Insanity comes through a number of causes or events that one goes through at one point of one's life or in several cases. These problems pile up and distort one's mind and behavior, forcing them to move quickly on it. In most cases, it may do more harm than good, since the individual concerned can cause havoc and to innocent citizens. However, not everyone is courageous enough to confront their fears or concerns, but prefers to use manipulative means as a way to undermine the survivor. This is what happens in Hamlet, a play by Shakespeare, about a young prince, and his vengeance for his father is a killer. However, his insanity or madness turns out to be his biggest enemy, making him lack focus on the main objective. The research paper will look into two scenarios that demonstrate Hamlets behavior and discuss the respective outcomes if the subject had control over his madness.
About the Play
The play Hamlet by Shakespeare tells the story about a young prince, Hamlet, who lost his father at a tender age through the hands of his uncle, the kings brother (Bali 82). The act did not only rob him of his father, but the throne as his uncle took over it by remarrying Hamlets mother. Over the years, Hamlet continued to hate on his mother for the evil decision she made of marrying his uncle as a way of retaining her throne. However, all these was about to change one night when his fathers ghost appeared to him and explained the circumstances that led to his death (Bali 83). His uncle, Claudius, poured poison in the kings ears while he was asleep, leading to his death. The spirit was not only there to tell him of his uncles evil plan but to ask him to avenge his death and take his rightful place as the king.
The ghosts message was a major catalyst towards Hamlets rage, but it made the situation worse as his madness turned out to be a weakness. In Act V, Scene 2, Hamlet is having a conversation with Claudius and Laertes, where he remarks that his madness is poor Hamlets enemy (line 225). Hamlet makes the statement in the third person state, stating that he has been thinking about the act for a while and understood that he lacks the courage to undertake it. Before meeting up with Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes and the others, Hamlet was having a conversation with Horatio about his dream and what it requires from him (V.2.195). Horatio tries to beseech Hamlet to forfeit the act because his mind is not fit for what is about to transpire. Moreover, he states that he will tell others that Hamlet was not feeling well and stall the repair. However, Hamlet objects to Horatios suggestion and tells him that regardless of whether he is ready or not, the will has to be; he has to kill Claudius as directed by his fathers ghost.
In the play, Shakespeares portrayal of Hamlet was to identify the mistakes and issues that face people during their pursuit of revenge. According to T.S Elliot, Hamlets character has an especial temptation towards the dangerous type of critic, which comes from the natural creative order but their weakness in creative power acts as criticism towards their exercise (par 2). Ideally, Hamlets especial temptation is to kill Claudius, a dangerous type of critic, which makes him battle his natural creative order to undertake the action. However, as expressed by Horatio, Hamlet does seem up to the task as his creative power is quite weak towards the success (II.1.30). There are two scenarios that describe Hamlets lack of courage towards killing Claudius.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge looks into the character of Hamlet as described in his action in the play. In Macbeth, Hamlets mind is full of indifferent matters as he seeks to kill the king. He thinks of the mistress instead of focusing on the main action (II.1.31). It demonstrates his weaknesses since he takes a while before conducting the act, which then closes the window of opportunity. In Act II, Scene 2, Hamlet has another window of opportunity and laments that Now I am alone, but he enters into a raging delirium as he questions his neglect towards performing the solemn duty. His delirium is on what Hecuba means to him and whether he should weep for her; eventually he did weep for her but does not undertake the action yet again.
The tale shows the grand opportunity Hamlet had to kill his uncle but his mental state and emotions slow him down to pounce on the opportunity. The fear and lack of commitment seem to be a major weakness towards Hamlet as Dryden notices it in him. Dryden states that, despite the conviction to kill the king, Hamlets madness makes him too weak to undertake the obvious duty. According to Coleridge, Hamlets sense of imperfectness becomes apparent in the churchyard, where he is moralizing the skull (248). His attachment to Ophelia makes him incomplete and deficient, acting as a weakness to his actions. It is evident in two situations: when the heroine decoy works on him and when he finds the witnesses behind the arras.
Another situation that demonstrates Hamlets weaknesses is when he finds his uncle, Claudius, praying and does not take the opportunity to kill him. Hamlet acknowledges that his iniquity has risen to the point of repentance and confession as he laments Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge (Coleridge, 248). Despite missing his window of opportunity, Hamlet states that he will catch him in another act where he will have no relish of salvation. From the various scenes, it is evident that Hamlets madness does not allow him to undertake the task. He had a good window of opportunity, but his unstable mental state makes him forfeit the action. He worries too much about whether his actions is sane or insane instead of completing the action.
