TheShakespearean play, ‘Hamlet’ dives into the depths of madness and the intelligencethat lies within the human mind. The theme of madness plays a reoccurring role whichis portrayed heavily through two characters, one being truly mad while theother is acting mad to serve a purpose. However, there are lucid differences betweenOphelia’s frailty of mind and Hamlet’s central act of deception.
Thisinfectious madness ultimately leads to a tragic ending, in which almost every majorcharacter is left for dead. Afterthe apparition of King Hamlet appears to his son in Act 1, we witness Hamletputting “an antic disposition on” as a reckoned maneuver to murder his uncleClaudius. Likewise, he announces out loud to multiple alibis that he plans todisguise himself as a maniac (I.
v. 72-75). He immediately begins to act oddlyin order to see if he can catch Claudius in a lie or to prove his crime somehow.
In the play the only characters who refer to Hamlet as mad are the king and hisaccomplice, and even they are haunted with suspicion. Polonius is the first to acknowledgehim as crazy, and he thinks it is because his daughter Ophelia has refused his affection.No sooner, Hamlets quick-witted games with the older gentleman leads him tobelieve “though this be madness, yet there is method in’t”(II. ii. 102). Thoughit suits the king’s interest to accept Polonius’s theory, he is never quiteconvinced of its truth. His instructions to his spies, “Get from him why heputs on this confusion”(III.
i. 134) imply that he understands it as mockeryand not real lunacy. He soon admits that Hamlets behaviour and words do notindicate madness but sadness “Nor what he spake, though it lacked form alittle.
Was not like madness.”(III. i. 146) But it serves his devilish plan todeclare him a lunatic, and to make this the excuse for getting rid of him onceand for all. Nonetheless, we are constantly reminded that the alleged insanity isjust an act, which is evident because no mad person could carry out a plan for vengeanceso sharply. Inact 4, on the other hand we have Ophelia who is robbed of her sanity after thedeath of her beloved father. Ophelia develops a different version of madnesscompared to Hamlet.
In her madness she sings crazy “songs”, the subject of herlyrics reveal how she feels about the tragedy that struck her family but moreimportantly her disappointment in Hamlet’s treatment towards her. Her heart hasbrainwashed her to believe that Hamlet loved her even though he swears he neverdid (III. i. 140-142). To Hamlet, she is a sexual object, a corrupt and sneaky “whore”(III.i.
142). “Then up he rose, and donned his clothes, and dupped the chamber door.Let in the maid that out a maid never departed more.”(IV. v. 238) The explicit sexualmention in Ophelia’s song perhaps account for her obsession with the now missingHamlet, as in promising his love to her earlier in the play and then being ridiculed,she is doubly heartbroken alongside the death of her father.
She continues to weepover the fatality of her father and being that he was such a vital figure inher life, she lost a piece of herself with him. Ophelia’s mental instability forcesher to stray further away from God’s light that in the end she takes her own life(IV. vii). Although Hamlet contemplates suicide in many of his soliloquies heis no where near acting upon his thoughts. Overall, she is unable to adjust withthe immediate losses in her life, leaving her in desperate need ofpsychological guidance.
Ascan be seen, both are suffering from the loss of their father thus why theyspiral out of control. At the same time, Hamlet is in full control over his stateof mind unlike Ophelia who allows this darkness to consume her whole. The dominoeffect that Claudius started ends in a series of unfortunate events.