Was Hamlet mad?

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Hamlet proclaimed that he was not mad, but only pretended to be mad. Could it be, that he was mad all along? Or maybe he wasn't mad at first, but as things became more and more complicated, he started to really lose his mind? Or maybe, he was not at all mad? Any opinion will be welcomed!

-- Anat (dayag@hotmail.com), December 21, 1999


The question of Hamlet's madness has vexed scholars since the first production of the play. The ansewer lies the actor's performance. In Zeffirelli's film Mel Gibson's dane does indeed go mad while contemplating revenge for his father's death. Olivier's prince is harder to gage but I believe that his madness is more akin to temporary insanity (perhaps due to the short running time). But with Branagh's performance I believe the prince is merely prentending to be mad in order to gain time to make a decision about killing the king. The only scene where madness may be infurred is when Hamlet kills Polonius and even then Hamlet has whipped himself into a frenzy by confronting his mother that he is more confused then truely mad. Branagh Hamlet is very much a man who can't make up his mind. He spends the first part of the film buying time so he won't have to make a decision and his "madness" allows him the freedom to wander unopposed.

-- Brian Burkart (Burke724@aol.com), January 09, 2000.

No, I don't think Hamlet was actually mad. Whenever he is alone with Horatio, he's sane enough. Stressed, certainly, but sane. The loony act not only lets him vent his feelings, but also gives him time to adapt to new ideas (i.e. cold-blooded murder). And just possibly an out should he manage to do the deed and be found out (temporary insanity has gotten more than one murderer leniency).

-- mikken (mikken@neo.rr.com), February 04, 2000.

No Hamlet is not mad, nor ever was. Think about his speech regarding Yorick. Alas poor, Yorick, I knew him Horatio. When Hamlet was young there was a fool in court. Remember what Touchstone says in As You Like It: The more pity that fools cannot speak wisely what wise men do foolishly. Hamlet simply takes on the role of Fool. Unfortunately no-one at the court remembers Yorick and so they cannot understand what Hamlet is doing and so pronounce him mad. That is why Hamlet calls upon the players. His actions as fool have not brought results and so the play's the thing wherein he'll catch the conscience of a King. The play charts Hamlet's attempts to prove his Uncle's guilt. To kill a King was serious even if you were certain he was a murderer. Macbeth comes up against the same problem. When Hamlet returns from England and embarks on the dual his speech regarding the fate of a sparrow answers the question. If it be now etc. He has come to the end of his options, everything will be answer there and then.

-- Sam Portlock (Sam.Portlock@userm.avonhealth.swest.nhs.uk), February 18, 2000.

I m not sure I agree with u, Sam. Hamlet doesn't acts like a fool.. he acts like a mad man. and he does it so that no1 will stand in his way. they can 4give him for anything he might do, because he is "mad". he says so himself, just after the ghost tells him about his uncle and he actions. he says that he will chose the way of insanity, and he confesses that later to his mother (even though she doesn't believe him). no, I m very much aware to the fact that Hamlet wasn't mad at first. but could it b that... he played it so well that he began believing it himself? untill he was sent to England, anyway.

-- Anat (dayag@hotmail.com), February 18, 2000.

Hamlet was not mad. Consider this: what is the definition of insanity? Clearly, insanity seems to run along the lines of something like this: "Losing touch with reality, lacking the ability to determine right from wrong, or having no concept for the consequences of one's actions." Hamlet has a clear understanding of the situation, understands that he is in the wrong no matter what he does, and realizes - all too fully - the consequences of his actions. He is, therefore, not mad. Madness is NOT making decisions that we ourselves would not make. Remember, "Though this is madness, there's method in 't." By definition, Polonius's very words discount the possibility of madness. If there is method, then there is no madness.

-- Kevin Butler (zippyfrog@yahoo.com), November 24, 2000.

From the very beginning of the play Hamlet gives the impression that he is insane. Whenever he interacts with the characters he is wild, crazy, and plays a fool. However in other instances when he is alone, or with Horatio he is civilized and sane. The reason for this is simple, Hamlet is not mad but rather he just pretends to be mad in order express his feelings, formulate new plans, and to gain information. Hamlet is sane from the moment the play begins to the moment he dies. At the beginning of Hamlet, before Hamlet is told by the ghost that Claudius killed his father, Hamlet is broken up over his father’s death, and the “hasty marriage” of his mother and Claudius. “The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.” At this time he doesn’t show any signs of madness, only sorrow. “Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief, that can denote me truly.” After some time passes Hamlet is visited by the ghost of his father. The ghost instructs Hamlet that he must “[r]evenge his foul and most unnatural murder.” Thus Hamlet has his quest; to revenge the death of his father. Hamlet believes what the ghost tells him. “It is an honest ghost let me tell you.” From this moment we, as readers, question his sanity. Could a man who sees the ghost of his dead father truly be sane? Of course, but only if he pretends to be insane. As Hamlet contemplates killing Claudius, he begins to doubt the words of his father’s ghost. As he is trying to determine if the ghost is a “friendly” or “evil” spirit, the players arrive at the castle. At greeting the players, Hamlet forms a plan that he intends to use in order to prove that Claudius guilty. Hamlet’s plan is to “have these players play something like the murder of my father before mine uncle,” and then have Horatio observe Claudius’ reaction. Hamlet acts most insane when the play is preformed than at any other point in the entire play. He even goes as far as placing his head in Ophelia’s lap muttering phrases like: “[l]ady should I lie in your lap” and “[f]or look you how cheerfully my mother looks, and my father died within ’s two hours.” Hamlet pretends to be insane to draw the attention of Gertrude and Claudius. He acts like a fool to make them believe that he is insane in order to get a reaction from them, and so they listen to his comments during the course of the play. When the play is over and Hamlet takes “the ghost’s word for a thousand pound,” He regains his composure when talking to Horatio. The entire time during the play he pretending to be insane because his must make Claudius believe that he is truly insane. However, when Hamlet is forming his plans, and contemplating his next move he is just as sane as he was before his father’s death. Hamlet lays low until after he returns from England after Polonius’ death. When he returns he finds that Ophelia has taken her life, and that Laertes wants to take revenge for the death of his father. Hamlet is then challenged to a fencing match. Where he must beat Laertes to keep his “honor.” During the Fencing match Hamlet act a little insane, but for the most part, in spite of all of the death, Hamlet retains his composure. Hamlet ends up winning the match against Laertes. However, he “is slain” from the poison that was on the tip of Laertes’ sword. Before Hamlet dies he kills Laertes, whose dieing words prove Hamlet’s sanity. . .“the King is to blame.” From the very beginning of Hamlet to the end Hamlet retains his sanity, but at times he must exhibit insanity in order to accomplish the task that his father’s ghost originally asked his to do, “[r]evenge his foul and most unnatural murder.” Hamlet is never insane, but rather he just allows people to think he is.

-- Chris Schauerman (Admiral016@hotmail.com), April 24, 2001.

Hamlet does not suffer from mental infirmity. The Prince's decisionnot to act promptly is not caused by some mental or physical incompetance , but rather by a complex intellectual crisis demanding evidence to determine which course of action to assume.

-- Random ledge (random.scott@thespurs.co.uk), April 25, 2001.

I agree with Random ledge.

-- mikken (mikken@neo.rr.com), April 27, 2001.

Quite frankly, Hamlet intends for Claudius and co. to be in the mind frame that the grief-stricken protagonist has gone mad. As a result, he finds himself in a position to take his uncle's life and condemn his own mother for marrying such a specimen as Claudius. A superbly conducted avengment if i say so myself

-- Matthew Oswald (tclads@hotmail.com), May 14, 2001.

I believe that there is an important argument for Hamlet's insanity. When the Ghost first appears, everyone present could see it (Horatio, Marcellus, Bernardo - act one, scene one). However, when the Ghost reappears in act three, scene four (after Hamlet kills Polonius), Hamlet is the only person who sees it. Gertrude cannot see it, and so says that Hamlet IS really mad. By this point, probably, Hamlet was insane enough to imagine the presence of the Ghost.

-- Hans Rotmann (h_rotmann@hotmail.com), June 04, 2001.

Or the Ghost only reveals himself to those who need to see him. In the opening, the guards were seeing him because he needed to contact someone who could avenge him (why not go to Hamlet's bedroom and tap him on the shoulder? -- too easy, and not enough exposition). In the other scenes, he was there only for Hamlet so no one else needed to see him.

-- mikken (mikken@neo.rr.com), June 05, 2001.

Hamlet is never truly mad in any part of the play. Hamlet hides behind madness because he knows that he will not be seen as committing crimes against the crown (such as mutiny, or conspiracy to kill the king.) This plan clearly works because the king knows that the people of Denmark love hamlet and that if he kills hamlet in a brief period of madness, he will be up for questioning and his country will turn on him. The deliberate ambiguity which hamelet puts into his "words of madness" is clearly not madness at all. He is challenging characters suck asClaudius, Gertrude and Polonius but challenging them cleverly enough as to not be held responsible from the interpretations that they take. If hamlet was truly mad, then he would have had the actions of a mad man. His actions were not mad but of a man far beyond his time, because as he states in the play "time is out of joint" If he was mad, his actions would have been that of a crazy man. Hamlets constant battle between his heart and his mind show that he is not mad. A mad man can not think, but hamlet does the very opposite and analyses every single action that he does (or does not) make. If hamlet was truly mad then he would just kill the king, or take up his own desires to kill himself. HE makes the world believe he is mad, only so he can have the chances that only a mad man could gain, such as challenging authority, killing Rosencratz and Guildferstern, Killing Laertes, and finally in the end, getting the sweet revenge of killing Claudius. I believe that Hamlet does not become sane, but becomes more sane through out the plan, learning about diplomacy, learning about the consequences, and finally, taking the actions that only a true genious could ever wish for... The total annihalation of all that was wrong when he started on his revenge.

-- Anthony Eager (An2ny2@hotmail.com), June 07, 2001.

well, all of the answers are certainly very interesting andpresent valid points of view. however, i believe that due to all the grief and anger hamlet had experienced, the loss of his father, the truth that he was murdered by his brother who is now the king of denmark, the fact that his mother had married this treacharous villain and the belief that his lover is working against him, he puts on a mask of maddness to conceal his actions. sadly, in the end, he seems to become what he has portrayed himself to be and meets his fate.

-- una (lucifers_kiss666@hotmail.com), July 31, 2001.

Hamlet is not mad, I agree with a lot of the previous comments. Hamlet has been placed in an awkward sitution. He discovers the truth from a supernatural being, at the time, he questions whether it is evil or something he can trust. The instruction from the ghost to avenge his fathers death is immediatly taken into action. Hamlet from the very start acts mad to challenge and manipulate other characters. This exhibition of supposable madness allows him to gain vital information and to scheme up a play, which focuses on the renactment of his fathers death. The reaction of Claudius and his confessions while at prayer only confirm the truth behind everything that hamlet has been told. Hamlet is clearly not mad. The fact he can act insane and gain the truth through his actions clearly shows a man of intelligence not madness.

-- Ro (ro_10684@yahoo.com), August 01, 2001.

The answer to whether Hamlet was mad or not relies entirely on your definition of madness: Collins Concise English dictionary defines mad as the state of being "mentally deranged; insane; sensless; foolish" so to that respect it is clear that Hamlet is in fact not mad, in fact quite the opposite in that it is his ability to know right from wrong and to empathise that was indeed his fatal flaw that lef to his downfall. Yet his blaitent inability to take decisive action or even think decisive thoughts proves that he was of unsound mind and while he initially may have been sane he is gradually consumed by his words, hurt and ambivalence; this pushing him over the 'edge'. One could also argue that he proclaims his sanity to his mother and Horatio and so must be sane - but patients are released from an asylum by saying they're not mad - in fact very few people with any sort of mental disorder accept or realise they have one.

-- Greig Ewart (GreigE2K@TheFreeInternet.co.uk), September 26, 2001.

First rule is take WS at face value, ie. what he puts into words he means, and it usually makes the best sense. So, H is not mad, he is putting "an antic disposition on" as he says he will(I.v.170 - 180) when around people he thinks he needs to mislead in this way, so they will not suspect his designs on Claudius.

-- catherine england (catherineamer@hotmail.com), October 05, 2001.

I don't believe Hamlet is mad! It is purely a disguise of insanity, so he can be "let off the hook" when he kills Claudius in the act of revenge for his murdered father. The reaosn i believe this is mainly due to the vital scene with Ophelia. When Polonius and Claudius are trying to find out whether Hamlet is mad due to unrequited love, reguarding Ophelia. Hamlet initially in the scene acts sane, though when his quick mind uncovers that he is being watched his character changes dramatically and turns into the Hamlet who is "acting" mad. For surely someone who was mad couldn't change there character like that?

-- Holly (pyjama__princess@hotmail.com), November 20, 2001.