Eliot concludes that Hamlets insanity as portrayed by Shakespeare stands out as fear and emotional distress (par 12). His levity, repetition of phrases, and puns act as his emotional relief and not the deliberate plan in dissimulation. His emotions act as buffoonery towards finding an outlet to his actions and makes him weak. However, he manages to kill the King, but that comes at a price. Everyone he meets dies even Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are innocent characters in the play (Bali 84). Hamlet loose his first objective from the plays beginning, which makes the reader wonder whether Shakespeares main objective was to delay the killing or prolong the play. His madness does allow him to connect with his mother and father but through the ghost.
There are various opinions towards Shakespeares play, Hamlet, especially on the main characters main purpose or objective in the story. Moreover, Eliot believes that Shakespeare gave Hamlet too much voice, making him a great character yet he fails to meet his objective in the shortest time possible. However, one can understand Hamlets insanity and what it leads to in the end.
Bali, Shweta. "Mechanics of Madness in Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear." IUP Journal of English Studies 9(4) (2014): 81-86. Print.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. "Lecture on Hamlet." Customer's File (n.d.): 245-249.
Eliot, Thomas S. Hamlet and His Problems. 2016. Web. 17 March 2017. < http://www.bartleby.com/200/sw9.html>
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. 2016. Web. 17 March 2017.
If your mind dislike any thing, obey it: I willforestall their repair hither, and say you are notfit.
Not a whit, we defy augury: there's a specialprovidence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now,'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will benow; if it be not now, yet it will come: thereadiness is all: since no man has aught of what heleaves, what is't to leave betimes?Act IV Scene 1
Throws up a skull
That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once:how the knave jowls it to the ground, as if it wereCain's jaw-bone, that did the first murder! Itmight be the pate of a politician, which this assnow o'er-reaches; one that would circumvent God,might it not?HAMLET
Give me your pardon, sir: I've done you wrong;But pardon't, as you are a gentleman.This presence knows,And you must needs have heard, how I am punish'dWith sore distraction. What I have done,That might your nature, honour and exceptionRoughly awake, I here proclaim was madness.Was't Hamlet wrong'd Laertes? Never Hamlet:If Hamlet from himself be ta'en away,And when he's not himself does wrong Laertes,Then Hamlet does it not, Hamlet denies it.Who does it, then? His madness: if't be so,Hamlet is of the faction that is wrong'd;His madness is poor Hamlet's enemy.Sir, in this audience,Let my disclaiming from a purposed evilFree me so far in your most generous thoughts,That I have shot mine arrow o'er the house,And hurt my brother.Act II Scene 2
Ay, so, God be wi' ye;
Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN
Now I am alone.O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!Is it not monstrous that this player here,But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,Could force his soul so to his own conceitThat from her working all his visage wann'd,Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,A broken voice, and his whole function suitingWith forms to his conceit? and all for nothing!For Hecuba!What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,That he should weep for her? What would he do,Had he the motive and the cue for passionThat I have? He would drown the stage with tearsAnd cleave the general ear with horrid speech,Make mad the guilty and appal the free,Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeedThe very faculties of eyes and ears. Yet I,A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,And can say nothing; no, not for a king,Upon whose property and most dear lifeA damn'd defeat was made. Am I a coward?Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face?Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i' the throat,As deep as to the lungs? who does me this?Ha!'Swounds, I should take it: for it cannot beBut I am pigeon-liver'd and lack gallTo make oppression bitter, or ere thisI should have fatted all the region kitesWith this slave's offal: bloody, bawdy villain!Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!O, vengeance!Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,A scullion!Fie upon't! foh! About, my brain! I have heardThat guilty creatures sitting at a playHave by the very cunning of the sceneBeen struck so to the soul that presentlyThey have proclaim'd their malefactions;For murder, though it have no tongue, will speakWith most miraculous organ. I'll have these playersPlay something like the murder of my fatherBefore mine uncle: I'll observe his looks;I'll tent him to the quick: if he but blench,I know my course. The spirit that I have seenMay be the devil: and the devil hath powerTo assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhapsOut of my weakness and my melancholy,As he is very potent with such spirits,Abuses me to damn me: I'll have groundsMore relative than this: the play 's the thingWherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.
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