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Hamlet essay of madness ("antic" disposition)

cath08 3 / 1  
Jan 21, 2008   #1
I've my some changes to the essay. I used "antic" disposition in the essay, because that is what Hamlet refers his madness as. Can you proofread my Hamlet essay and offer suggestions? I am having trouble with the analysis part. I tried my best to expand the analysis, but I could only expand analysis up to one sentence. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

Madness is a condition in which is difficult to identify whether it is true or not. As in the encounter of the ghost of Hamlet's father and Hamlet, Hamlet is asked to avenge his father's death. To accomplish this task in a less apparent manner, Hamlet decides to put an antic disposition on. Consequently, his behavior thereafter is frequently baffling. William Shakespeare, the writer of the tragic play Hamlet leaves the audience to decide whether Hamlet is truly mad or not. Throughout Shakespeare's Hamlet, Hamlet's questionable madness is explored through his real madness, feigned actions, and the reactions of others towards his madness.

In some instances, Hamlet's madness can be seen as real. For example, Hamlet states as he makes a pass through the arras and kills Polonius, "How now! a rat? Dead for a ducat, dead!" (3.4, 25). Hamlet's madness is no longer feigned when he does not kill Claudius and instead kills Polonius, the wrong person, in such a rash manner. In addition, Hamlet murders without sight of what he is doing, which displays his loss of reason for putting an antic disposition on. Nevertheless, Hamlet could have had been mad before he puts an antic disposition. As is evident in the beginning of the play, Horatio and Marcellus try to hold Hamlet back, but Hamlet rebels. Hamlet states, "Still am I called. Unhand me, gentlemen--/ Heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets me!/ I say, away" (1.4, 84-86). Hamlet puts himself at risk and does not think about the consequences. With the purpose to walk towards the ghost and without contemplation, his behavior is thoughtless and rash, the characteristics of madness. His madness is further evident when he submits to his desire rather than reason through threatening those who hinder him from seeing the ghost as he wishes.

In other instances, Hamlet's madness can be seen as feigned. An example is Hamlet's interaction with Polonius. Hamlet states, "Slanders, sir; for the satirical rogue says here/ that old men have gray beards; that their faces are wrinkled; their eyes purging thick amber and/ plum-tree gum" (2.2, 197-200). Hamlet uses his feigned madness to his advantage to insult Polonius indirectly by cleverly crafting the subject of his book towards the explicit description of Polonius. Clearly, Hamlet's wit shows that he has not lost his reason and is not mad. Another example of Hamlet's feigned madness is Hamlet's communication with the ghost of his father while Gertrude is present. Gertrude, who cannot see the ghost, tells Hamlet, "No, nothing but ourselves...this the very coinage of your brain./ This bodiless creation ecstasy/ Is very cunning in..." (3.4, 134-139). Gertrude thinks Hamlet is mad, because she sees him talking to nothing. She thinks he is talking to himself. The audience knows that Hamlet is not in fact mad, since the audience sees in the play that he is actually talking to the ghost of his father.

Because of Hamlet's madness, there are the reactions of others. After Polonius is informed by his daughter, Ophelia, of Hamlet's madness, Polonius immediately goes to King Claudius and tells him he has the reason for Hamlet's madness. Gertrude responds, "I doubt it no other but the main,/ His father's death and our o'erhasty marriage" (56-57). As Hamlet's mother, Hamlet's father's wife, and Hamlet's father's brother's wife, Gertrude only sees the reasons for Hamlet's madness are his father's death and her quick marriage to his father's brother. However, Polonius believes differently. He tells Claudius how Ophelia obeyed his advice to "lock herself from his resort,/ Admit no messengers, receive no tokens...into the madness wherein now [Hamlet] raves" (2.2, 142-149). Polonius believes Hamlet's disappointed love for Ophelia has caused his madness. The point of views of the Gertrude and Polonius are limited to their relationship they share with Hamlet but no knowledge of Hamlet's true intentions. Gertrude bases her reason on Hamlet's experience over his father's death and her fault in her quick marriage with her son's uncle, and Polonius bases his reason on his knowledge of and interference in the relationship between his daughter and Hamlet. At first, Hamlet's madness is viewed as harmless and is thought to have been caused by no other than the problems that are present. However, when Hamlet murders Polonius, Hamlet's madness is interpreted differently. When Gertrude informs Claudius of this, Claudius states, "This mad young man. But so much was our love/ We would not understand what was most fit,/ But, like the owner of a foul disease" (4.1, 19-21). Hamlet's madness is compared to a "foul disease." His madness is no longer dismissed as a common problem of grief over his father's death, resentment in his mother's marriage, or disappointed love. Claudius, like others during the Renaissance, "would not understand" Hamlet's madness and distance himself from it with the assumption that the "disease" is dangerous.

Therefore, Hamlet's madness is questionable through Hamlet's real madness, feigned actions, and the reactions of others. By providing few stage directions, Shakespeare leaves the audience to make its own interpretation. The audience is left with Hamlet's words and actions and the reactions of others to determine if Hamlet's madness is in fact feigned or real. Regardless, these parts of evidence are insufficient in clearly defining Shakespeare's complex character Hamlet. Furthermore, to better understand the reactions of the characters in the play, the modern audience must familiarize itself with the Renaissance way of thinking, since the play was written during that time period for that audience. Nevertheless, the complication of the character and the modern audience's way of thinking altogether hinders to know truly if Hamlet is mad. As a result, Hamlet's madness can be best understood only through one's own interpretation.
EF_Team2 1 / 1,708  
Jan 22, 2008   #2

I think you've done an exellent job! It seems to me that your analysis is good, and well-supported with examples from the play. I have only a few editing suggestions:

Nevertheless, Hamlet could have [delete had] been mad before he puts an antic disposition.

and distances himself from it with the assumption that the "disease" is dangerous.

Nevertheless, the complication of the character and the modern audience's way of thinking altogether hinders truly knowing if Hamlet is mad.

Good work!


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