Welli agree that Hamlet was NOT mad considering he returned home from school to find that his father had been murdered,and his incestuous mother had married his uncle (claudius). also you have to see that he acted mad to throw claudius and polonius off gaurd always wandering what he would do next. so....was he "mad?" NO he was very smart getting under claudius's skin and keeping them off him while he devised a way to catch caudius's actions toward his father's death.

-- Blake Kibbons (dimand_studder@hotmail.com), January 08, 2002.

Hamlet was mad, yo! Fuh-real.

- A.C.

-- A.C. Bradley (acbradley@aol.com), January 21, 2002.


Prove it?

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), January 22, 2002.

no he wasnt mad but "mad in craft" acted mad to decieve claudius and others to cover up his mission to murder claudius and fool the people he knows were spying on him in the nunnery and closet scenes.

-- pete d (dolphin_peter@hotmail.com), January 24, 2002.

Mad people, if ever, rarely admit they are mad. However, there is an arrugment put forward by a contemporary critic that he was in fact mad, but that his pretnce to be mad was in fact pretended "the ruse of a madman's cunning" if that makes sense. However, Hamlet appears to be much more of a procastinator and indesicive man that literally mad, although depression, something he is clearly suffering from when examing his solilquys and speeches is in actual fact a form of madness. So Hamlet is mad in that respect.

-- mini-me (jupiterian56@hotmail.com), February 17, 2002.

I reckon hamlet was and is stil an absolute idiot!!!

-- George (sleazzyg@hotmail.com), February 27, 2002.

Oh. Why? Mind you, he might return the compliment.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), February 28, 2002.

look people, there is a simple answer to all of this. phycology, if a person can say that they are insane then they realy aren't. people that are insane dont know there insane and they think there right, hamlet knows hes wrong, and can say that he is sometimes insane , there for it is proven that he can not be insane . i rest my case

-- chris stanczak (stanz2002@aol.com), March 06, 2002.

i's admit neither of assumptions rather i would follow the midway. if it is madness then what is wisdom and if it be wisdom then what is madness. the persons who call hamlet either mad or not mad they should define madness first and those who call him sane define it alike. babar saeed pakistan.

-- BABAR SAEED (renaissancepostgraduatecollege@yahoo.com), March 10, 2002.

mad in craft and craft in madness

-- BABAR SAEED (renaissancepostgraduatecollege@yahoo.com), March 10, 2002.

mad in craft and craft in madness. lover in frenzy, son in passivity, murdrer in notions. just a too much thinking brain

-- BABAR SAEED (renaissancepostgraduatecollege@hotmail.com), March 10, 2002.

What is thinking too much? We all think, all the time. It's only called too much because Hamlet wonders if it is. But thinking doesn't really stop him acting decisively when there is no time or occasion for thought.

When we say he's not mad I believe we are denying in him what Claudius terms 'turbulent and dangerous lunacy': lunacy = 'insanity (formerly of the intermittent kind attributed to the changes of the moon)' (Concise Oxford). There are specific moments in the play when he can be seen pretending such bouts of irrationality or senselessness in front of other people, to cover his plans and also what is the very real unhappiness, anger, frustration, despair he frequently demonstrates in private.

Of course it's the old question: 'to define true madness,/ What is't but to be nothing else but mad'; or from TWELFTH NIGHT, Feste - 'tell me true, are you not mad indeed, or do you but counterfeit?' Malvolio - 'Believe me, I am not, I tell thee true.' Feste - 'Nay, I'll ne'er believe a madman till I see his brains.' I love that logic: the poor bastard can't win, no matter what he says. WS seems to have found exploring the natures of foolishness/madness fascinating.

But while you get characters like Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Polonius who are in many ways fools but not madmen, I'm never going to accept that Hamlet is a madman who is no fool. I think Hamlet's dealings with people he likes, respects and trusts, as well as his thoughts in private, show that he is quite thoroughly sane and sensible as well as clever.

He's a nice guy but no saint. He's intelligent but not omniscient. He's young and inexperienced but not naive or immature. He's intellectual, but feels deeply and strongly. He's pushed and pushed by blow after blow, but troubled by his own uncertainty as to what is true and right and just. He's in some very devastating circumstances, but still manages to find moments of levity and even joy. He thinks about what to do but still makes mistakes.

He's so beautifully human, but not at all lunatic.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), March 11, 2002.

Hamlet wants his uncle to burn in hell. That alone to me is unbelievable hatred and leads me to the conclusion that only someone who can hate that intensly is insane.

-- (jenoa@hotmail.com), March 12, 2002.

His interactions with the other characters in the play, and his ability know in advance the corrupt plans of so many of his enemies at Elsinore, demonstrate Hamlet’s sensible thoughts that would not go through his mind had he gone mad. There are also considerable distinctions between the actions of Hamlet in his "mad" state of mind and the few other characters that undoubtedly lost sanity. Hamlet is a smart, scholarly man, and faking a mental disability could certainly a part of his plot to revenge his father's death, which was a command of his father. Hamlet gives a warning to Horatio and others that he might act strangely at times, which would put whatever “mad” tendencies other may he displays into perspective. He unmistakably informs his mother, the queen Gertrude, that she was not to reveal to Claudius that he was "not in madness, but mad in craft" (3:4:9). She is not convinced that her son is okay, however he is clear in his point. A mad man would certainly not care about the other's thoughts and opinions of him. There many less reasons for him going mad, and as scholar, he would have more sense than to not tell someone. He would certainly tell his friend, Horatio that he was not feeling himself if given the chance, which he never did. Horatio would probably have notice if his friend was acting out of the ordinary without a reason, and brought it to someone's attention, had it been serious enough. The first time the king and queen become aware of his "madness" is when Polonius announces it to them and tells them of Hamlets love for his daughter, Ophelia. Your noble son is mad: Mad call I it; for, to define true madness, What is't but to be nothing else but mad? But let that go…At such a time I'll loose my daughter to him…”(2:2:99).

Polonius is an untrustworthy character, and does not do anything in the whole length of the play to help Hamlet with any of his problems, chiefly caused my Polonius and the King. He is the first to bring the idea of Hamlets “insanity” to the King and Queen; Therefore, at first, it could just be a technique to give more reason to send Hamlet away to England. Ophelia reports to her father that Hamlet was somewhat violent with her, both physically and verbally (2:1:87). From her description he displayed drastic unawareness, through his lack of proper clothing and insensible speech, so much that it seems highly improbable that he went mad so quickly. It most likely would have been a more gradual process. When we see Hamlet later speaking to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (2:2:240). There is no textual note of odd dress, or unordinary facial expressions, through the rest of the play, like those that Ophelia reported to her father. Hamlet is talking as anyone would when he greeted his childhood friends, a large contrast to the tone and attitude he had moments before they entered the room. His remark to the audience "these tedious old fools", referring to Polonius and Claudius, is a glimpse of Hamlets sane side, which he was choosing not to show to the king and his advisor. After the play, The Murder of Gonzogo Hamlet talks to Horatio about Claudius's reaction to the play, and seems to be fine. It would be very strange that the prince would be able to regain his sanity after such intense periods of talking gibberish and nonsensical phrases. Given this evidence, it is already assumable that it is a show the others are seeing, not true madness. Queen Gertrude is confronted again with the idea of her son’s madness. When he faces her in her chambers, when the ghost of his dead father visits Hamlet, Gertrude claims not to see the ghost of her late husband (3:4:51), which may or may not be true. Given that his mother is telling truth, it is still highly probable that the ghost is physically in the room, rather than in the mind of Hamlet. In the first scene of the play, upon the ghost entering for the first time, it makes itself clear in that it will not speak to Horatio, Bernardo, or Marcellus. The only human it converses with is Hamlet, which would explain its choice not to reveal its presence to the queen. She might even be lying about not noticing the ghost, or she might feel so much guilt about marrying her husband’s brother that she chooses not to see what causes her so much pain. Gertrude most likely told the king of Hamlet's hallucinations, and they based the majority of their opinion on that moment, though her first thought was that Hamlet's madness was caused by her "o'er hasty marriage" to Claudius (2:2:??). Claudius himself cared little for his step-son, made clear when he sent Hamlet away to be executed, and could easily stretch a story to make it more outrageous, thus giving more reason to do away with him. Gertrude, Claudius, Polonius and others base their convictions of Hamlet’s insanity on his belief of the presence of a ghost. They are wrongfully condemning his guilt, because not only do others see the ghost, but also it makes a statement of its need to see Hamlet, and only him. Gertrude denied sight of the ghost of King Hamlet a few times throughout the play, but that is not true with everyone. Marcellus and Barnardo saw the ghost initially, and though they were unsure who the figure was, the two men were smart enough to find a more scholarly and cultured man to judge the identity of the figure. The play opens with Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo watching for the spirit, Horatio is skeptical at first, but after seeing the former king, he finds his friend Hamlet, and tells him what happened. That is the first time we meet the young Hamlet. He is confused and troubled upon hearing the news, but does not hesitate in volunteering to go see for himself. When they arrive at the tower and see the ghost, Horatio and Marcellus try to keep their friend Hamlet from going alone with it. They knew so little about the image; it could very well have been a war omen, or a demon. After he is certain that the figure is the Dane, and not a demon, Hamlet converses with it. His father tells him of the horrid way his own brother killed him and how revenge was crucial. This all happens before the close of the first act One of the most straightforward verification of Hamlets is the play Hamlet organizes, The Murder of Gonzogo, is something Hamlet had preformed to determine weather or not the ghost that spoke to him was real, or in his mind. The first piece of evidence that comes from that is, would a mad man care to find out if his madness was genuine? Hamlet certainly did make an effort to justify the strange sights he saw, which is a very sensible thing to do. The second, and most essential part of this evidence is Claudius’s reaction to the play. He rises upon hearing that Lucianus poison in the Kings ear, exactly the cruelty that Claudius inflicted on his brother, the late King Hamlet. Horatio makes it apparent that he knew of the ghost, when he said “There needs no ghost my lord, come from the grave, to tell us this” in response to Hamlets rude remark about King Claudius. Both men swear not to reveal what they have seen, to anyone- proof that they had seen something out of the ordinary. The ghost did make an appearance in the first and fifth acts, and characters other than just Hamlet recognized it. If any of Hamlet’s madness is based on his talk of ghosts, he accusation is a blunder. Hamlet did not do a bad thing by frightening his uncle, but it certainly did make an impact. Claudius’s startled state after the player’s performance is proof that Hamlet is correct in his accusations. The Ghost of his father was the one that informed Hamlet of this ill deed. If the spirit were simply a fabrication of his imagination, than there would be no explanation for Hamlet’s knowledge of his father’s murder. He was the one that instructed the players to put on the show; therefore he must have gotten the information about the characters from some source, namely his dead father. If the ghost were there in the beginning, what would keep him from checking on his son from time to time? Young Hamlet was asked to seek revenge on his uncle, and the ghost is depending on him to do that. The spirit would have no choice but to be frequently watching his son, to know that he intends to do the job. There is so much evidence the specter is not just in Hamlets mind, that it is certain that the Ghost can not be considered when deciding that Hamlet is insane. Most of the "trustworthy" characters in the play recognize the ghost. Hamlet informs Horatio and Marcellus (1:5:190) that he will “put an antic disposition on”, and might mutter strange phrases and demonstrate other acts of insanity. There is no doubt that others think he is unwell, but it could just be a statement used to back up the idea of sending the prince away. Claudius is opposed to Hamlets presence from the beginning, but chooses to let him stay for his own purposes. Though Prince Hamlets insanity is the main focus of distress for most, other individuals are mad as well, and for the first time quite genuinely. When Ophelia is seen as mad for the first time (4:5:28) she is openly singing and chanting- things that Hamlet never did. He talks of Polonius as a “fishmonger”, and often makes reference to other seemingly ridiculous things, which could, and do at times, have deeper meaning. He was generally just talking sharply about some of his enemies. The strange behavior is probably a way to distract Polonius, Claudius, and perhaps the Queen, while Hamlet seeks revenge for his lifeless father. The most suspicious aspect of the “madness” is that his moments of visible mental uneasiness go on and off. One moment he will be talking nonsense to the King and his advisor, and within minutes he is talking in a perfectly understandable tone to his old childhood friends. “Hamlet Ay, sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand. Lord Polonius That's very true, my lord. Hamlet For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a god kissing carrion,--Have you a daughter?”… “Guildenstern My honoured lord! Rosencrantz My most dear lord! Hamlet My excellent good friends! How dost thou, Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do ye both?”

