Representation of Mental Illness in Hamlet by Shakespeare Essay

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Critics trashed Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet, due in part to the acting of Ethan Hawke, which many reviewers viewed as too weak for the role (). However, these reviewers fail to recognize that “[Hamlet’s] nature changes from scene to scene” (Crosman 148), and therefore requires development as the storyline progresses. Similarly, Ophelia’s character experiences rather drastic changes following the death of her father. But, as Hawke received criticism for his descent into madness, Stiles’ Ophelia received praise. This essay will examine the representation of mental illness in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Michael Almereyda’s 2000-film adaptation of the play, in order to justify the acting of Ethan Hawke as Hamlet. Many representations of madness …show more content…
(Cross 22-24, 27).
Bedlam’s residents fascinated those on the outside, but the institution itself worked to segregate those with mental illnesses (Cross 23). As described by Anna Harpin, Bedlam achieved this segregation not only by placing the building of the edge town, but also through the stereotypes of mental illness that instilled fear in many that were incorrectly educated on the “dangers of the mentally ill” (Harpin 335-337). In the film, Almereyda seems quite aware of this separation between the public and the mentally insane (Cieoelak 109) and chooses to use the Denmark Corporation as his own Bedlam. The film’s characters, who gain prominence within the large corporation, are often in the public eye and as a result openly displaying their own personal struggles. However, the corporation itself separates those who see them through media portrayals, as they are not able to view what goes on when the representatives of the media are not there.
Quite often, writers describe the personal struggles of Ophelia and Hamlet as melancholy or mad. However, the differentiation between these terms is unclear. English scholar Robert Burton describes these differences in his work, the Anatomy of Melancholy. Burton defines melancholy as “a perpetual anguish of the soul fastened on one thing”. Madness, although similar in nature,

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