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Madness in Shakespeare's Hamlet

Madness in Shakespeare's Hamlet

Madness may be “mental incapacity caused by an unmentionable injury.” Such wounds often are not easily perceived but may be revealed in time of stress. Hamlet’s question, “have you a daughter?”(Act II. Sc2 182) Polonius about the Prince’s emotional state. What is hidden will surely be told to Claudius by his adviser. Laertes’ search for revenge is sharper proof that madness in degrees of publicity causes harm to the observers. Claudius promise “no wind of blame”(Act IV, Sc.7,66) once Laertes kills Hamlet; perhaps this is what the uncle has sought all along for himself. Ophelia has a unique, very powerful form of madness; she seems caught as a “baker’s daughter,"(Act IV, Sc. 5, 42) between memories of her father and Hamlet who ought have spoken to her of events on “Valentine’s day."(Act IV, Sc 5, 48) She is doubly hexed and the madness she has infects the whole court. Once a person’s mental state has been studied in public, there is no telling the injuries which may affect the viewers.

Ever since the death of King Hamlet young Hamlet has been what appeared to be in a state of madness. In a discussion between Hamlet and Polonius Hamlet questions Polonius by asking him “have you a daughter.”(Act II, Sc.2, 182) In this discussion Hamlet shows antic behavior towards Polonius by mocking him when Hamlet would usually show great respect for him because of he age and heis high position in the court. This sudden question to Polonius has caused Polonius to believe that Hamlet has a form of love-sickness and that Polonius is sure to tell Claudius of his condition. Hamlet also accuses Polonius of being the “Jephthah, judge of Israel,”(Act II,Sc.2, 399) meaning that Polonius would put his country in front of his daughter. Hamlet has now convinced Polonius that he is in a state of madness because he knows that Polonius cares for his daughter very much and would never put her second. By convincing Polonius that he has no consideration for the well-being of others, Hamlet is then hoping that Polonius will tell the court of his emotional madness.

Unlike Hamlet, Laertes has developed a different kind of madness, a madness that is controlled by revenge....

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