Later, Hamlet quickly understands that the once friends of his have now turned against his and become spies for Claudius. He does not take a sharp tone with them though, he is aware of his limits, and does not often do what would cause him great consequences. When he takes drastic measures against someone, it is not during an ant of insanity, but during a serious moment that has been though about before. He seems to be less in control off his thoughts around his enemies, than around people he trusts. Hamlet would have no reason to act mad in front of Horatio, first of all because his friend is intelligent enough to distinguish between false and true madness, and because there is no reason for Hamlet to try to fool his closest friend into thinking the untrue. Marcellus is also aware of Hamlets pretending, obviously because he trusts him not to reveal anything to people that could inflict harm on him, just for those reasons. When Hamlet apologized to Laertes (5:2:240) he is sincere, and shows very few signs of madness, if any at all. He knows this will be his last chance at apologizing, so he tries to make it believable. Hamlet contemplates suicide from the beginning of the book, (3:1:64) which would explain his seemingly impulsive choice to fence with Laertes. He questions issues of humanity often, especially towards the close of the play, which would explain his hasty choice to fence with this dangerous rival, that is plotting to take away the only thing Hamlet has, his life. Much unlike a truly insane person Hamlet does not act spontaneously. There is never a significant doing on his part that was not well thought out in advance The “madness” that Hamlet portrays in the tragedy, though believed to be true my many, is false. It possibly allowed Hamlet more time to plot the revenge for his father’s death by Claudius, or was just an example of the young prince’s love of drama. Either way, their were many flaws in his “act” that go unnoticed by the other characters, but can be picked up on by the reader. Hamlets frequent switching from sanity to madness, are obvious clues that he is pretending. The ghost of his dead father, and the play that proved his existence outside of Hamlet’s mind are convincing confirmation that he was not hallucinating. All the characters that used Hamlets “disability” as a tool could be merely forcing themselves to believe that Hamlet is mad. He could just be going along with their unfortunate thoughts to convince them he is mad. Shakespeare’s Masterpiece, Hamlet draws in so many people because of these debatable arguments. The question of Hamlets madness is reasonable, and after re-reading all the textual evidence, one must lean towards the fact that Hamlet is sane, for whatever reasons he chooses. It is a marvelous plan on his part, and should be noted as such.

-- Alyce Tyltun (cowie_cow_cow@hotmail.com), March 26, 2002.

Hullo Alyce! You are my new best friend.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), March 27, 2002.

On the burning in Hell thing, a couple of responses back:

There are horridly vindictive murders every day, not all committed by madmen.

Early modern Europe (including England) was a violent place, and one where capital punishment was common and sensibilities were tougher. In that cultural context it's reasonably understandable that merely to kill might not seem enough for vengeance for murder.

Claudius himself says, 'Revenge should know no bounds' (IV.vii.127). In HAMLET it's 'eye for an eye' vengeance, and revenge is, after all, Bacon's 'wild justice'. Claudius didn't bother about his brother's soul. Claudius just knocked King Hamlet off 'even in the blossom of [his] sin' (I.v.74-80) without even Hamlet's motivation. And Claudius plans the same 'horrible' thing for young Hamlet in England (see V.ii.20-25). Plus Claudius' plan with Laertes, to kill Hamlet in the rigged fencing match, would have the same, quite possibly damning effect, after Hamlet has killed Laertes' father. But Claudius isn't mad. Nor is Laertes. It's not a very nice sentiment, but it wasn't all that uncommon, at least in literature, and it certainly doesn't denote madness.

Rather I would say that the fact that in III.iii Hamlet can scan the situation with such brutally detached logic, in spite of his extreme emotion and desire to kill at the time, emphasises his sanity.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), March 27, 2002.

Hamlet is but mad north north west.

-- C. Murphy (PiggieQ@aol.com), April 03, 2002.

Aren't we all.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), April 04, 2002.

A few points, Frank:

So what do you like to do in your spare time? We like to talk HAMLET; and hey, you're reading it. And it's all helped me think the play through, so I've written a book on it: does that make my internet connection tax deductible...? :) Anyway thanks to all those who like to talk HAMLET.

Hamlet can spell and punctuate.

Hamlet likes girls, so you're wasting your time.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), May 03, 2002.

While Hamlet appears to be mad on occasion, he is truly sane. His occasional instability, such as his recurring introspective thoughts on suicide, can be seen as more of a product of his world-weariness that any form of insanity. Refer: -"O that this too too sullied flesh would melt"(I, ii, 129) -"Denmark’s a prison"(II, ii, 244) and "to me it is a prison"(II, ii, 251-52) -"I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me"(III, i, 123-24). Hamlet, a prince, has had access to everything in life and has seen the corruption everywhere, and does not wish to be a part of it. ----- Possible purposes of Hamlet’s supposed madness from writing point of view: -Method by which the gullibility/intelligence of people around Hamlet is shown -Shows intelligence of Hamlet -Contributes to the tragic nature of the play (pity, fear) -Helps compare other characters to Hamlet (e.g., Laertes, Ophelia) ------------- From character’s POV: -Helps Hamlet operate without fear of suspicion on Claudius’s part -Gains Hamlet the ability to buy time and manipulate people -His pretended madness allows him time to adapt to what he must do, as he is not a cold-blooded killer ---------- -Every instance in which Hamlet appears to be mad has an underlying purpose or inference that indicates that he truly is sane. Indeed, Hamlet tells his only trusted friend, Horatio, that "How strange or odd soe’er I bear myself,/As I perchance hereafter shall think meet/To put an antic disposition on"(I, v, 169-71). Essentially, he warns the only person he trusts that he will pretend to be mad to more easily accomplish whatever he feels he must. -Also, quite importantly, he never loses touch with reality, but carefully plans and responds with logic to an illogical overall situation, weighing what he believes to be right and wrong and acting with caution until he has established what he must do. For instance: -Hamlet tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who he is still not sure as to the loyalties of, that he is "but mad north-north-west: when the wind/is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw"II, ii, 377-78). This could imply that he is only "mad" at certain times, possibly when the wind is northerly, which could be linked to a cold, unwelcome, and dangerous situation, metaphorically symbolic of people trying to spy on him, whereas he knows "a hawk from a handsaw"(II, ii, 378) when the wind is from the south, a warmer, gentler situation, perhaps metaphorically referring to times when he is surrounded only by friends. The expression regarding how he "know [s] a hawk from a handsaw"(II, ii, 378) could be a reference to the saying "to know a hawk from a hernshaw", to be able to make fine distinctions, or it could represent the difference between his friends, the hawks, which are valuable companions, and handsaws, which are merely tools. This is supported in that Hamlet acted quite normally when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern first showed up, only beginning to act mad when he became suspicious that his former friends were present only to spy on him. -When Hamlet appears in Ophelia’s chambers and appears to be mad, it is simply a result of his sadness, brought on by the fact that he is beginning to suspect that Ophelia is not trustworthy. After he "rais’d a sigh...piteous and profound"(II, I, 93), he leaves to wait and see if Ophelia runs to her father. After she does, Hamlet again confronts her and again tries to ultimately discern whether Ophelia is trustworthy or not. After Ophelia confesses her love to Hamlet in the first scene of Act III, he questions her in a roundabout fashion, attempting to get her to confess that she is helping those against him, culminating in his final question, where he asks of her, "Where's your father?" (III, i, 131). Her false answer and his disappointment, and not an unsound mind, causes his distemper. -Throughout the second scene of Act II Hamlet continuously mocks and derides Polonius regarding his use of his daughter for political gain, referring to him as a "fishmonger"(II, ii, 174) (yes, you can likely infer a pun here), and saying that "he would [Polonius] were so honest a man [as a true fishmonger]"(II, ii, 176) when he attempts to correct Hamlet. He also insults Polonius’s "plentiful lack of wit"II, ii, 200), among other things, without Polonius taking direct offence because he believes Hamlet to merely be mad. This allows Hamlet to vent some of his true feelings in relative safety without fear of suspicion or reprisal. As Polonius is leaving, Hamlet even goes so far in showing his true sanity in to drop his mere pretense of madness and remark, "These tedious old fools!"(II, ii, 220). -In Act III, Hamlet only kills Polonius in the belief that he is Claudius. Afterward, Hamlet realizes his mistake and responds relatively rationally, albeit angrily: "Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!/I took thee for thy better"(III, iv, 82- 83). Hamlet then hides the body to buy time, infuriate Claudius, and fully explore the treachery of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. • Hamlet steals the documents that order his death from the ship on which he is supposed to be murdered, writing new orders that instead order the death of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who betrayed him. He remarked, "They are not near my conscience; their defeat/Does by their own insinuation grow"(V, ii, 58-59). He is able to sign the orders, "I had my father’s signet in my purse"(V, ii, 49), and escape death through this quick-witted scheme he developed on the spot, an indication that he is fully in possession of his mental faculties. -In the second scene of Act II, Hamlet is able to recall an entire passage from a play he had heard, and received the praise that it was "well spoken, with good accent and good discretion"(II, ii, 466- 67) even while he was playing the fool in front of Polonius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern. -Finally, further evidence of Hamlet’s insanity is shown when one compares him with someone who is truly deranged, such as Ophelia became after Hamlet spoke angrily to her and her father died. She began to sing and speak nonsensically, with only "half sense: her speech is nothing"(IV, v, 7), without any of the hidden meaning that characterized Hamlet’s seeming-nonsensicality (shown even by Polonius’s own words: "Though this be madness, yet there is method/in’t"(II, ii, 206-07).). Whereas Ophelia has become deranged, Hamlet carries on a rational progression throughout all of his actions and words.

There's more, but all this sums up to paint a picture of an individual who feels inadquate to the task of seeking revenge for his father's murder, and, being an intellectual, finds he must buy time to plan it through and steel himself for what he feels he must do.

This is what sets Shakespeare's revenge story aside from the learn- guilty-party-kill-within-a-day plots that characterized the writing of other authors. It allowed him to explore the result of putting an introspective and melancholy character like Hamlet in a role that was previously typified by brash young characters that sought revenge after being given a target.

-- j.bishop (thaumaturge_14@hotmail.com), May 16, 2002.

in my mind hamlet was mad. when one breaks it down he killed polonius, drove ophelia insane, had guilderstine and rosencrantz killed, all to justify the death of one person, ok but it was his father ....so if one was to do that today then they would truly be called insane. I think that Hamlet drove himself mad by acting mad, he became so fixated on having revenge that he lost the plot completely. when he killed polonius it to him the same way that we would kill a fly or insect.

-- mark ???????? (ingy6969@hotmail.com), May 20, 2002.

All good points: however, Hamlet himself states that he only killed Polonius because he thought he was actually Claudius (who would think that it would be Polonius hiding in the Queen's bedchamber, instead of her husband?). Also, Ophelia largely went mad because her father (who was the only one she always looked to for guidance, with her brother Laertes being gone) was killed (By Hamlet, but by accident).

As for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern being killed, Hamlet did this because he was tired of being betrayed by everyone around him, and he knew that his old friends were now in on a plot to have him killed.

Basically, the mentality of the time was such that if people killed someone you cared about, justice was only done when you killed them back.

He did not kill Ophelia, even though she betrayed him to her father: he merely told her to get out of his presence (arguably, to protect them both). He did not drive her mad: it was the death of her father that did.

It might be said that he was responsible for this, as he killed her father: however, it was an accident: he thought it was Claudius.

Also, he did not kill Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He merely rewrote the orders they had that were meant to order Hamlet's death with orders that switched his name for theirs. He didn't kill them: he just gave them the same fate they had meant for him.

(I have quotes for all of this: see two posts back.)

-- j.bishop (thaumaturge_14@hotmail.com), May 21, 2002.

Last week I turned up at uni for a seminar on Renaissance Italy. The question down to start off discussion that week was 'Did women have a renaissance?' Our lecturer walked in the room and said, 'Well, the answer's No: let's all go to the pub.'

That's how this Hamlet question is making me feel. :)

I would say, though, that Ophelia goes mad largely because of her father's death, AND Hamlet's ABSENCE, ie. his going away from her. And to be fair, I'm not sure that R & G know that they're carrying Hamlet's death warrant with them to England for Claudius. But it seems likely that Hamlet thinks they do know, or that if they don't they would still do it if they did know in order to win Claudius' favour.

Also, I think our gaols have more murderers/would-be murderers in them than our lunatic asylums.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), May 22, 2002.

Can anyone help me with an essay i have to write. The topic is to prove hamlets sanity throughout the play. it has to be 5 pages if anyone wants to write me one :) Or just gimme some thoughts so i can write a good essay

P.S. its for an AP English CLass

THNX guyz

-- Mike Thompson (msalah83@hotmail.com), October 08, 2002.

Ah, but how long does each page have to be? Well, at least it's to prove his sanity.

For this, I'd suggest just working through the play (narrative and dialogue) chronologically: it's logical that way. You must have some of your own thoughts; and if you look higher up, there are lots of ideas already here. You can also have a look at responses to other questions on Hamlet the character, and on his relationships with others. Anything a little more specific we can help you with?

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), October 09, 2002.

