Madness and Insanity in Shakespeare's Hamlet - The Necessary Madness of Hamlet

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The Necessary Madness of Hamlet

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, is a complex play, filled with layers of meaning. These are often revealed through the madness of the characters and the theme of madness throughout the play. Although Hamlet and Ophelia are the only characters thought to be so afflicted, the reactions of other characters to this madness mirrors their own preoccupations.

When one refers to madness in Hamlet, most would think of Hamlet's madness, or at least that that he was pretending to possess. Although Ophelia does go insane and ultimately commits suicide, the central lunacy of the play revolves around Hamlet himself. Hamlet's plan to act mad is completely unexplained. It is safe to
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Polonius is probably the most proactive with his theory, by making elaborate spy plans to test it. Ophelia reluctantly seems to agree with her father, but it may be presumed that this is because she is very reliant on him for her opinions. Horatio, Hamlet's best friend, knows that Hamlet is not truly crazy. Many believe that Hamlet is using an appearance of lunacy in order to be able to express his contempt for everyone he sees.

The most interesting thing about all of the characters' guesses as to the logic behind Hamlet's insanity is that the majority of their opinions stem from the thing that most plagues or preoccupies them. Claudius believes that Hamlet is crazy because he has a secret. This was ironic because the secret that Hamlet does have is that he knows that Claudius is his father's murderer. The very secret that plagues Claudius is the same that plagues Hamlet. Hamlet's mother, Gertrude, is wrapped up in her guilt about marrying Claudius so soon after the death of her late husband. She thinks that this must be what makes Hamlet rant so incoherently. While spying on Hamlet for the King, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern decide that he is going crazy because he can no longer fulfill his potential. Their betrayal of their school chum is fueled by the same blind ambition that they believefuels Hamlets insanity. Polonius thinks that Hamlet must be mad
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