Shakespeare's Madness In Hamlet

1640 Words 7 Pages
“Hamlet’s madness, whether genuine or not, adds to the fascination of his character for the audience.”
Discuss this statement, supporting your answer with suitable reference to the play, Hamlet.

The more I explore Shakespeare’s work, the more I am convinced that he had more wisdom in 1616 than we have managed to accumulate since. The lesson I derive from Shakespeare’s exploration of madness in Hamlet is that sometimes one just has to fight fire with fire. It is how Hamlet’s (probably) deliberate manipulative portrayal of madness exposed the falseness and hypocrisy of Elsinore that fascinates me most. This essay argues that Hamlet's madness, whether feigned or real, lasting or temporary, reveals additional layers to the complexity of the character
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Presumably, he still loves Ophelia despite his abhorrence at his mother's actions and his extension of this frailty to all womankind. Hamlet's madness allows him to fascinate the audience with his outbursts that would not be feasible, plausible or realistic from the mouth of a man presumed sane, putting curses on and disowning Ophelia: ‘Go to, I’ll no more on ’t. It hath made me mad. I say, we will have no more marriages’ [meaning Come on, I won’t stand for it anymore. It’s driven me crazy. I hereby declare we will have no more …show more content…
Hamlet sanely ponders over the injustice of sending Claudius' soul to heaven while King Hamlet's soul purges. At the very beginning of Act 3 Scene 3, Claudius refers to Hamlet's madness and the insecurity of letting it roam freely. It is ironic therefore that in this scene if Hamlet had been genuinely mad he would not have philosophised and waited for a more revengeful moment to murder Claudius. He would not have had the ability to rationalise and conclude that 'this is hire and salary, not revenge'. Therefore, while it has been argued that Hamlet's insanity enhances the fascination of his character for the audience, it is also the case that many aspects of Hamlet like his philosophising would have proved fascinating even if he was presenting himself as sane throughout the play.

The final scene reveals a Hamlet much altered from earlier in the play. This could be a consequence of his ‘antic disposition’: he got accustomed to a different frame of reference. His description to Horatio of how he dealt with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern suggests that he no longer has to grapple with his conscience: 'They are not near my conscience'. This is in sharp contrast to Hamlet's earlier declaration that 'Conscience does make cowards of us all'. The change in Hamlet's character provides a further point of fascination for the

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