Well how much more specific can i get? All i need is a 5-8 page paper (standard size paper) about proving hamlet's sanity

-- Mike Thompson (msalah83@hotmail.com), October 14, 2002.

Sorry, the page thing was a joke: I always forget the smiley faces ... And if you look higher up, you'll see what I think of this sort of question.

We can't just write your paper for you, you know; but if you've got a specific problem with something in the play, like what might Hamlet mean when he says X, or why might he do Y, ' cause that'll prove he's not just thinkinng like a goldfish, well then, we can innundate you with our thoughts till you're sick of them. But first, have a real close look at I.v: if he went mad, it would be there, yeah? Do you think he does? I sure as hell don't. And to me, everything he says after te ghost goes is a foundation stone for his thinking and acting through the rest of the play.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), October 14, 2002.

i need to write a thesis paper 5-8 pages long on whether or not hamlet was mad. I was thinking on proving that he wasn't, but in order to fill up the pages i need to put opposing view points that he was in fact mad. i cant find that many things that say he was mad, so if anyone would like to help me out itd be great appreciated.

-- melissa (sweety4eva7@aol.com), October 26, 2002.

I see your point. How do you make eight pages out of 'Duh, he's sane, go read the thing'? Maybe you could find some critics who say he is mad (if there are any) and refute their points. You could contrast his pretended madness to the real madness of Lear in KING LEAR and of course of Ophelia. You could compare his speech and behaviour with that of some of WS's clowns/fools, such as in TWELFTH NIGHT, KING LEAR, AS YOU LIKE IT. (Just watch the videos - it'll only take a day.) The job of the fool is to seem silly while actually being very on the ball. You could play around with 'Well, some of the things he does are misjudged, over the top, really unfortunate, or an excessive reaction, so that in some awful circumstances sometimes he can seem as if he's on or over the edge. And we can all be like that. But he always turns round and shows that he's mentally sound, and surprisingly level-thinking considering.' And with that one you can analyse his speeches to prove that they're rational - that'll take up some space. Maybe you could also compare him with Iago in OTHELLO, and Richard III. They're bad guys of course, but Hamlet schemes, plans and manipulates rather as they do. That's my brainstorming: hope some of it helps.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), October 26, 2002.

Hey catherine england ! i c u are very active on this forum... how about if you could help me with finding a "problematic" for the topic "is hamlet mad"

i need a grabber sentence pls!! :) tks

-- Fred (notmyemailaddress@hotmail.com), November 05, 2002.

'Problematic' adjective I get. But 'problematic' noun I have not met. Do you mean a sentence which problematizes the topic of 'Is Hamlet mad?'? If so, ... let me see ... well, no, I can't, because it ain't problematic: the chap is sane, obviously.

I guess maybe you could go with: 'Some people see this issue as problematic, wondering whether or not he is sane, or if he goes insane through the course of the play. This is because once Hamlet decides to pretend to be mad around certain people he does it so well, because he is a bloody good actor. But taken in totality, his activity and speech demonstrate brilliant rationality.' I'm afraid that's three sentences, but you won't want to quote me verbatim anyway. You could then go on to analyse his activity and speech in totality, to prove his sanity. But if you think he's mad, I don't want to know, thanks.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), November 05, 2002.

um... catherine...is catherine_england@hotmail.com a valid e-mail address that i can write to?

-- fred (uhhum@hotmail.com), November 06, 2002.

Yes it is. I never did come up with anything more inventively interesting. But why not keep discussion all in the forum? That way everyone can chip in. Plus, I freely admit, I'm a tad mad myself: I don't mind being publically raked for my opinions.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), November 07, 2002.

It's amazing how many poor students get this sort of question dumped on them. Who was the first madman who thought Hamlet is really mad, anyway? I've had an email from one of the afflicted many, so I thought I'd stick here how I would answer.

My basic argument would be that, because people are human and not computers, there are times when we all make mistakes, or lose our tempers, act impulsively and regret it later, act or speak a certain way because we love somebody or hate somebody or need to mislead somebody, even if it isn't the best or wisest or most appropriate way to act or speak, etc. Perhaps that is us losing our way, or our thought processes becoming a bit scrambled for a spell. Perhaps it's just being human. But it isn't madness in the sense of being clinically insane, or needing to be institutionalized, or not being able or necessitating not being allowed to be responsible for our own affairs. In the same ways Hamlet is human, not mad.

First, you'd need to define what is meant by madness. You can't really say that he isn't mad until you have explained what you believe Shakespeare meant by madness, what characters in the play think madness is, and Hamlet's madness in particular, and what sort of madness Hamlet is assuming. Only then can you show properly how and why he is not. I've already said what I think, a few responses back.

So. After that, I think the way I would tackle the question in detail would be to find all Hamlet's speeches and activities in the play which anyone who wanted to say Hamlet is mad would point to as proof that he's mad. Then I'd go through them all and show not only how Hamlet is actually sane when he says or does them, but also how they could be seen as madness by someone who wanted to prove that Hamlet is mad. That is, I'd present evidence of the possibility that he's mad here and there, just so that I could shoot holes in that evidence. (For anyone who has to write x number of pages, by presenting the opposing argument so that you can disagree with it in your own, you can discuss examples from both sides and so use up a lot more space - read pages!)

As an example: In III.i, while speaking to Ophelia, Hamlet might be thought to be struck by a bout of madness. Her lines indicate that his conversation makes no logical sense to her, and that, towards the end, he is behaving wildly. [Here analyse their conversation, showing where and how Ophelia is confused by Hamlet, unhappy and distressed, and feeling the need to call on Heaven for help for him, etc..] But in fact we as the audience know that Hamlet himself in this scene is unhappy to the point of thinking about killing himself. [Here analyse 'To be, or not to be' to show that it is rational and that Hamlet is thinking about suicide when he says it. There are questions and responses in the forum on this speech. I've already posted a line by line analysis in one of them which shows what I think.]. We also know from II.ii that Hamlet is irritated and angered by Polonius and his meddling. [Here prove this through an analysis of relevant bits of II.ii, if haven't already done so as another example in essay]. We can see that that Hamlet loves Ophelia but at the same time is uncertain about and suspicious of the nature of love, that in this scene Hamlet feels betrayed by Ophelia when he finds out Polonius is listening, that it is another hard blow to an already very unhappy and distraught young man, that he realizes he has to suddenly act mad because Polonius is listening, that he loses his temper at the trickery and interference of Polonius and the fact of Ophelia's having a part in it. So his behaviour and speech naturally become wild, but it isn't what should be diagnosed as mentally unstable or even really irrational.

That is just a quick example, not an exhaustive one of that scene. There are heaps of places in the play where the same sort of thing could be done. In each one the ultimate need is to show that although those around Hamlet think he is behaving irrationally or wildly, or speaking nonsense, principally because they don't know the full story, there is actually rational and logical human motivation behind what he says and does, given Hamlet's way of thinking and the circumstances. And when he's proved sane in each one, the conclusion has to be that he's completely sane, throughout.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), November 12, 2002.

I understand everybody's argument but I believe that Hamlet is mad. Not for the whole play but in parts of the play. First off When he says that his madness is affected b the change in wind, that is crazy. No Normal thinking human being would say soemthing that weired. Second, when he stabs Polonius behind the curtain, that is insanity. I don't go around stabbing curtains, you don't go around stabbing curtains and we are all sane. Plus he tells Laertes that he killed his father in a fit of madness. He may not be Mad for the enitre length of the play because you're right that mad people don't usually know they are mad but when he is sane is when he realizes that he is mad.

-- cj (gore9699@yahoo.ca), November 16, 2002.

Oh, for crying out loud.

He never realizes he's mad because he never is. There are just times when he needs people to think he is.

A) It's not wierd. It basically means, 'I'm only occasionally mad. Usually I'm very rational and astute.' The comings and goings of lunacy were thought to depend on weather, including wind directions. North-north-west is a very specific compass bearing. Southerly is generalized. A wind blowing north-north-west is very particular and much less frequent than a southerly. Obviously, he wants R & G to think he's mad, so he says it in terms that are going to confuse them a little, in terms which they can construe as a looney utterance. But really it's witty, and one of the things Hamlet says for his own facetious amusement as much as to confuse others and make them conclude he's mad.

B) You don't live in 1600, as a Prince, wearing a sword, after the holy crapping hell of a day that Hamlet has had, after the holy crapping hell of a four months that he has had. All the same, I betyou've occasionally thumped your fist into something, maybe even hit ssomeone, when you've lost your temper and 'it hasn't been your day, your week, your month, or even your year.' He's not stabbing a curtain, he's stabbing someone through a curtain and he thinks that that someone is Claudius.

C) Obviously, he means madness in the sense of temporary insanity, now a legitimate plea in court which nevertheless does not mean lunatic. It means that at the time you didn't know what you were doing and weren't responsible for your actions, because of some sort of emotional/mental stress. Actually it's not quite true, but it's true to the extent that Hamlet didn't know he was killiing and didn't mean to kill Polonius, but didn't stop to make sure that it was Claudius before he did the deed, because he was dealing with emotional and mental stress.

In that respect, yes we are all but mad north-north-west. In the heat of a moment, or under stress, we don't always think, say, do, the best, most rational thing.

OK? It's as clear and simple as A, B, C. He's sane.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), November 17, 2002.

Catherine I can understand how people, when they are mad punch a wall or something but stabbing a curtain is another story. Plus in the same scene how come his mother doesn't see the ghost. He obviously at this point is having hallucinations and that is a common character of a mad man.

-- cj (gore9699@yahoo.ca), November 17, 2002.

I say again, he isn't stabbing the curtain, but through it at a person: he thinks it's Claudius, whom he's just resolved to kill as soon as he can get the bastard while he's doing something unpleasant, not praying.

These were violent times. Men wore swords/daggers daily, almost as a fashion accessory, but to be put to use when necessary - like sunglasses now. And as I've said somewhere else in the forum, our gaols are full of plenty of murderers who are perfectly sane. Some calculate it, some do it on impulse in the heat and anger of the moment. Hamlet does it as a combination of both. But none of them are mad. Killing someone does not automatically mean one is insane.

Regarding Gertrude and the ghost, and other connected stuff, see my response of the other day under "Is Hamlet mad or is he sane?" in this forum. Hamlet obviously is not having hallucinations.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), November 17, 2002.

I am in the advanced HSC course at my school for English and i am having a bit of trouble with my essay question...it's about Rosencranz and Guildenstern...i have to compare and contrast the relationship between these two characters in Tom Stoppards Transformation...'Rosencrants and Guildenstern are dead' help me pleeeaaaaasssseee i already have quite a few points

-- Aylin Yasemin Ozturk (turkish_kookaburra@hotmail.com), November 25, 2002.

What do you have to compare and contrast their relationship with?

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), November 27, 2002.

Catherine! we meet again! :o) hehehe. wot i was going to say was, yeah in the last forum you did make some pretty fair points but so did i! i think the text is writen in such way that a sense of wonder and confusion being aroused is wht the writer wanted! if you had never heard the story and i told you wht i had highlighted in the last forum then you would think " WOW NUTCASE " and the am if it were you tellingme your points i`d be like " hey cut the guy some slack, hes stressed" but becuse we have both red the text in detail and we percieve the storline and charcters in different way that is why we have a differnce of opinion! im sure everyone who has read the book will side with either of us, i dont think there is a deinate answer to the question "is hamlet mad?"

-- lynsey robinsom (lillypops@fsmail.com), November 28, 2002.

Well, no, I wouldn't think that, because none of your points are lunatic types of things, except the dressing oddly; but you should have prefaced your tale with noting Hamlet's statement in I.v that he's likely going 'to put an antic disposition on ... ', because it's a skewed argument not to; so then I still wouldn't think 'nutcase.' And in any case, it's no argument to take a few points out of their context and force conclusions from them. Obviously, one has to look at the play in totality. As for my points, I've hardly ever even started to really make points to prove Hamlet is sane, because I can't be bothered. As I've said before, it's simple, the definite answer is no, let's all go to the pub. All I've tried to do is point out the holes in points made in arguments that he's mad.

It's not so much a case of just understanding characters as of understanding all of what they say. When one truly understands all of what Hamlet says, as well as to whom and why, one sees that it all makes coherent and rational, linear and lateral sense; and logical progression of thought can be traced through the play as a whole. And that means he can't possibly be mad - I think, at all, and certainly within the terms of the play. Lunacy, as we see with Ophelia, is scatty, skittish and chaotic, and largely illogical even when it seems it might be making sense; and mood swings are from second to second, line to line, without apparent motivation, not from scene to scene. Hamlet displays none of this. Everything he does, everything he says, has logical motivation and proceeds logically from previous things said and done. Even when angry, he never quite loses control (and please don't cite III.iv at me: he's just said at the end of III.ii that he wants to kill his mother; but he doesn't, he just yells at her).

