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How true is Gertrudes statement about her son Hamlet

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Is Hamlet ‘mad’? Or is he simply performing by putting on an ‘act’? Throughout the play there are many quotes and actions to help us begin to understand Hamlet’s nature, however today there are still many unanswered questions concerning the troubled character. In many productions Hamlet’s character is comical (Hamlet 2000), where in others it is a performed in such a way that it has been lead of from depression and melancholy (Hamlet 1991) Prior to the scene where Gertrude claims that her son is mad.

Hamlet is very excited and thrilled with happiness, as he foolishly believes that he has proved his uncle as a murderer (3, 3. ) However this hope is broken when he is called upon by his mother. Hamlet meets Gertrude in a rude manner and behaves aggressively towards her (3, 4, 90,) he answers her back and interferes with the sexual relationship between his mother and Uncle. (3, 4, 92. ) Gertrude is puzzled, as she knows that this is not the sort of behaviour she expected from her son, making her suspicious and recall rumours of Hamlet being mentally unstable.

In the Kenneth Brannagh and Mel Gibson adaptations of ‘Hamlet’ (Hamlet 1996 and Hamlet1991) the tone of voice varies during this scene, Hamlet’s actions towards his mother are not only aggressive but also quite sexual. In the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet (Hamlet 1991), he attempts to rape her and is obsessed with his mother’s sexual life (3, 4, 92) this may imply more of a sexual fixation or connection Hamlet feels for Gertrude. Whereas in the Ethan Hawke production of ‘Hamlet’ (Hamlet 2000), the Prince acts violently towards Gertrude this is done by an assortment of furious gestures, along with talking very quickly and loudly.

Not only this, but within the same scene Hamlet murders Polonius; mistaking him for the king (3, 4, 24), however this does not convey any regret or sorrow within the Prince but instead builds upon his anger. Furthermore Hamlet claims to have seen his father’s ghost (3, 4,102); Shakespeare includes this in the scene to show that the ghost is just a figment of Hamlet’s imagination and is not present in reality.

This confirms Gertrude’s suspicions and leads her to saying ‘Alas he is mad. (3, 4,105. ) At the start of the play Hamlet is not only struck with grief from his late father’s death (King Hamlet) (1,2,48), but now has to deal with the marriage of Gertrude and his uncle (1,2), leading him into depression and anger towards his mother and step father. This is shown when he does not partake in an official wedding ceremony, by dressing in black (Hamlet 1991) showing he is still mourning, something that he believes his mother should be doing (1,2,52).

In addition to this he speaks rudely towards King Claudius and his mother (1, 2, 65/75-80). We are also show what in actual fact Hamlet is feeling when he starts talking to himself (1,2129) ; a soliloquy. “Hyperion to Satyr” (1, 2,140). He compares Claudius to his father, saying that his father was like a Hyperion (a son-god) while the new King a Satyr, i. e. one good and the other bad. This gives us an insight to Hamlet’s emotions and feelings towards Claudius and the situation at large.

Throughout the play Hamlets seems to be ‘mad’, he does this to make people believe he is mentally unstable. Hamlet’s ‘madness’ only manifests itself when he is the presence of certain characters; when he is around Polonius, Claudius, Gertrude, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern he behaves irrationally. An example of this is in Act 2, where he behaves in a strange manner whilst talking to Polonius (2, 2,170. ) He alleges to not recognising Lord Polonius, and insults him by remarking “y’are a fishmonger”.

Hamlet does this, as he knows that Lord Polonius will go tell King Claudius of Hamlet’s behaviour, hence proving his madness to others. Polonius personally thinks that the reason for why Hamlet is behaving in such a manner, is due to the King’s death, and that he is ‘mad in love’ because of Ophelia. (2, 1, 83. ) However the real reasoning behind Hamlet’s plan is to take revenge for his father’s death, by killing Claudius (1,5,31). If he succeeds in doing this he will not be accused of murder due to his ‘abnormal behaviour’; and instead be labelled as mad.

Evidence for this is that from the previous scene Hamlet tells Horatio that he is going to “feign madness”( )and that if Horatio notices and strange activities presented by Hamlet, it is because he is putting on a act (1,5,165). However in act one Horatio quotes “assume some other horrible form…. And draw you into madness. ” (1, 4, 72-74) he believes that Hamlet may indeed go ‘mad’ after seeing his father’s ghost. For a modern audience madness is a case of being psychologically disturbed, i. e. having a condition of mental disability, that allows one for not being responsible for his/her actions.

In this case, Hamlet not being held accountable for his uncle’s murder. Nowadays psychiatrists and specialist doctors hardly ever use the term ‘mad’ or ‘crazy’, as an alternative expression words such as ‘manic depression’ or ‘psychological issues’ are used. The Elizabethan audience deemed that a ‘mad man’ was a person who possessed a ghost or sprit, indeed this was a more god-fearing and superstitious generation, whom believed in many supernatural occurrences. The supernatural is a recurring aspect in many of the plays by William Shakespeare.

