was in fear of reality (because of how badly it
shattered his dreams) and he needed the one person he thought he could trust.
But it also could of resulted from the fact that Hamlet has suspicions that
Gertrude might have been in the plot to kill his father. However Shakespeare
keeps this thought in the air by not having Hamlet outright ask his mother about
it. (Charlton, 67). I think this also can be seen as an attempt to return the
mother he loved so much back to the "good side", because subconsciously he
doesn't care if she did it (killed his father), he just wants his "mommy" back;
this is due in part to his Oedipal feelings. Proof of Hamlet's hostility and
manic behavior observed by his remarks to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern about his
mother's message that she wants to speak to him. His remarks are too bitter and
upsetting, unlike some of his other witticisms, to be humorous and they appear
to be very like manic behavior. Another interesting point is that Hamlet
compares himself with Nero, who killed his mother and also had an incestuous
passion for her (Charlton, 67). The Emperor Claudius was Nero's step-father
and great uncle who incestuously married his niece (Charlton, 67). I
psychiatrist might say that since Hamlet thinks that his mother has made very
bad judgment calls, when he talks to Gertrude in the "closet scene" he loosens
his super ego restraints and in the process, losses self-control. (Leavenworth,
140). He can no longer take on the role of moral guardian and snaps once again;
I believe he is now extremely manic and confused and must vent his anger and
disappointment towards his mother (Leavenworth, 140). This is done in-order to
reverse the parent and child roles and seek to act as his mother's conscience or
super-ego, he has to wait until the pressures within him are unbearable, then
when he can finally express his feelings he verges on losing all self-control.
"In Hamlet's mind she has died as his mother." (Leavenworth, 45) This
is what I believe to be the root of his on/off madness, the betrayal of his
mother; he tries to get her back, but he is just so perplexed. When Hamlet is
talking with the ghost of his late father, the ghost tells Hamlet not to kill
his mother, even though he is extremely anger and disillusioned by her actions;
this I think causes him even more grief, and thus causes him to fall into a
deeper state of madness, by not allowing him to vent his anger in a simple way
(I,v). "The closet scene is when the time has come for Hamlet to vent his
feeling about his mother and therefore rid himself of his antic behavior. They
have become more violent and threaten to destroy his life or sanity." (Lidz,
234). "He is caught up in passions that are gaining control over his thoughts,
feelings and behavior. He will seek his mother's redemption, in so doing, tries
to escape destruction" (Lidz, 233). But because of all his pent up frustration
and anger, Hamlet's disposition just seems antic, he doesn't think, he just does.