Wonder and confusion are inspired - intentionally, I'm sure - in most of WS's plays, with or without the addition of madness. I certainly don't think it was WS's intention for anyone to conclude that Hamlet is mad: that's far too easy a cop-out in such a profound study of human nature and existence. If there's a madness in HAMLET he wants us to recognize and wonder at, I believe it's not that of any one character, but the general, unbearable madness of being.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), November 28, 2002.

Hey Cathrine England you should seriously consider getting out more and having a life instead of arguing about whether or not hamlet was mad or not!!! I'm mean come on!! oh n lillypops has the rite idea he was a nutcase!!!

-- (crazychick931@hotmail.com), November 29, 2002.

yeah but like the wee guy said in the last forum about if you believe something for long enough it will happen! ie HAMLET BEING INSANE!!!!! I think the reason many teachers choose to teach hamlet is because there are sooooooo many different points of views to hamlets sanity (correction INSANITY) that it makes for an amazing essay! so NO1 can be right (no not even you) there isnt a right or wrong answer unless you are going to now tell me you are the decendant of WS himself and he left you all his notes and truths in a secret passage in the 300 roomed castle you own in sweden?!?

-- lynsey robinson (lillypops@fsmail.net), November 29, 2002.

First of all, to Crazy Chick (does that mean you're mad too? And God help me, I can't keep pace with the personal insults!), Isn't this what I've been saying? Let's all go to the pub instead? As it happens, talking about HAMLET generally is an enjoyble and fulfilling part of my life, though it takes up only a few hours at most out of my whole week. (Only, as I've indicated, I do find this question less scintillating than some.) But I also study, work, sing, swim, read a great baggage of literature that isn't HAMLET - or even WS, cook, sleep sometimes, and wash regularly. Thanks, though, for your concern.

But Lynsey, Now you're just being irrelevantly facetious. And making the discussion far too personal: I'm not opposing you, you know, only your argument that Hamlet is insane. That's my prerogative, as opposing my argument is yours. Of course I'm not WS's descendent. (Why Sweden, by the way? But, I digress ...) And of course, I'm expressing opinion, and arguing for my own. As I told someone who emailed me recently, that's what scholarship is all about, and why we call it 'discussion', and use phrases like 'I think', 'I believe', 'it seems', and so on.; and if there were absolute knowledge on this or any field of scholarship we'd have nothing to talk about and life would be very dull. Nevertheless, I do think that in every case it is possible that someone can be right, even if he or anyone else doesn't even know it for sure; because I do believe there is a single truth, and the truth fits and makes sense. To me, madness in Hamlet in HAMLET just doesn't fit, it doesn't make sense in the plot, or in the narrative of the lives of these characters. No one has yet shown me that it can or does. So on this, which is one of the more basic questions to do with HAMLET, I happen to think I'm right. But please do argue against my arguments, using the text of the play.

Like I said about the whole (excuse the F- word please, Virginia) Freud/Oedipus thing, just because somebody says something is in HAMLET doesn't mean it is: it has to be proved with the text. So, saying that Hamlet must be mad because someone else says there is a theory that 'if you believe something long enough you become it' does not mean that this is what happens to Hamlet. A theory is not a truth in itself, but a supposition which has to be proved true using examples. I don't think you've proved yet, with WS's text, that Hamlet is insane at all, let alone proved that he becomes insane in the course of the play by pretending to be it. And he certainly doesn't believe himself that he is mad.

Now, this is why I am absolutely opposed to the use of theory in Literature or History: it takes a set of principles, says 'this is the answer', and then tries to make examples fit the principles. That's going at a thing from the wrong end, don't you think? I prefer a method that looks at the example and, with as few preconceptions as possible, simply asks, 'what is this telling me?' And, I just don't find that human activity should or can be categorized and put it in pigeon-holes. Even if a theory were to be true in one case, that doesn't mean it is true in all, or even most cases. But I digress again...

I have already answered Morris's point on the other board, my point being that it certainly isn't a rule in WS that pretending something makes it come true. In fact, in WS the opposite seems to me to be often true: that is, in the course of pretending to be something they are not, characters become more aware of what it is they really are.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), November 30, 2002.

well of course, who wouldn't be mad, like one time my uncle killed my goldfish and I was like, dude, thats not cool

-- The big Pun (horay4everyone@aol.com), December 13, 2002.

Happy fishy. And he was cool ... Unless, of course, your uncle boiled him and ate him for breakfast. (Dear. Now you've got me punning.)

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), December 15, 2002.

I have to do a paper an 8 paged on Hamlet's mental state and how it caused his downfall. Anyone have any ideas or papers I could use to get the information I need? :)

-- Lily (lilkalikewhoaa@aol.com), December 15, 2002.

There are lots of ideas already here, and also under the question "Is Hamlet mad or is he sane", and under all the other questions in the forum on Hamlet, his character, personality, problems, and the rest. But ultimately what you write has to come from you - it's not a case of right or wrong information so much as one of what you think. Do you think he was mad or sane? Either way, what is it in his mental make-up - his ways of thinking, what he thinks about, his judgements and decisions, his view of the world and people around him, what he has previously learnt/been taught coming into contact with his current experiences - that helps to bring about his downfall?

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), December 16, 2002.

Ok my main point for this that i don't think anyone has mentioned so far is THE SOLILOQUIES can you forget that this is basically Hamlet ALONE talking to himself? Which even today we say is the first sign of madness! I realise that Claudius also delivered a soliloquy at one point, but it could be argued that he is also, at least temporarily mad. After all this is the guy who killed his brother, usurped the throne, and married his sister-in-law and thought he would get away with it scottfree??? Although I dont believe Claudius was mad, i belive he was at least severly under strain for a considerable amount of time. Anyway I'm getting off the point now, so i'll stick to teh question. I believe Hamlet WASNT mad at the start the play though incredibly depressed. And an old proverb (or maybe just something I say when Im drunk) is "Depression Is Never Far Away From Insanity". I agree with the point made earlier on how that when a person beleives something it will happen. Try telling people that your in a bad mood when you feel fine. It does actually work.

-- Hutch (Hutch_@hotmail.com), December 19, 2002.

And of course you can always go to Hamlet himself. In Act 3 Scene 2 Hamlet himself says to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern "You Would Pluck Out The Heart Of My Mystery". Which basically translates as "You Will Never Understand Me". I Dont belive we are ever meant to know if Hamlet was sane or not. After all wasn't this intent? His "antic disposition" may not just be to fool the courtiers of Elsinore, but too baffle the audience. After all to this day people still aren't sure if Hamlet was sane or mad as a badger. This forum proves that.

-- Hutch (Hutch_@hotmail.com), December 19, 2002.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHH!!! This question is driving me mad!!!

Now I'm in a bad mood. Wait there a tick ... I just told my mother I feel fine. I do not feel fine, I'm still in a bad mood. It does not actually work.

Hamlet, on occasion, when it is expedient for him to do so, or when he is just being funny (funny ha ha, not funny strange), does tell people he is or has been mad. But note that in III.iv he tells his mother he is not mad. Now which statement are you going to decide he believes, and therefore becomes in accordance with.

You obviously have no idea what a soliloquy is, and is for, dramatically. Please go and read some more WS plays, with and without madness in them.

Proverbs, like theories, are not necessarily accurate in application to reality. Of course, depression is a type of disturbance of one's regular mental state. Insanity is another, different one. Hamlet is depressed for some of the play, though probably not, in my opinion, after "The Mousetrap" is performed. He is not insane for any of the play.

'You would pluck out the heart of my mystery' does not translate as 'You will never understand me.' It means 'You want to know my secrets'. In the diatribe that the line comes from (III.ii.337-363), Hamlet is pointing out to R & G their presumption is trying to manipulate and trick him into explaining himself to them, for their own purposes - a vastly different thing to understanding. Understanding involves human empathy, in which they are sorely lacking.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), December 20, 2002.

Hamlei is MAD just because He HAS TO BE MAD , in order to find the truth , in Hamlet's case ,MAD undrestands BETTER than sanes . and it reveals the sickness of the situation and enviornment in which MADNESS is the Key of achieving the truth , that's why we see his madness through soliloquies BC there are thesources that Hamlet tells the truth or at least the truth that he thinks . Misagh

-- Misgah Tabrizi (Misagh9@hotmail.com), December 27, 2002.

well i think hamlet is gay and the play really sucks and it should be taken off the school curiculum.

-- kris bowman (me@hotmail.com), January 12, 2003.

Why must it be an either or? Hamlet clearly pretended to be insane at times as evident in the text, however, there are other times in the book when his 'madness'is uncalled for. There were times when playing mad served him no purpose, therefore, it must be conluded that at these times, Hamlet was truly mad. For example, in Act 5 Scene 1, Hamlet returns home from England to discover that Ophelia is dead. At her funeral he proceeds to jump in the grave with her and then start a passionate and irrational spout with Laertes. Even the queen comments that he has gone mad. To think that Hamlet would put on a mock show st the funeral of his loved one is rediculous. Furthermore, if someone had lost their father, had their mother marry their uncle, been haunted by the ghost of their deceased father, to discover that their uncle had killed their father, to be forced to trust no-one including the one they love most, only to have that loved one kill herself after they accidentally killed her father, I think it is fair to say that there would be something very wrong if such a person had not gone completely mad. Thus, to say that Hamlet isn't atleast slightly mad is asinine. IN conlusion, I belleive that while Hamlet is at times pretending to be mad, he is at other times genuinely unbalanced, and quite rightfully so.


-- stephanie (ssowder9@cox.net), January 12, 2003.

ok. so..hamlet isn't mad. whatever. maybe he switches back and forth. (is that possible? ;) ) the problem is that students are asked to argue (in my case, a debate) that hamlet is mad. when all the evidence in the world points in the other direction... i have to kick someone elses butt trying to convince people something that they already know to be untrue. (WHY ME?) even our teacher says that he's not mad. (thanks, a lot.) but there have to be some good points that are somewhat believable. i've read the arguements above. i know that it's a little bit odd that gertrude didn't see the ghost. but, then again, it's easy exlained that the ghost needed to show himself to horatio, marcellus etc. in order to get through to hamlet--or whatever. anyway, if anyone can help me with some better points than those from above (if it's possible) that would great. thanks.

-- Erica Sibley (erica_sibley@hotmail.com), January 12, 2003.

There is no madness in V.i unless it is the madness of lost tempers on top of grief. Grief can take many forms, even as it works its way through a single person. Shock is one form, bitterness and anger another, dissolving despair another. Mind and body can go through various modes, as they manoeuvre to cope with the onslaught of grief. WS knew this. His own son, Hamnet, had died in 1596, and he had surely known other deaths as well. V.i. brilliantly shows Hamlet moving through some stages of grief. Shock: 'What, the fair Ophelia!'. Bitternesss and anger, prompted by Laertes' behaviour and accusation (V.i.247-279). The calming of that at last into the still slightly bitter but quieter, even drained resignation of lines 283-287, just before he walks out. ...

Laertes has known about Ophelia's death for a day. Hamlet has only just found out. One would, therefore, expect Laertes' behaviour at the funeral to be more moderate than Hamlet'ss. It is not. But no one suggests that Laertes is mad on the strength of this.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), January 12, 2003.

If you read V.i properly you will see that it is Laertes who picks the fight physically, while Hamlet shows he had no desire to sully Ophelia's death and burial with a graveside brawl (V.i.253-256). Hamlet merely askes a question in the form of a verbal challenge, which really amounts to, Who is it that is making such an affected, caterwauling, unseemly fuss and show of his grief? The answer is of course, Laertes. Laertes has also just accused Hamlet of being responsible for Ophelia's death and madness. As a prince and a man Hamlet justly feels the need to respond to both behaviour and accusation. It is not at all irrational or mad for him to do so. The issue, as far as Hamlet is concerned, has to do with Laertes' vulgar behaviour and accusation over the grave of his loved one. As he points out himself in V.ii.75-80, coming forward in a rage about it is not the best, wisest and most seemly course of action he could take. All the same, he does control his anger and bitterness fairly majestically: he speaks constantly in powerful, measured, verse, even while those around him are interjecting raggedly. And through it all, the argument that he makes is reasonable and sequentially logical. Only, when Laertes dives for his throat and tries to choke him to death, he is naturally going to fight back. Hamlet is obviously, and very understandably, emotionally overwrought, but there's nothing mad in anything he says or does.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), January 12, 2003.

