Essay on "Hamlet" with regards to Hamlet and Ophelia's insanity

Essay by msloss@sasweb.orgHigh School, 12th grade April 2006

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Shakespeare's play "The Tragedy of Hamlet", Prince of Denmark is considered by T.S. Eliot to be the "Mona Lisa" of literature.1 However, the play is doomed from the madness that presides in the two main characters, Hamlet and Ophelia. There is evidence that when writing Hamlet, Shakespeare was specifically concerned with melancholia; a diagnosis that contained numerous more symptoms that today's times. Furthermore, it is thought that Shakespeare used the play as a device for him to portray Shakespeare's thoughts about madness and melancholy.2 Even more interesting is the history behind Hamlet's name. Hamlet's name is derived from an Old Norse Amlođi meaning "fool, ninny and idiot", however more important also from a Juttish trickster who feigned stupidity.3 The theme of madness is prevalent throughout the entirety of Hamlet; Hamlet and Ophelia both display fits of madness that are brought on, or perhaps created, by anything from syphilis to a feigned guise.

Their madness is almost certainly definite, but the cause is the more baffling topic.

Hamlet's madness is one of the most frequently discussed literary topics in the Shakespearean world. Theodore Lidz believes that "Madness is the means Shakespeare used to convey the disillusion and despair that pervades the characters, and leads them to rash and self-destructive acts, and to express the dissolution of their world. Madness is, moreover, essential to the structure of the play as well as to the development of its themes."4 According to Mr. Lidz Shakespeare uses madness as a means for the character's behavior in Hamlet. On the contrary, T.S. Eliot claims that "For Shakespeare it is less than madness and more than feigned." Eliot believes that Shakespeare created Hamlet in that way as an "emotional relief" to Hamlet.5 As for the driving reason behind his first traces of madness:

He that...