Hamlets Madness





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
bereavement” (“Though This is Madness, Yet There is Method in It.”, Online
Archive, 1). The queen encourages him to look to the future, and to cease his
grieving, for she believes it is false. Hamlet responds angrily to her
suggestion: “But I have within which passeth show; these but the trappings
and the suits of woe.” Hamlet’s strained relationship with Claudius is now
evident; as he comments on