The Queen knows full well that Hamlet isn't mad: III.iv, where she sides with Hamlet in the end, asks him what she should do, and then does what he tells her, shows us this; she wouldn't do what he said if she thought him mad. One thing Hamlet told her to do was to not tell the King that he is sane, because it would expose Hamlet and put her in danger and harm her (III.iv.182-198). So at the grave she of course tries to keep up the illusion that Hamlet is mad, using it to try to calm Laertes down and so stop the fight - sort of, forgive him, he knows not what he does. From III.i, Claudius is pretty decided Hamlet isn't mad too - hence the plot to have him killed in England - but he also tells Laertes 'O, he is mad, Laertes' for the same reason as Gertrude. Everybody except Laertes realizes that even if he and Hamlet are going to slug it out, now is not the time and place.

What Hamlet goes through could well be enough to send someone mad. The point is, the text shows us that it doesn't send Hamlet mad.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), January 12, 2003.

One of the great tragic moments in Hamlet is the appearance of the King Hamlet's ghost again in III.IV. Gertude doesn't see the ghost of Hamlet's dear, beloved father. Suddenly Hamlet's feigning of madness has worked against him and he MUST try to convince Gertrude of his sanity. When truth is patently there he will not be believed. For me it is the most heartrending moment of the play.

-- Patrick Walker (www.criesandwhispers666@yahoo.com), January 13, 2003.

i am soo bloody sick of my a level coursework on a crap pla which frankly should have been burned, once written. Who cares if hamlet was mad or not and wy in gods name makes us stuady this crap! i cant quite definately say i hate this play!!! if some of u cud use quotes in ure answers it wud help me trying to steal ure answers to assist- lets face it shit essay! thanx HAMLET HIMSELF

-- nicole (mcivok@aol.com), January 27, 2003.

I too, am writing a critical analysis of Hamlet's state of mind. After an in depth review of the play I must say that I have found that Hamlet was indeed mad all along. But what is mad? To use such a term one must define it. Mad can be defined in numerous ways; mentally ill, or unable to behave in a reasonable way; insane, extremely foolish or stupid; crazy, wild, fast or excited and not well controlled, disordered in mind, completely unrestrained by reason and judgment , and the list continues. When one examines Hamlet's character, persona, mind, it can easily be seen that he is troubled. He contemplates suicide, the meaning of life, searches for a reason for living. Is suicide a "reasonable way" to behave? He is plagued with questions about the afterlife, about the wisdom of suicide, about what happens to bodies after they die—the list is extensive. He is thoughtful to the point of obsession. This obsession, obsession with metaphysical knowledge, thought, curiosity impairs his judgement. He is consumed by his own thought and thus overwhelmed by every situation. Hamlet was a genius, extremely philosophical and contemplative. He was drawn to difficult questions or questions that cannot be answered with any certainty. And it was this need, this craving for truth, knowledge, understanding of the metaphysical world that entitled him mad. Hamlet was genius, Hamlet was mad. What is genius, where does the line betwixt the two lie, is there a line? Hamlet was mad, driven and defined thus by his thoughts, his mindset, his ingenious, but still, in all essence of the word, mad.

-- Bob the Builder (nycowgirl04@msn.com), February 17, 2003.

Although Hamlet is certainly mad with grief, anger, and despair, I think that he is only pretending to be insane. Throughout the play, he is overwhelmed, confused, and agitated , but nevertheless, he is, for the most part, in control of his faculties. It is only when Hamlet kills Polonius and when he alone sees his father's ghost in his mother's chamber that we could say that Hamlet acted truly insane. In Gertrude's chamber, I think that either the ghost chose not to reveal himself to his former wife, or Gertrude, in her self- deceiving nature, convinced herself that the ghost was not there. When Hamlet kills Polonius, the prince seems to “lack the ability to determine right from wrong” and “have no concept of the consequences of his actions” both of which are characteristics of insanity. In this case, I feel that Hamlet was temporarily insane and lost touch with reality and therefore lost control of himself. It could also be that Hamlet thought that his uncle was behind the curtain, and felt that the murder was justified on the grounds of revenge.

Throughout the play, Hamlet and the other characters say certain things which lead us to believe that Hamlet is not really insane. Hamlet tells Horatio that he is going to fake insanity saying: “how strange or odd soe'er I bear myself, as I perchance hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on.” Hamlet also tells his mother, “I essentially am not in madness, but mad in craft.” Hamlet acts insane when he is with some characters, and perfectly sane when he is with others. Even though Hamlet acts mad in the presence of of Polonius, the Lord Chamberlain says of Hamlet's state, “though this be madness, yet there is method in 't.” True madness, such as the madness manifested in Ophelia, has no method to it, which shows that Hamlet must be pretending to be mad. I think that Hamlet pretends to be mad in order to keep the other characters off his back to gain the time and freedom to go about his business and develop his plan of action. Even Claudius says: “what [Hamlet] spake, though it lack'd form a little, was not like madness.”

-- Erin James (Erin1.James@ucourses.com), March 26, 2003.

Hey! catherine_england....do you still come to this page? You seem to be the one in the know!

-- cecilia (cecilia_tm@hotmail.com), May 04, 2003.

Yes, but I do not agree with "everything" that Catherine says. I think Hamlet, as well as feigning insanity, was also certainly mentally ill to a degree. This is where Catherine and I differ in our opinions. This showed itself most of all in his encounter with Ophelia in Act 3 Scene I. He is shown far off balance led by passions beyond his control. But also perhaps in the "closet" scene to a lesser degree. Yes...hmmmmm.

-- Patrick Walker (the_right_hand_of_doom@msn.com), May 04, 2003.

Yes: here I am again. But, Patrick, are you taking my name in vain again? Actually you'll find I've said (a couple of times I think, in different places) that I certainly believe Hamlet is depressed, at least until the end of III.i, though he may be pulled out of it come III.ii and his success with his playlet. My point has simply been that depression is not lunacy, I do know. It can manifest itself in some excessive, evenn wild behaviour; but it still has reason, logic, and judgement.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), May 05, 2003.

Hurrah. Catherine returns. No, I wasn't taking your name in vain. Yes, he is certainly depressed, but there is more than that. He was sick. And I do not think that it lifted after the play scene. The turning point for Hamlet is the "closet scene". After he has blasted his mother, finally released all of that bile and resentment, then it lifts his psycological burden, and that is his turning point. Here he can finally concentrate on the task he knows is inevitable. After the play scene not only does his short lived excitement turn to blackened and almost unfocussed vengeance but it also deepens and brings to the surface his bitterness to his mother which now reaches a murderous intensity. There was far more going on in Hamlet's mind than depression. His feelings toward his mother spill over and blight his view and his relationships of all women and of himself. I call this a kind of mental sickness, but call it what you will. This is Shakespeare's main point of the nunnery scene. And it is this which I have always believed is a truthful observation of Hamlet's psycology working. Not Hamlet's acting up to eavesdroppers or blasting Ophelia for lying to him at "Where's your father". Slighlty straying from the point, it seems, but...no, it wasn't. Yes. The End...for now.

-- Patrick Walker (criesandwhispers666@yahoo.com), May 05, 2003.

But consider that it is only after the playlet that Hamlet feels liberated enough to talk with, yell at his mother, even to kill her, and to finally take his revenge on Claudius. These were the things which he was bottling up, and which were making him so depressed, through his not acting on them. The success with the playlet changes that.

Of course his vengeance-wish is black: a vengeance-wish always is. But his is by no means unfocused; if it were, he would simply kill Claudius while Claudius is praying, without considering and realizing that that would do the opposite of fulfilling his vengeance-wish. I'm afraid I lost your point a little towards the end.

Depression is a mental sickness. It is possibly the most unpleasant one there is. Thought remains reasoning and logical. If you look on the world through sunglasses, you still make sense of it, it is just darker coloured. Visually blighted. Depression is a mental, emotional, parallel of this. Consequently one can be aware one is mentally ill. Hamlet even shows he knows he is in II.ii, in the 'I have of late ...lost all my mirth ... Man delights not me' speech to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. However, it is Hamlet's rationality which shows he is not mad, or lunatic. The only way to say he is mad is to find places in the play where he is irrational, absurd, senseless. I don't. Anywhere. Hence, I say he is depressed, but he is not mad.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), May 06, 2003.

I don't say he is mad either. However, to say that he is EITHER depressed OR mad is very black and white, though I am sure you wasn't insinuatating this. He is of course uttlerly depressed, but it is far deeper than this. Shakespeare was a fucking incredible observational psychologist. So much is left unsaid in Hamlet. It is an incredible study in human psychology for one thing. I say Hamlet's rage was unfocussed because after the initial joy of his "success" with the play (if one can call it a success, but that is another thread if anyone is interested to hear me out) his reluctance, and quite reasonably so, to kill Claudius at prayer, means his vengeance is loosed on to his poor mother. And results in the murder of an innocent man hiding behind a curtain. I would say that his rage is slightly unfocussed. It is only the freshly hatched vengeance which gives Hamlet the ability to blast his mother. He is not in any right frame of mind during the closet scene at all! Until after the re-appearance of the ghost, which seems to sober Hamlet.

-- Patrick Walker (criesandwhispers666@yahoo.com), May 06, 2003.

Yes the success with the playlet is ambivalent. The point is that Hamlet sees it as success, a confirmation of Claudius's guilt. But as you say, another thread.

You may want to take a dictionary to the word mad. 'Out of one's mind, inane, lunatic; ... Wildly foolish; ruinously imprudent' (Shorter Oxford). These are the things those around Hamlet mean by saying he is mad. But these are the things he is not.

Rage is not vengeance. To suggest that his rage is wild is to verge on tautology. It is the nature of the beast. Everyone gets angry. You've been through what Hamlet's been through you probably will be bloody angry. Of course he's not in right frame of mind. Rage is not exactly a right frame of mind. But the sane get murderously angry on occasion. Hamlet was angry with his mother as far back (in time as well as in scenes) as I.ii., because she had married Claudius. In III.iv he releases his anger on her, but not his vengeance. He has said at the end of III.ii that he feels like killing her, but that he knows he must not, and that he will not. He does not. He kills Polonius BECAUSE HE THINKS IT IS CLAUDIUS behind the tapestry. This is not, actually, unfocused either. He thinks he is fulfilling his revenge on the right person.

So. He is, yes, depressed for much of the play. He does, yes, on occasion feel great rage. I don't know how you go 'far deeper' than that. I think you need to put a word on what you mean.

One mustn't, I believe, try to conflate every emotion and state of thought that Hamlet goes through in the play (and the several months of its narrative) into one single state of mind. On occasions he is angry. On occasions he is calm. Sometimes he is vengeful. Sometimes he is forgiving. Sometimes he can be impulsive. Sometimes he can very carefully look before he leaps. Etc.. Hullo. He is human. I don't know about WS's practice in Psychology. I do think, though, that he recognized the polymerous nature of humanity and the complexity of the sane human mind, knew how to write these, and to make his audiences identify with them.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), May 06, 2003.

I didn't say that Rage was Vengeance. When I say that his vengeance is unleashed upon his mother, I mean that after failing to kill Claudius at prayer, the extra adrenelin that popped into his stomach for the stabbing of him which has not been used has festered there like a boil about to burst. And now it explodes, all the bile and anger that has been simmering and stewing for months, upon his mother. As for the killing of Polonius. Any fool would know that Claudius was not behind the curtain. Hamlet has just passed him at prayer for one thing. But in the heat of the moment Hamlet thrusts his sword through the arras. The second he does it he knows he's fucked up. Watch Nicol Williamson playing this part in the Tony Richardson movie. It is painful to watch and a stupendous bit of acting. But anyway, I still say that his rage is unfocussed. He is not in any frame of mind at this point to make a rational judgement. He is, as he says, "passions slave". Erm, I forget what else I was going to say. If I remember I'll add it. Bye

-- Patrick Walker (criesandwhispers666@yahoo.com), May 07, 2003.

We're now totally off the point. I know you didn't say rage is vengeance. I just thought in your mind you might have confused the two. Because all that stuff about bile and festering was more or less what I was saying, but I just wouldn't say he releases his vengeance on her, because he doesn't kill her as he feels like doing. He does release rage on her.

But the point is, are you saying Hamlet is mad because of all these things, or not? Because rage is not madness either, and everyone makes mistakes, maybe even destroys things, when he's lost his temper. Hamlet just happens to destroy a life, because he happens to have a sword. But his mistake is thinking it is Claudius instead of Polonius, not doing the killing itself.

It never matters what we would do or think if we were the characters. According to the text, Hamlet thinks it is Claudius behind the arras. Under the circumstances, and this being the Queen's private room after all, the mistake is, I would think, understandable. It is certainly rational, if impulsively so. It does make sense: it isn't as though he thinks it's a windmill behind there. Further thought might lead Hamlet to question his first conclusion, but he just doesn't wait to think further. But he isn't mad. He has just lost his temper.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), May 07, 2003.

No, I don't think he is Mad. But I do think that besides depression he was suffering a mental sickness. As I think I said a few posts back...

-- Patrick Walker (criesandwhispers666@yahoo.com), May 08, 2003.

