Hamlets Madness1





Hamlet\'s Madness
By: JOe Momma

The issue of madness is one of major importance in this play. Is Hamlet truly mad, meaning insane? Or is he merely angry? Does he feign madness and use it as a guise? Or does he place himself so dangerously close to the line between sanity and insanity that he crosses it without even realizing it? Or is he so intelligent, cunning and in control that this is merely the playing out of his completely conceived and well-executed plan of attack? The patient is a thirty year-old male. He is Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, an introspective, grieving young member of the royalty, plagued by the recent death of his father, and the hasty marriage of his mother to his uncle, Claudius. He is capable of depressing anyone around him; the King and Queen attempt to pry Hamlet from his mourning. As relations become more strained between Hamlet and Claudius, his attitude becomes destitute. He begins to withdraw himself from everyone in the castle, and spends most of his time in solitude; he is often seen walking alone, talking to himself. Upon deeper investigation, it is discovered that Hamlet is seeing the ghost of the ex-King of Denmark, Hamlet’s father. The ghost becomes Hamlet’s counselor, guiding him through his everyday maze of depression and confusion. It is through the ghost of his father that he learns that Claudius, the new King of Denmark, is solely responsible for his father’s “foul and most unnatural murder” (I.v.26). He claims that he is told to seek revenge on his father’s murder by murdering Claudius. Hamlet sees the ghost at various times over the course of the play, appearing when he is in need of help. Hamlet’s condition persists, gradually getting worse, as he becomes increasingly more aggressive and violent. His behavior towards Ophelia, the woman he loves, becomes erratic. He has violent outbursts towards his mother. He kills various members of the castle without explanation. Hamlet is clearly out of control, and is in need of a psychological evaluation. The most major of mental illnesses is schizophrenia, a psychotic illness, where the patient is out of touch with reality. In this disease, thoughts may be deranged or delusions without basis may arise. The individual tends to withdraw from their already little social contact. They become unresponsive and lose interest in normal activities. Emotionally, they can be irritable, angry, aggressive, and even violent at times. At other times, they can have an obsession with death, or voices can be heard or visions seen. The reasons for this change often appear unexplainable to relatives and friends. Some try to explain this new behavior as due to stresses, past or present, especially from interpersonal difficulties and mishaps. It is generally a devastating illness, troublesome to the patient and painful to the relatives and sometimes offensive to society. (Chong, 1) William Shakespeare’s literary opus Hamlet is an adventure story of the highest quality, a tale of the psychological trials of a man who is isolated from the society he must live in, and a portrait of a family driven to bloody and gruesome murder by one man’s lust for power (King, 1). In his essay “Hamlet: A Riddle in Greatness”, Louis Kronenberger states that “even on the surface, Hamlet remains among the greatest of unsolved psychological mysteries, and the one that has been provided with the most solutions” (1). The theme of madness in Hamlet has been one of great discussion; there is much conflicting evidence that can be found when trying to prove the validity of the claim to Hamlet’s true madness. The patient, Hamlet, prince of Denmark, has been diagnosed with schizophrenia due to his erratic, sometimes irrational behavior. Ever since the death of his father, King Hamlet, young Hamlet has been what appeared to be in a state of madness. This case study on Hamlet’s condition will cite many instances in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in which the patient has acted in a schizophrenic, meaning mad, manner. Hamlet’s madness is the result of his fragile, overanalytical personality being confronted with a great deal of anguish. Hamlet’s madness is apparent even before he sees the ghost of his father. At the start of the play, Hamlet is shown to be “in the throes of