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Madness in Hamlet

At first glance, William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet appears to be an obvious story of a man who goes mad over the murder of his father, the king. Madness is a common theme throughout Hamlet, but often times Hamlet himself is the only character seen as mad. An explanation for this is that a first time reader does not carry the perception that any other characters are mad, simply Hamlet. When in actuality Hamlet is surrounded by people who are indeed mad. Ophelia is one main character whose madness is quite obvious. From her Valentine Song in act IV to her suicide in act V, her madness becomes more apparent as the play unfolds. Throughout Hamlet small glimpses of madness from other characters are seen, however the extent of these characters madness is not equal to that of Hamlet or Ophelia. The World Book Dictionary defines madness as “ the fact or condition of being crazy; insane condition; loss of one’s mind” (2: 1251). Jerome Mazzaro says that “Madness becomes, consequently, a closing off of one’s self from others and from one’s past...” (101). Whether or not Hamlet and Ophelia fit this definition exactly is unclear; however, this definition does describe each of them somewhat. The degree of their madness differs, but both Hamlet and Ophelia are indeed mad. A constant argument that arises when talking about Hamlet is that of is his madness real or is it simply an act. The answer to this question can be gathered by looking at his actions and his words. I believe that in the beginning of the play, Hamlet is not truly mad, however, he becomes mad through the actions that unfold throughout the play. Hamlet tells Horatio that he is going to “Put an antic disposition on-” (2.1.181). Meaning that Hamlet will act mad in order to rise suspicion. Hamlet is aware that his madness will indeed arise some concern with Claudius and his conspirators. This explains...

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