Yes, you did. And I said depression is a mental sickness. What other mental sickness do you have in mind, besides depression and instead of lunacy?

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), May 08, 2003.

Hamlet is very sane, it is mainly noted by his several soliloquies and asides when he contemplates on his play so far.

-- Raymond Sidhu (pleasedontemailme@r.com), July 21, 2003.

Hi ya all... Um yea I have a question for catherine.....( because we both have the same point of view THAT HE IS NOT MAD) Anyway my first year uni course has asked this really wierd question which basically comes down to "Would you name a scholarship after HAMLET'... The criteria of the scholarship is that the applicantdemonstrates prpose, initative, commitment, intellectual, embraces the future and is decisive to achieve their aspirations for their fututre'... I know you hate getting 'write my assignment' for me responses but i just need a bit of help I mean I believe he isnt MAD too much evidense to support that he is sane, but this queestion has throne me into the deep end because I believe his character is good but i am having trouble finding profe that he is worthy of the glory of have a scholarship named after him.... HELP if u can. thanks

-- bonnie (janbotterill@hotmail.com), August 07, 2003.

Hi Bonnie, Maybe you could consider that the recipient of the scholarship each year, even if he or she has all these great qualities, is still going to be human and not perfect. I'm assuming that you have been able to find evidence of all these qualities in Hamlet, but if not, get back to me here. So then you could just point out in your paper that Hamlet is ideal to have this scholarship named after him because he also is a young student, human, not perfect, and capable of making mistakes. That makes him a very realistic, not too impossible model for the students.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), August 09, 2003.

thanks catherine... thats a heaps good point... Can u think of any aactual qualities that hamlet has which would make him worthy of the scholarship in refrence to the play. I've got some u know like how he is INTELLEGENT enough to pretend to be mad in order to act decievly and how he crate the play to prove his uncles guilt... I just need some more... if u could help that would be great.

-- bonnie (janbotterill@hotmail.com), August 10, 2003.

HAMLEt is clearly NOT mad. he puts on an "anti-disposition". He ses it himself for crying ou loud - its his craft madness!!

-- Bryan Towers (bryantowers@hotmail.com), August 18, 2003.

Hey Catherine England!!! You seem to know your 'Hamlet' quite well. I have to do an oral presenatation in front of the class in a week argueing whether 'Hamlet was mad or not'. Quite obviously i think he is NOT mad. But could you please write me an oral that goes for five minutes on the fact that 'Hamlet was not mad' using heaps of textual evidence!!! I would appreciate it alot!!!! THANKS!!!

-- Bryan Towers (bryantowers@hotmail.com), August 18, 2003.

Um ... no. Sorry, but it's your assignment, and I actually have my own thesis to write. Be careful how you pronounce 'antic disposition', though. Good luck with it there.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), August 18, 2003.

Can i ask how old you are Catherine and where u live (australia 4 me) - i'm just interested cause you so intelligent with 'hamlet'

-- Bryan Towers (bryantowers@hotmail.com), August 19, 2003.

P.S. - i didn't expect you to write me an oral anyway. (it was worth a shot though) (thanks for letting me know about 'antic- disposition' - i thought it was 'anti'

-- Bryan Towers (bryantowers@hotmail.com), August 19, 2003.

I didn't really think you did, but I always answer correspondence with my name on it ... unless it goes to my junk mail folder and I don't fish it out in time. But I'm hopeless with phone messages.

... Anyway. I'm in Australia too, doing a Ph.D. in History at Sydney University. I think my age is irrelevant for most purposes. Where are you?

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), August 19, 2003.

"To be or not to be, that is the question"... More like, "To cheat, or not to cheat"...

Mr Bryan Towers, it seems that this would be more appropriate to your predicament? If you had even bothered to read this particular soliloquy (unlikely I presume), you would know that it is the major turning point of the play whereby Hamlet debates the emptiness of the human existence. For 'tis true after all, human existence is indeed one to pity if you are anything to go by.

As for you Catherine, 'tis apparent that you also are too caught up in your own self admiration to notice that you are being very well manipulated by those in whose pathetic slothfulness cannot produce a piece of authentic writing. If you had even bothered to actually read the previous responses Bryan, you would have had countless points to verify both 'for' and 'against' cases for Hamlet's questioned madness.


-- Jayne Mansfield (luna_chikita07@hotmail.com), September 07, 2003.

If there's one thing I hate, it's someone presuming to know what is going on in my mind.

Jayne, you obviously yourself haven't read all my responses to this and other questions. I think I can judge this kind of attempt to 'manipulate'. And I'm sure Bryan knew very well I was saying that I wasn't about to do his homework for him. Don't insult someone, especially someone you don't know, when you don't know what you're writing about either.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), September 07, 2003.

Actually Jayne, there are also two theories on what exactly Hamlet was debating in the 'To be or not to be' soliloquy. If first is Hamlet is discussing the emptiness of human existence and death. In this soliloquy is thought to be the thoughts on Hamlet whether or not to kill himself, and the repercussions of the actions eg. What is to come after death. This (which would be my personal belief) is what this soliloquy means, but there is also another meaning to it. In this soliloquy Hamlet could be discussing whether or not to kill Claudius, not himself. The alternative to whether or not to endure life or suicide can be interpreted as whether to endure the reign of the murder and adulterer or attempt to kill Claudius. The idea of death being sleep, includes the idea that with this sleep comes nightmares in which a good king can be buried, while a bad one can go to heaven. The lines 'And thus the native hue of resolution, is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought' implies that it is nobler to kill the King than to not take vengeance. It is not until after Hamlet has thought about the cost of the revenge that he beings to turn to his fear of death. In this soliloquy, another theory discusses, Hamlet is not debating his own life and death, but Claudius and the only thing that truly applies to himself is the fear of death.

Just a couple of thoughts. I agree with Catherine though. That would be your own homework, but gave him a break Jayne. Even you cannot be right all the time

Take care everyone.

-- Rachel Hatton (hattonhead@aol.com), September 08, 2003.

Hamlet was mad. To be mad, one does not have to be loud all the time. That is one of the first things that people notice. When Hamlet is around Horatio, he states that he is feigning madness, and acts exceptionally calm. Murders can be committed in a calm matter; that does not mean that the madness is not there; it just may be latent. Mad people do not believe they are mad, they find purpose to their actions, and so does Hamlet. Hamlet searches for logic in what he does. Has anyone ever read Poe's "Tell Tale Heart?" Speaking of a guy who finds logic in his madness and likes to constantly remind the audience that he is NOT MAD, but in truth, he is. Hamlet doesnt feel bad for killing Polonius, and he doesnt understand why Laertes wants to kill him when in all escence, Hamlet is doing the same thing, trying to avenge his father, yet he doesnt even notice the parallelism. Please write my email if you have any questions or comments, thank you!

-- Allison (fortune_cookie04@hotmail.com), November 04, 2003.

But he DOES understand why Laertes wants to kill him. He even comments that they both have the same motives.

-- Daniel Maggi (snake72786@earthlink.net), November 05, 2003.

True. (And I have a great video of the Steven Berkoff performing The Tell Tale Heart as a one-man piece. I also saw him do it at the Nottingham Playhouse. Great stuff.)

-- Patrick Von Doomsday (the_right_hand_of_doom@msn.com), November 05, 2003.

I want to get some information on the critics of rosencrants and guildenstern by tom stoppard.I cannot find any information about this.Why did tom stoppard use these characters in his drama?plese explain this

-- gülay uçkun (gulayuckun@yahoo.com), November 15, 2003.

I think, probably, because they are the characters in HAMLET whom Shakespeare treats least sympathetically. Stoppard gives a different perspective to their story.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@fastmail.com.au), November 15, 2003.

yo hamlet was da man!!! and he hid is true feeling yo by prtending he was ya no like Man or sommen i don't no and WITH HIS COMPLEXINTELLECTUAL CRISIS DEMANDING EVDIENCE TO DETERMINE SHICH COARSE OF ACTIONTO ASSUME!! oh i mean ya he was like mischevious and stuff yo well that's all i gots to say Peace out

-- master coo (ain't got one yo@edmail.com), November 19, 2003.

Hamlet is Sane.

-- Hamlets Maddness (QBK82002@yahoo.com), December 11, 2003.

The character of hamlet is presented in such a way in the play by shakespeare that he is portrayed as mad, however if we were all to place ourselves in his situation, would the way we reacted be much different to how he responded to the certain situations which arised in his life. However the character Ophelia is a key example of a character planted within Hamlet to make the reader question, is how hamlet actin really mad compared to the obvious madness of Ophelia. We must ask ourselves if Ophelia did not turn mad, do you think we would question Hamlets madness quite so much? But then we must take into consideration that not only does Hamlet state that he will pretend to be mad, but he also i feel has momentarious madness, when he jumps into the grave of Opheilia. But can we compare that madness to his feigned madness? What is Shakespeare trying to make us as readers see when all these characters such as Gertrude comment on Hamlets madness 'alas hes mad!' Why bother putting them into the play at all! There we have are answer, Shakespeare uses various characters to present Hamlets madness, thus we subconciously begin to percieve his actions as mad. We can never truely justify or explore this issue without considering; when shakespeare wrote this play he wanted a reaction from the audience, madness in those times was seen as witch craft, thus us questioning if he was truely mad, may be the wrong question to be asking. Maybe we should be asking, why has Shakespeare made this theme of madness so closed and questionable.

-- Ffion Davies (ffion_davies@hotmail.com), January 12, 2004.

hamlet may indeed have been somewhat 'mad,' i.e. out of his mind and self control.. at times.

theres no definitive reason that the ghost wouldn't appear to gertrude. gertrude might have been very useful in the revenge. at least it would be good for her to know her son's not mad. that would be good for hamlet, and hence for the revenge. she might at least stay out of his way, if not help him, if she knew he's sane. "behold gertrude, it is i, hamlet sr. your son's not mad. help him... and stop f@!*&ing my brother."

i think the real answer is that shakespeare meant for the issue to be ambiguous. he didnt want us to know for sure if hamlet's mad. we're thereby immersed in hamlet's predominant emotion: ambiguity. in this way shakespeare was being very david lynch-ish.

-- andy dudak (anaphase28@yahoo.com), March 20, 2004.

Hey everyone, was just wondering if anyone knew some good sites for famous critics on this topic as I need a few quotes for my AS coursework.

-- Rose (lenny1377@hotmail.com), April 11, 2004.

i need to write as level coursework on how hamlet portrayed the idea of hamlet being mad and if he convinces any of the other charecters if he was mad or something like that.....caherine england gimmie some help PLEASEE.....

-- charlote (iwantcandy555@hotmail.com), November 04, 2004.

Hmm. Well I think mostly by his saying things which to those around him seem out there where the buses don't run, because the others don't know everything that Hamlet knows, or he encrypts and obscures the things he says with metaphors, and wit. I think he convinces most people whom he is trying to convince, for varying lengths of time. Of course not Horatio, because he never tries to. But Polonius and Ophelia completely. Claudius for a while, until III.i. Ditto Gertrude, until III.iv. Laertes only has Claudius's and Gertrude's word for it once he gets back to Denmark; I'm not sure if he ever really makes up his mind one way or the other, or that it matters to him a damn, since he seems to judge only actions, not motivations. I think Ros. and Guil. think he is mad, not only because he appears so to them, but also because it suits their own agenda.

-- catherine england (catherine.england@arts.usyd.edu.au), November 06, 2004.

Ok. So hamlet is not mad. What are the larger implecations?

-- Michelle (vylette028@yahoo.com), November 07, 2004.

Hamlet was never mad. If you disagree then feel free to e-mail me.

-- Kami Wright (kamicheetah@hotmail.com), December 08, 2004.

Everybody talks about Hamlet's "mysterious secret"...

Well, there is no secret... and I can't believe people pretend like there is, when they don't wanna face reality.

Rather than face the truth, they invent all this convoluted garbage about Hamlet having an "Oedipal complex" and so on... Nope, that's not Hamlet's secret.

Here is Hamlet's "mysterious secret": Hamlet is really gay, and doesn't understand it. Yet he's torn between his programmed belief that he is straight, and his truer feelings of contempt for females and love of males.

Don't believe me? Well, here's why I say it:

1) Hamlet's real love was for his father. Hamlet had a serious worship of his father, who was probably more concerned with his son than his own wife, and that's why she married his brother so quickly. THIS is why Hamlet goes after the new king... his father's brother, Claudius.

Maybe his father and he kind of had a non-sexual love for each other, and now Hamlet has no concept of heterosexuality as a real form of love.

2) Hamlet doesn't have a thing for his MOTHER... *L* No, go back and re-read it carefully. Hamlet is constantly bashing females, including his mother. Hamlet is disgusted with his mother, for disgracing his father by marrying the man who killed him... and who knows? She may have supported her husband's murder!

