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Madness and Insanity in Shakespeare's Hamlet - From Obsession to Insanity

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From Obsession to Madness in Hamlet

In Shakespeare's play Hamlet, there are several questions that come to the reader's mind regarding the emotional state of Hamlet. Was Hamlet really suffering from madness, as many of his friends and family thought? Was he mad or just pretending to be mad? Did Hamlet start out pretending to be mad, and his obsession drove him to madness? The reader gets insight into Hamlet's mental status through other characters and through Hamlet himself. If the characters had the information that Hamlet had about the murder of his father, would they have thought differently of his actions and his sanity?

Early in the play, King Claudius and Queen Gertrude show their concern for
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We get more insight into Hamlet's mind after he meets the ghost of his father. He is speaking to his confidant and friend Horatio:

Here as before, never, so help you mercy,

How strange or odd some'er I bear myself-

As I perchance hereafter shall think meet

To put an antic disposition on- (1.5.177-180)

In this statement, you see somewhat of a different Hamlet, someone who is committed to a plan of action. Hamlet has spoken to his father's ghost and learned that his uncle was responsible for his father's murder. This knowledge and his determination to hold his uncle accountable appear to be the start of Hamlet's obsession.

In Act 2, the King and Queen continue to try and determine why Hamlet is acting the way he is. They request his friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to find out what is wrong. Polonius learns from Ophelia that Hamlet could be "mad for thy love?" (2.1.84), but Ophelia is not sure of it. Polonius delivers his opinion to Claudius and Gertrude in which he states that Hamlet:

Fell into sadness, then into a fast,

Thence to a watch, thence to a weakness,

Thence to a lightness, and, by this declension,

Into a madness wherein now he raves

And all we morn for. (2.2.147-151)

Here we start to see Hamlet
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