Ophelia plays another significant part in Hamlet's intricate insanity or
"antic behavior". Both she and Hamlet displayed "melancholia" during certain
parts of the play. Ophelia was likewise in love Hamlet, but she was warned by
Polinous, that Hamlet might just very well take her virginity and marry another.
Hamlet and Ophlia share a common bond of both of them losing their father and
both die because there is nothing left for them but to desire death as an escape
from an existence that has become intolerable (Charlton, 109). "In (II, i, 78-
83) we see how Hamlet reacts to the events in act I. He scared Ophelia, even
thought we are aware that Hamlet has planned to feign insanity, it seems
strange that by entering Ophelia's room in so disheveled a condition. This may
be because of the way Ophelia offended Hamlet, by repelling his letters and
denying him access to her." (Lidz, 46). Ophelia's "repelling" of Hamlet causes
him to become depressed and even more confused. This may be why in his letter
to her (II, ii, 119-123) might mean that he will commit suicide unless Ophelia
takes him back (Lidz, 85).
Because Hamlet lost the only person he still truly loves he becomes even
more enraged and antic, when she repels him again, after her father's accidental
murder. If Hamlet were not antic after he killed Polinus he might have begged
Ophelia's forgiveness. Hamlet loses Ophelia when he kills her father and thus
he become more enraged with himself and he became even more determined to
avenge his father's death. The next logical place for Hamlet to vent anger is
with Claudis, because he already had words with his mother. He is looking to
solve the problems of the kingdom and thus the problems within himself (his
depression). And thus the on/off antic disposition is shown again; stress
builds up then vents, it builds up again and must again vent.
Besides Hamlet's venting of anger, in which he was clearly mad, he did
have the rest of the character convinced that he was mad, even though Hamlet was
feign madness most of the time. In Hamlet's Enemy: Madness and Myth in
Hamlet, Lidz has a very interesting opinion of what Hamlet means when he states
to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, "I am not mad north-north west; when the wind
is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw (I, ii). This could come to mean
"Don't worry, I'm not so mad that I don't know one tool from another, as well as
one bird from another, and I'm bright enough to confuse you with this remark".
Along the same lines Lidz translated it as "I know who the hunter is (hawk;
Claudius) and who the hunted is (heron, Hamlet)." Along the same lines of Hamlet
being aware that his life is in danger he replies to Polonius, "You cannot sir,
take away from me anything that I will more willingly part withal; except my
life, except my life, except my life (I,ii,212-214). This tells us that Hamlet
is in a precarious state, despite his wits (Lidz, 234).
Throughout the play Hamlet uses word play inorder to "act" insane. His
faked insanity serves as a sort of cover for his plot of revenge against the man
that killed his father. Most of the time when Hamlet seems to be acting mad, he
is using the freedom afforded to him by his supposed madness, to "mess" with
Polinus and Claudius by displaying his wit in playing with words and phrases.
One example of Hamlet's word play is "Pol. What do you read my lord? Ham. Words,
words, words. Pol. What is the matter my lord? Ham. Between who? Pol. I mean
the matter that you read." Then Hamlet goes on to describe a book about a gray
old man that is, basically, an imbecile; which I can only come to conclude,
refers to Polonius. The great thing about Hamlet's words are that they are
witty enough to fool Polinus, but to the audience Polinus appears to be a fool.
It is a way of Hamlet saying that he is in control, and shows without a doubt
that Hamlet had his wits about him.
The players also play an significant part in the events of Hamlet. We
see that Hamlet it cunning enough to "test" Claudius, to see if what the ghost
told him was the truth; "The play's the thing/ Wherein I'll catch the
conscience of the King(I, ii,580-581) (Lidz, 150). These are not the actions of
an insane person, they are those of a intelligent and cunning one, who is unsure
and of his future and the further of his mother and the kingdom. On the issue
of Hamlet's uncertainty, it is evident that he is extremely unsure, this is
apparent in his "to be or not to be" Soliloquy. He questions himself, should he
try to clear the court of corruption or just give up and end his life now. It
is this doubt that drives Hamlet to act deranged at times, but he overcomes it,
and tries to answer all the difficult questions posed in his life. As I stated
before, pressure builds up for Hamlet, then he must find some way to release it,
" in act V, because when calm returns, Hamlet repents his behavior." (V, ii, 75-
78) (Lidz, 164).
In Lidz's book Freud is quoted as saying, "that if anyone holds and
expresses to others an opinion of himself such as this ("Use every man after his
desert, and who shall escape whipping?"), he is ill, whether he is being more
