Hamlet Misunderstood


Hamlet Misunderstood Essay, Research Paper

Shakespeare’s tragic hero, Hamlet, and his sanity can arguably be discussed.

Many aspects of the play support his loss of control in his actions, while other

parts uphold his ability of dramatic art. The issue can be discussed both ways

and altogether provide significant support to either theory. Throughout the

play, there are indications from Hamlet that question his mind’s well being.

Hamlet’s mood changes abruptly throughout the play. Hamlet appears to act mad

when he hears of his father’s murder. At the time he speaks "wild and

whirling" words when he says, "Why, right, you are in the right. And

so, without more circumstance at all, I hold it fit that we shake hands and

part…" (Act I, scene V, lines 132-139). It seems as if there are two

Hamlets in the play, one that is a "sensitive and ideal prince, and insane

madman, who from an outburst of passion and rage slays Polonius with no feeling

of remorse (Wallace). After Hamlet kills Polonius he will not tell anyone where

the body is. Instead, he assumes his ironic state, which others perceive as

madness. "Not where he eats, but where ?a is eaten. A certain convocation

of political worms a e’en at him." (Act IV, scene III, lines 20-21)

Hamlet’s behavior throughout the play, especially towards Ophelia, is

inconsistent. He jumps into Ophelia’s grave, and fights with Laertes in her

grave. During the fight with Laertes in Ophelia’s grave, Hamlet professed how

much he loved her when he said, "Forty thousand brothers could not, with

all their quantity of love, make up my sum" [Act V, scene I, lines 272-

274). However, Hamlet told her that he never loved her when she returned his

letters and gifts while she was still alive. Hamlet subtly hints his awareness

of his dissolving sanity as he tells Laertes that he killed Polonius in a fit of

rage. Hamlet had violent outbursts towards his mother. They seemed to be out of

jealousy as a result to the Oedipus complex. He alone saw his father’s ghost in

his mother’s chambers. Every other time the ghost appeared, someone else had

seen it. During this scene he finally shows his insanity when his mother does

not see the ghost. "On him, on him! Look you how pale he glares! his form

and cause conjoined, preaching to stones would make them capable" (Act III,

scene IV, lines 129-131). Throughout the play, there are also supporting factors

to argue Hamlet’s sanity. As these details compromise his madness, they in turn

balance out his mental state. Hamlet tells Horatio that he is going to assume

madness, and that if Horatio notices any strange behavior from Hamlet, it is

because he is putting on an act. Hamlet’s madness in no way reflects Ophelia’s

true madness. Instead, his actions contrast them. Hamlet’s madness is only

apparent when he is in the presence of certain characters. When Hamlet is around

Polonius, Claudius, Gertrude, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he behaves

unreasonably. When Hamlet is in the presence of Horatio, Bernado, Francisco, The

Players, and Grave diggers, his actions are sensible. Other characters confess

that Hamlet’s actions are still strange, and debate whether his insanity is

authentic or not. Claudius confesses that Hamlet’s actions, although out of

character, do not appear to stem from madness. "And I do doubt the hatch

and the disclose will be some danger; which for to prevent, I have in quick

determination" (Act III, scene I, lines 165-167). Polonius admits that

Hamlet’s actions and words have a method to them. They appear to have a reason

behind them and are logical in nature. "Though this be madness, yet there

is method in’t" (Act II, scene II, line 206). Hamlet tells his mother

"That I essentially am not in madness, but mad in craft" (Act III,

scene IV, lines 194-195). Hamlet believes in his sanity at all times. He never

doubts his control over his sanity. "Hamlet realizes his flaw as a man of

thoughts, rather than a man of actions. His cold act of Polonius’ murder is out

of rage and furious temper. He is sorry for it because he has no great

compassion towards Polonius, since he already has enough grief over his father’s

death" Hamlet, a tragic hero, did not meet his end because he was sane or

insane. He died because of his own tragic flaw of procrastination and grief.

Whether he was sane or just lost control of his actions, both theories have

sensible support. Hamlet, as seen from the beginning to the end, a prince that

was grieve stricken, until a prince of rage and passion, has developed through

the stages by his own sanity and madness. Whether or not Hamlet was sane, he

still portrayed the role of a mad man when he lost control of his actions.

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