Madness In Hamlet


Shakespeare is one of the most celebrated writers of all time. He wrote plays centuries ago, and they remain classics to this day. His writing is revered for a number of elements- character, plot, human, but what he nails really well is teeming. Hamlet, the most famous of his plays, excels at this, having things to say about loyalty, cleverness, and betrayal. The play also deals with Madness. The main character, Hamlet form the title, is thought to have gone insane. This however, is a complicated issue, as he is merely pretending, and 'becomes the mask' in some sense. In addition to this, other characters in Hamlet have an overarching character arc of madness to them.


Ophelia is Hamlets girlfriend, and she is not the most mentally stable. When Hamlet starts acting insane as a ploy to get back at his Uncle for murdering his father in cold blood, he unfortunately convinces Ophelia of his condition. Part of this is when Hamlet tells Ophelia “Go thee to a nunnery,” sending her into a spiral of depression. Confused and heartbroken, she is sure he is inane. Hamlet continues to demand and bully her, and eventually she breads down in grief for the loss of Hamlet and later, her father. As a result, she drowns herself in a lake.

Indecision and the Failure to Murder Claudius

Hamlet concocted this elaborate plot to expose his uncle as a traitor and avenge his death, but he actually has an opportunity to make things right far before his plan ever comes to fruitarian. Claudius is found sitting and praying, and Hamlet is aware of his crime. Hamlet considers killing him, but is caught in a moral dilemma. It is ever right to kill a man, even an evil man, if he is praying. Hamlet wrestles with this, but only abstractly; the primary factor in his hesitance is nothing other than his own indecision.

Blurring the line between madness and cleverness

What are further interesting about all this are the consequences of Hamlet acting insane all the time. It is quite arguable that acting this way actually drives him mad. We see definite shades of this in his Alas, poor Yoric speech. The question is this, is acting mad all the time different then being made in the first place? Shakespeare plays with this question through the entire play. In addition, this sort of pretending, along with the death of Ophelia, is what drives Hamlet mad by the end of the play.