In Hamlet and Macbeth the supernatural is an vital part of the structure of the plot. In Hamlet it provides a catalyst for action by the characters. It gives an insight into the major players and it increases the impact of many key scenes. Furthermore the supernatural appeals to the audience’s curiosity of the mysterious and thus reinforces their interest. (www. elizabethan_era. co. uk) Psychoanalysis, developed by Dr. Sigmund Freud in the early 20th century was a new method, of understanding and identifying emotions and assisting people with their psychological problems. (www. en. wikipedia. rg/wiki/Psychoanalysis) People seek therapy for different reasons, whether it is frustration, depression, confusion or physical pain.

Psychoanalysis is designed to view specific problems in context to the behaviour and attitudes of person, it is a depth analysis and focuses on the individual’s circumstance, state of mind and understand how conscious feeling affect the way we behave/react. Throughout Freud’s work he often quotes Shakespeare, he repeatedly comments on Shakespeare’s plays and characters, (http://www. ade. org/ade/ bulletin/n087/087019. htm) which indicates that he found his work suitable findings for psychoanalysis examination.

However this does not mean psychoanalysis did exist in Shakespeare’s time, as Hamlet was not viewed as an individual who had ‘psychological problems,’ but simply a ‘mad’ and frustrated boy. Just as Hamlet informed the very foundations of psychoanalysis, psychoanalysis ended up influencing and shaping modern interpretations and performances of Hamlet. At the beginning of the play Hamlet can not come to terms with the death of his father (1,2,48) and becomes mentally disturbed in the months after his death (1,2). Hamlet’s Uncle Claudius marries his mother just two months after King Hamlet’s death, making the situation deteriorate.

He begins to withdraw himself from the castle and spends most of his time solitude; he is often seen walking alone and speaking to himself ( ) Hamlet’s ‘madness’ is apparent even before he sees the ghost of his father (1,2,66). At the start of the play the queen encourages him to look to the future (1,2,70), and put an end to the grieving (1,2,73. ) Hamlet responds angrily to her suggestion (1,2,76). Furthermore Hamlet’s relationship with Claudius is now evident; when he comments on his mother’s marriage: “cannot come to good” (1,2,158).

These lines give an important prediction to the rest of the play, as the young prince struggles to keep a clear head in order to take revenge. Not only this but further on in the play, Hamlet is seen to the audience as a troubled depressed young man considering taking his life (1,2,136). He contemplates suicide and a countless number of times he repeats the lines: “to be or not to be” (3,1,56). However he does not commit suicide as he still thinks he need to take revenge for his father’s death/murder ( ), and expose his uncle the new king, as a murderer ( ).

Hamlet is also paranoid, an example of this is when he asks Ophelia “where’s your father? ” (3,1,130. ) Her manner is stiff, henceforward making the prince suspicious and wary of those around him, indeed Hamlet has a reason to be paranoid for he is constantly being watched and observed. However this is not the only example, as Hamlet realises that his Uncle has set out to for Guildenstern and Rosencrantz to spy on him. “To draw him onto pleasures… gather as much as from occasion” (2, 2, 15. )

This makes Hamlet’s paranoia grow, and for him to believe that there is a conspiracy against him. ) At the end of the play, Hamlet shows signs of schizophrenia as he develops a multiple personality and starts talking to himself. (3, 1, 56) it is possible he could be seeing hallucination of his father’s ghost who is actually not there. Hamlet has a great fascination with death (1, 4), another symptom of schizophrenia. Despite being warned by Haratio (1,4,72-74) that following the ghost is a bad idea, his obsession with death puts all things aside. Hamlet could also suffer from split personality disorder, which is one person having two or more distinct personalities each with different feelings and views.

One example of this is in Act 1 Scene 3, Gertrude notifies Hamlet that she would prefer it if he does not got back to university (1, 2,119) his reply is rather obedient and shows acceptance to his mother’s wishes: “I shall in all best obey you madam” (1, 2,120), however as soon as she leaves Hamlet quotes “Frailty, thy name is women. ” (1,2,146) this show us that there is almost two different Hamlets. However this does not necessarily mean that Hamlet is ‘mad’, as others may interpret that he is only ‘acting.

Currently the prince is studying in Wittenberg University (1, 2,119) and has taken the subject drama, hence increasing the chance of the fact of him only ‘acting’. Hamlet knows and is familiar with the actors whom are in the play he conducts, this show that they are form the same university and may be friend /colleagues “good friends” (2, 2,386). Throughout the lead up of the play Hamlet advises the actors, give them tips to improve their performance and strict instructions to follow ( 3,2,1) Hence showing that Hamlet, himself is capable of acting very well and making people believe him even when under false pretence.

He also states that there performance should be natural and should come as if they were not acting “hold up mirror to nature” (3, 2, 18. ), not as it was seen in the Hamlet adaptations directed by Lawrence Oliver (Hamlet 1951. ) The performers readily accept his advice, not because of his status of being the prince but respect him as one of his own; as an actor. When the ‘mousetrap’ is performed, Shakespeare keeps making Hamlet talk and interrupt the play ( 3,2, 162/206) ,this shows that he is always hungry for attention form the audience at large, and especially the main characters : Gertrude and Ophelia(3,4,223).

