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Fernando Tanioka

Period 5
Madness in the play Hamlet
Hamlet is one of William Shakespeare's most famous work and is a piece of literature,
which has been studied for a very long time. The storyline of Hamlet follows much madness that
begins with Claudius' murdering King Hamlet and ending with the tragic killing of almost every
main character in the play. Many reasons have been proposed for the ultimate tragedy, which
occurs at the conclusion of the play. It will be argued in this essay that madness is the cause of
the eventual tragedy in Shakespeare 's Hamlet.

Claudius' murdering of his brother, the king is the first big act of mental illness in the story and it
sets into course the madness of many other characters. Murdering one's brother so that they may
marry their sister in law and become the king is not the act or desire of a normal person. After the
king's death, Claudius and Gertrude marry really fast within a matter of months. This quick
marriage goes against the standard mourning period of one year that is expected of a queen.
Hamlet is greatly disturbed by the fact that his mother does not mourn longer for his father's
death and shows his anger about this subject on several occasions. The marriage of a man to his
sister in law is thought innapropriate by the church and contributes to the overall lack of decency
in this story. Claudius is directly responsible for the death of the king, Hamlet's father, and he
also contributes to the deaths of Gertrude and Hamlet. His actions set into course a series of

events of which the end result is the deaths of Polonius, Laertes, and Ophelia. He is also
responsible for the deaths of these characters as well.

Hamlet's display of mental illness lets him prove to himself that Claudius did, in fact, murder his
father. After seeing the ghost of his father, Hamlet vows to avenge his death and decides that
simulates lunacy will provide him with the means to prove Claudius' guilt. Following his initial
encounter with the ghost of his father, Hamlet is very excited while speaking with Marcellus and
Horatio and tells them:

"But come Here, as before, never, so help you mercy. How strange or odd soe'er I bear myselfAs I perchance hereafter shall think meet. To put an antic disposition on. That you, at such times
seeing me, never shall, With arms encumbered thus, or this headshake, Or by pronouncing some
doubtful phrase .... That you know aught of me - this do swear, So grace and mercy at your most
need help you." (Act 1, Scene 5, Lines 177-189)

In this passage he is explaining that if he is to appear to be acting strangely, or putting on an

"antic disposition," they should not be alarmed or act as if they know some secret about him. His
plan to act insane provides him with the means with which to act and speak in ways which
would, under normal circumstances, not be tolerated. Thanks to his plan of acting insane he is
able to prove Claudius' guilt.

Throughout the story Hamlet pretends to be totally insane to the queen and king and many
others. It seems at first that Hamlet is just acting but then it appears that he does go truly insane.
Even after he has gathered evidence against Claudius, he continues to behave strangely. When he
murders Polonius, thinking that he is Claudius, he does not react to his actions in the way in
which a sane person would act. This act shocks Laertes who then desires to avenge his fathers
death by killing Hamlet. The death of Claudius by the hands of Hamlet also contributes to the
dismay of Ophelia. In these ways, Hamlet's insanity contributes to the overall tragedy of the play.

Driven to madness by the murder of his father, Laertes, with the help of Claudius plans to kill
Hamlet. Laertes, in his planning Hamlet's death, tells Claudius that he has:

...bought an unction of a mountebank / So mortal that, but dip a knife in it, / Where it draws
blood no cataplasm so rare, / Collected from all simples that have virtue / Under the moon, can
save the thing from death / That is but scratched withal. I'll touch my point / With this contagion,
that if I gall him slightly, / It may be death. (Act 4, Scene 7, lines 141-149

Claudius arranges for there to be a sword fight in which Laertes will be able to poison Hamlet.
To further ensure that Hamlet will be killed, Claudius plans to offer Hamlet poisoned wine.
Hamlet never drinks this wine. Instead, Gertrude drinks it to celebrate Hamlet's success in the
duel and Claudius himself is also poisoned by it. The sword fight in which Hamlet is to be slain
ends with the death of Hamlet, Laertes, Claudius and Gertrude.

Ophelia's madness is caused by the actions of other characters in the story. Her father tells her to

stay away from Hamlet, whom she has much affection for. Hamlet lies to her, telling her that he
does not intend to be with her. After all this, Her father, Laertes is murdered by her former lover,
Hamlet. and then Hamlet is sent to England. The sum of all these actions result in her feeling
such distress that she becomes completely insane.

Claudius' murder of the king sets into course the insanity of many other characters, the result of
which is homicide and suicide to pretty much all of the main characters in the play.