or less unfair to himself." I am using this quote to show that Hamlet is a very
ambiguous person, and evidence for both sides of the argument can be made for
either the side that he was crazy or that he was sane; it is just up to
Curious circumstances revolve around why Hamlet procrastinated in the
killing of Claudius. On his way to see his mother Hamlet sees Claudius praying
and decides not to kill him. It clearly shows that Hamlet was not kept from
gaining vengeance through lack of opportunity. In fact that act is one of self
damnation, which eventually ends five lives in the court. It states in the play
that Hamlet did not kill Claudius, because if he killed him while he was praying,
Claudius would go to heaven. This would seem to people in modern times that
there was a deeper reason, which there is a definite probability there is one,
but we must remember that people in Elizabethan times truly believe in heaven
and hell; and if Claudius had purged his soul by prayer, but he did not and
Hamlet lost his chance (Weston, 181).
We also must remember that Hamlet had other things on his mind at the
same time, more importantly, his mother. He is not so obsessed with his
father's murder that he must hasten to revenge (Lidz, 235). He believes (more
likely made himself believe) that he can kill his uncle and get the throne at
anytime, but more importantly his mother's obliquity will remain with him (Lidz,
Talking about why Hamlet balked on revenge also brings us back to why
the events that unfolded while he was away at college shattered his dreams so
violently. I think that he would consider himself a very idealistic person, an
almost Renaissance man. Killing his uncle in cold blood would then require him
to become a person that he is not. Cooleridge states in Interpreting Hamlet
"Hamlet is placed in circumstances, under which he is obliged to act on the spur
of a moment. Hamlet is brave and careless of death; but he vacillates from
sensibility, and procrastinates from thought, and loses the power of action in
the energy of resolve." Being a Renaissance Man or thinking man of wide and
keen intellectual powers, but feeble will. I believe (and think Cooleridge is
trying to purvey) that Hamlet's will power is suffocated by reflection and
contemplation and he dies of his own moral paralysis. A Hofstra student who
used the book before me put it well, writing in the margin of a book, "Hamlet is
too complex for this simplistic a blood letting, he needs justice." The
question we have to ask ourselves now is if Hamlet was aware that he must leave
off considering all sides of the question if he is to act.
Another opinion that I think is worth while to look at is, Hamlet's
Oedipal complex in relation to killing Claudius. This is because of Hamlet's
behavior in the "closet scene" he cannot kill the man who has only done what he
himself had wished to do. Hamlet identifies with Claudius and has to punish
himself for his guilty wishes rather than take vengeance on his uncle, this is
why he can only kill Claudius when he himself is dying and has been punished
(Lidz, 122).
And now to wrap up Hamlet into a nice neat little package. He was a
young, idealistic boy back from college. He has high hopes and dreams, but he
sees them killed, along with his father. The court is crumbling and extremely
corrupt and worst of all his beloved (and I mean beloved) mother is at the
center of it. This wreaks havoc with his mind, as it would any human being.
Along with losing his mother, he loses the only other person he loves, Ophelia.
Then on top of that he is faced with the task of avenging the murder of his
father, by killing his uncle; but it is not that simple because his uncle is
doing the same exact thing that he himself wants to do (kill his "father figure"
and get into bed with his mother). All of these circumstances cause poor Hamlet
to swing in and out of insanity, yet he is strong enough to try to plot a
cunning revenge scheme; but sadly in the end something his way of thinking could
not allow him to go through with avenging his father, until he was near death
And now for some interesting thoughts on Hamlet (non-inclusive of my
paper). Hamlet was actually a woman, and that is why Christopher Marlow did not
allow her to kill the King. John Lennon had the same thesis as mine stating in
Her Majesty on Abbey Road "Her majesty is a pretty nice girl/ but she changes
from day to day/ I wanna tell her that I love her a lot, but I gonna get her a
belly full of wine/ Her majesty is a pretty nice girl some day I'm gonna make
her mine." This could very well refer to Hamlet talking about his mother
referring to her remarriage and the final scene in which it is probable that
they will together in heaven after she drinks the deadly wine


Babcock, Weston. A Tragedy of Errors
Purdue Research Foundation. 1961.

Charlton, Lewis. The Genesis of Hamlet
Kenniket Press, Port Washington, NY 1907.

Leavenworth, Russel E. Interpreting Hamlet: Materials for analysis
Chandler Publishing CO, San Francisco 1960.

Lidz, Theo. Hamlet's Enemy: Madness and Myth in Hamlet"
Basic Books, Inc. NY 1975.


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