Furthermore showing that Hamlet believes that he has finally proved his uncle as a murderer, and is overjoyed at the success of his plan (3,2,265-267) Depression did not just affect Hamlet, but Ophelia too (4,5, 41). Ophelia goes mad and commits suicide because she feels she has nobody left in her life (4,7,164). Her madness can be contrasted to Hamlet’s, therefore whilst comparing to the two we can conclude what is ‘real madness’ and what is not.

Ophelia’s breakdown into madness and not being able to deal with her father’s death (4,5,4) and Hamlet’s rejection ( 4,5,46-55)is dealt with promptly. In contrast Hamlet’s smart plotting and the amount of people witnessing his actions. An example is when Hamlet is sent to England (4, 3,54), he carefully exchanges the letter resulting to Guildenstern and Rosencrantz’s death( 4,6,26 ). Hence real ‘madness’ has been defined in the play by using Ophelia as a ‘tool’. Generally Hamlet’s conduct towards women is negative; it shows that he is a misogynist.

However this does not necessarily mean that he hated all women, as during Shakespeare’s time women were treated in this certain manner, and was not seen as abnormal. ( ) Hamlet’s behaviour towards Ophelia is inconsistent throughout the play. After her death, as he is visiting her grave he jumps in the grave to fight with Laertes (5,1,246) . During the fight, hamlets states, “forty thousand brothers could into, with all their quantities of love make up my sum. ” (5, 1,236-238). These statements contradicts what he said previously, whilst returning his gifts he professed to never loving her ( 3,1,116).

Moreover at times it can be seen Hamlet may love his mother too much, this can be seen in act 3 when he interferes with he sex life (3,4,90). In the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet (Hamlet 1991), he attempts to rape her and is obsessed with his mothers sexual life (3, 4, 92. ) Hence this many have been the real reason behind his ‘revenge’ towards his uncle and behind his ‘madness. ‘ Consequently, if the real reason for his ‘madness’ was the death for his father he would not be contemplating his mother’s sexual associations, but be focusing on proving his father’s mysterious death.

However Hamlet is left questioning if it is worth living in such misery, and by lifting the burden of avenging for his father’s death he thinks of suicide as an escape, “Things rank and gross in nature. ” (1,2,136). However for religious reasons Hamlet is stopped, because suicide is self murder, and murder is against Hamlet’s Christian beliefs and laws of the Church (1,1,129-132) Therefore this may have also been a reason for hesitation in killing Claudius, as in Shakespeare’s time revenge was an irreligious act and seen as a crime against sacred laws.

For during Elizabethan times the revenger’s soul was thought to suffer eternal anguish in the afterlife. However during the time of Elizabethan theatre, plays were about tragedy and revenge. In all revenge tragedies firstly, a crime is committed and for various laws cannot punish the crime so the individual who is the main character, goes through with the revenge in spite of everything. The main character then usually had a period of doubt, where he tries to decide whether or not to go through with the revenge, which usually involves tough and complex planning.

Other features that were typical were the appearance of a ghost, to get the revenger to go through with the deed. The revenger also usually had a very close relationship with the audience through soliloquies and asides. The original crime that will eventually be avenged is nearly always sexual or violent or both. The crime has been committed against a family member of the revenger.

The revenger places himself outside the normal moral order of things, and often becomes more isolated as the play progresses-an isolation which at its most extreme becomes madness. www. elizabethan_era. co. uk) An example of this is, Laertes’s reaction towards his fathers death which is filled with action; his willingness to revenge his fathers death is supported with his determination to do something about it (4, 7,125/141). This is the complete opposite reaction compared to Hamlet, and shows that the prince procrastinates, as he has been plotting his fathers revenge for seven months but has never taken action (3, 3, 76-78) Another character which shows Hamlets cowerdness is prince Fortinbras who invades Denmark at the end ( ).

Many could argue that Fortinbras is similar to Hamlet (he also lost his father and his uncle took over the kingdom), but is also somewhat different. Fortinbras is more decisive while Hamlet is rather weary to take revenge of his father’s murder ( ). When Fortinbras’s troops are moving to take over, Hamlets scolds himself on being so cowardly and does not take any action ( ) Overall from observing Hamlets quotes and behaviour we can tell that he is not always ‘mad’, as he confesses to Haratio if he acts strange the reasoning behind it was to take revenge and nothing more (1,5,166-180).

Also the planning and intellect gone into certain acts of ‘madness’ show Hamlet may have been ‘acting’ ( ). However certain acts contradict this, as many symptoms of schizophrenia can be seen in Hamlet ( ), i. e. hallucinations and believing to see his fathers ghost (3, 4,102). At the end of the play it could be said that Hamlet is cured ;( ), as he apologises to Laertes and admits that his loss of control is due to his madness, and contemplates that it was his suffering and procrastination that kept him from killing Claudius sooner.

The cause of Hamlets madness may have been branched of from his insanity caused by the king’s death (1,2,48) and anger which lead from his mothers bondage with Claudius(1,2). The type of behaviour/madness Hamlet experiences is common today and should be diagnosed with schizophrenia, a disease caused by stress (from the past and present), personal difficulties or other psychological problems, which are often the unexplainable to relatives and friends.

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