3) Hamlet makes speeches about his admiration and love for males and brothers and so on... The truth is, his contempt is for more than females, it's also for heterosexual males. In fact, Hamlet really doesn't care for heterosexuality, and actually doesn't understand it... although he does go through the motions with Ophelia, who is deceived by it, and falls into real love with him. She doesn't know it, but she's a "fag hag"!

4) Ophelia goes mad and commits suicide because she truly thinks her one true love is lost. The reason for her madness is that her entire mind is destroyed by all these earth-shaking contradictions... How could the man that she loves so much and who loves her so much, reject her? She assumes that it's her and that she lives in a loveless world... She doesn't know that he is really gay.

5) There is no "incestuous" relationship between Hamlet and his mother... If you go back and re-read the passages that talk about an "incestuous pleasure", you will realize that Hamlet's talking about his uncle's incestuous pleasures in HIS FATHER'S BED... with Hamlet's mother. In other words, his uncle's "incestuous pleasure" comes from being in his BROTHER'S bed... and having HIS BROTHER'S wife! After all, the ghost of Hamlet's father is still around, right? There ya go.

The truth about Hamlet is that he really can only see things in terms of homosexuality... He has no idea that real feelings between a male and a female can really ever exist. This is why he misinterprets his uncle's "pleasures" in his father's bed, as being with his FATHER, instead of really with his WIFE!

6) When Hamlet goes to Ophelia's gravesite and gets in the skirmish with Laertes, he really doesn't understand why Laertes is so mad with him! He has no automatic capacity to anticipate that Laertes could really love his own sister! He isn't aware that love between males and females can even exist!

7) The appearance of the foppish dandy character right before the final scene, is very telling... That character is a mirror of who Hamlet really is, inside. He is not a superfluous character, for the sake of pure amusement.

8) Hamlet basically sees heterosexuality as this non-noble, contempible thing... Whereever it happens, as with his uncle and mother, he sees it only in terms of a vulgar man turning his mother into a whore... He doesn't understand that it could actually be enjoyable for both of them, and more than just sex.

9) Hamlet's mother has a huge soft spot for Hamlet, because of his looks. Apparently, Hamlet is a serious pretty boy. Yet this is also part of Hamlet's dilemma... Because of his looks and narcissistic fixation on male-ness, he exudes a great confidence and charisma that females fall for, hard... Including Ophelia and his mother, in whose eyes he can do no wrong, but for whom he has little respect.

10) Hamlet is reluctant to kill his uncle, because he is a man... He will engage in a love-hate "stare-down" with him, but he is only psychologically free to attack his own mother, who is female...

11) Finally, nobody but possibly Horatio and the court fop at the end, seems to understand Hamlet's true nature. This is why they all describe him as having a "madness". And I also think that Hamlet either doesn't want to face it, or doesn't know what to call his true feelings, which are gay.

Any comments?

-- Orion James (truthblade@hotmail.com), December 11, 2004.

Either you are being a devil's advocate, or you really do not understand the play, its language, its characters, and its import.

-- catherine england (catherine.england@arts.usyd.edu.au), December 11, 2004.

I think we both know that I understand it quite well. What's really at issue is how comfortable we are with such things being pointed out.

I would suggest that the import of Hamlet is only strengthened by these aspects, because then it goes from being a sacred black box of vague voodoo mysteries, and something profoundly important and specific that all of us as human beings can truly reflect upon.

-- Orion James (truthblade@hotmail.com), December 12, 2004.

On the contrary, comfort has nothing to do with it. That would imply excessive personal involvement. In fact it has everything to do with what the words and language mean, and they do not mean what you are saying. You could not quote them as evidence for your argument that Hamlet is gay. Nor is there any 'vague voodoo mystery' in the meanings for which evidence can be presented; and I have no idea whom you are talking about or what you mean when you say, 'Everybody talks about Hamlet's "mysterious secret"'.

-- catherine england (catherine.england@arts.usyd.edu.au), December 12, 2004.

I think some of your ideas are interesting and valid - a couple of points (such as the "incestuous pleasures") are generally accepted I thought. Once upon a time I would have utterly disregarded your post as a novelty theory. However, I now understand more and more, the way that Shakespeare in his later plays (from Hamlet and thenceforth) had some kind of "sex- nausea" going on. There was often some kind of sub-text just below the surface of his plays, obviously not able to be made explicit, which open up a deeper, psychological truth to the plays. Even in earlier plays such as The Merchant Of Venice, it is now more or less generally accepted that Antonio is a homosexual, torn by his love for Bassanio.

People have an annoying habit, as I often see on this forum, of enjoying no special opportunities for penetrating into the obscurer aspects of mental activities, and who base their views of human motive on the surface valuation given by the agents themselves; to whom all conduct, whether good or bad at all events springs from purely conscious sources, and regard suggestions put forward like your own or my own as merely one more extravagant and fanciful hypothesis on which Hamlet criticism in particular is more replete.

Shakespeare was a masterful, insightful, observational psychologist; a genius of western Renaissance art.

I have been searching for answers and thruths in Hamlet for years. I have never been satisfied with the majority of theories I have read. I have dozens of books solely based on Hamlet alone. But I have always been searching for the underlying truth, the grand design that Shakespeare intended. I still don't know the answers, though I believe I understand it now more than i did a year ago. I have strong theories now, but I am still hungry and unsatisfied. How anyone can say of Hamlet "Well, it's simple, it's like this...This is what Shakespeare meant..." astounds me.

I think Luis Bunuel said something once along the lines of "Once I truly understand a work of art, it is no longer of interest to me". I can understand that.

Do not underestimate Shakespeare.

-- Patrick Walker (the_right_hand_of_doom@msn.com), December 13, 2004.

I've been on to HAMLET on and off for over a decade now. At first it didn't really interest me, because I did not understand it. The more I understand a work of art, the more it can interest me, and the more I enjoy it. Understanding it cannot make me deaf and blind to its beauty, its complexity, its brilliant technique and its messages.

Shakespeare was a master of people, rather than of psychology. He seems to have found that even the most apparantly ordinary or 'normal', or quiet or retiring person might in fact be complicated and interesting, alone and in interactions with others, and have something to say to the people that make up audiences. That is primarily why Shakespeare's work is never simple. Do not underestimate people.

-- catherine england (catherine.england@arts.usyd.edu.au), December 13, 2004.

Just so we're clear: 'incestuous pleasures' refers to the marriage and love- making between Claudius and Gertrude - incestuous because Gertrude was Claudius's brother's wife.

-- catherine england (catherine.england@arts.usyd.edu.au), December 13, 2004.

Yes, Catherine. I already understood that the "incestuous pleasures" were incestuous because they occurred between Claudius and his brother's wife. That was my point.

And I'M saying that they're incestuous primarily because it's the ghost of Claudius's brother that taints the marriage bed... In effect, Hamlet's comment conveys that Claudius is committing incest WITH HIS BROTHER, by proxy of his brother's wife. In other words, it's a "by proxy" form of incest.

I thought I made this perfectly clear in my first post.

-- Orion (truthblade@hotmail.com), December 14, 2004.

And another thing... I'm not the one underestimating people here. And everything that you're explaining to me, I already understood.

This leads me to believe that you really only half-read my original post... because the sort of recommendations that you're making to me, are wholly unnecessary, as I've explained myself fully in my original post.

Also, I don't see why Shakespeare has to be left untouched, as this kind of sacred cow, for the sake of maintaining his "sacred mysteriousness". Shakespeare was commenting on the shocking lasciviousness of the human condition, but you won't know that until you actually allow people to show some spine and identify his actual points.

You sound like you want to reify and mysticize his writings, rather than actually uncover and evaluate their concrete messages.

-- Orion James (truthblade@hotmail.com), December 14, 2004.

Brilliant as Shakespeare was, he was just a man... with an actual message to convey to the human race.

It's a pity that we don't allow the actual messages to be uncovered and stated openly, but rather to pretend that they are ever- shifting, ever-changing, and ultimately non-objective.

This is an injustice to Shakespeare, and to the very real and psychologically important messages he was trying to convey, such as in Hamlet.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare was trying to convey the prince's internal struggles between his own latent misogyny, and his social duty to still be heterosexual.

I remain convinced that Shakespeare ultimately created Hamlet as a manifesto and misogynistic rationale for something like homosexuality. And at the same time, I think he was also attempting to show the very real injustices inherent in the misogyny-based rationale, through their effects on the very good and decent character of Ophelia.

I don't think you realize how seriously I AM taking Shakespeare, and the depth of thought that I'm attempting to give this, when it would be far easier for me to just jump on the historical bandwagon, and toss the same old critically vague, nonspecific garlands of shallow pseudo-praise onto Shakespeare's work, as virtually everybody else does.

I refuse to say that Shakespeare's work is great, because the whole world concurs that Shakespeare is great, and that therefore I must join in the praise chorus... Rather, I WILL say that Shakespeare's work is great, IF it conveys a much-needed message that no one else had the nerve to convey.

That, to me, is the only respectable stance to take.

-- Orion James (truthblade@hotmail.com), December 14, 2004.

And if Hamlet isn't ultimately a groundwork-forming argument in favor of homosexuality, I am convinced that it is a condemnation of the female species AND of heterosexuality, as a contemptible and brutish scenario.

-- Orion James (truthblade@hotmail.com), December 14, 2004.

Sigh. I should be writing my thesis, but now I'm too cross. So ...

I'm going to leave all the personal comments bullshit aside. Except to say generally that you should read my posts under other questions, and also those of other people: while some of us here may on occasion come close to reifying Branagh, no one is doing so with Shakespeare.

Moreover, the only person talking vaguely about it is you. I simply reiterate my point that a number of your points are completely unfounded and you cannot cite evidence from the text for your case. Yet to do this is the absolute, fundamental requirement in interpreting a piece of literature. And I stress interpreting. There are no 'concrete' or 'actual messages' that one can know. There is only what one believes, according to one's understanding of the text.

To respond to the more pertinent of your points ...

People do not describe Hamlet as suffering from 'madness' because they do not understand that he is gay. They do so because he behaves in ways understood to be typically lunatic, including messy and incomplete dress, and cryptic conversation which appears incomprehensible. These behaviours are, however, 'put on' by Hamlet to disguise his true thoughts and intentions.

Your interpretation of 'incestuous pleasures' really is not perfectly clear to me. While I may be wrong, it seems you are saying that Hamlet sees Claudius as acting out homosexuality with Claudius's brother - yet with a woman, Gertrude. This is not supportable with the text, and there is surely not even any reasonable or logical case for such 'by-proxy incest'. You can't have sex with a ghost, true, but I very much doubt you would even if you could, with the ghost of someone you had just killed so as to get his wife, unless you were completely pathologically psychotic, which Claudius isn't. Claudius most probably is, as he says, in love with Gertrude, while there is no kind of suggestion anywhere that there was any kind of love lost between him and his brother. The incest is, legally and morally, the relationship between Claudius and Gertrude herself. In the time and place this is a forbidden relationship. Such indeed were the grounds on which Henry VIII sued for the annulment of his marriage with Catherine of Aragon.

Hamlet is not 'reluctant to kill his uncle, because he is a man'. Indeed, he is not reluctant to kill his uncle at all, nor even to have Claudius suffer and rot in hell. He is, though, reluctant to be damned for killing his uncle and king.

As I have said times before in other questions in the forum, Hamlet is not a misogynist, and the play is not misogynistic. Just briefly here, Hamlet speaks of his love for both his mother and Ophelia, praises Ophelia's 'virtue', and describes Gertrude as 'a queen, fair, sober, wise'. He has, without a doubt, been confused and distressed by Gertrude's behaviour with Claudius, but to cast a blanket label of misogyny onto this is inaccurate.

Your statement that 'Hamlet makes speeches about his admiration and love for males and brothers and so on...' is another vague lumping together of things that should be more accurately treated. Sometimes (for example in II.ii in his speech to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern), these speeches amount to rewordings of classic Renaissance humanist philosophy, which saw mankind in ideal terms as the finest earthly creature, full of ability and potential. At other times, as when he talks about his father, or praises Horatio, Hamlet's speeches are admiring of qualities of character in men which have nothing to do with sex. They may involve a filial or friendly love, but give no indication of sexual love. Admiring someone's character does not automatically result from a desire to jump into bed with him. On the other hand, too, Hamlet also speaks at times very strongly against males, certainly and not least his uncle, but also in general terms in III.i. Just as he is confused and disillusioned about ideals of femininity, so he is also about ideals of mankind. Here, I shall end, appropriately, with Hamlet's own words: 'Man delights not me. No, nor woman neither ...'.

-- catherine england (catherine.england@arts.usyd.edu.au), December 14, 2004.

Thank you for that extensive post, and although I'm busy with other things at the moment, I should be able to post citations from the text to make my point, hopefully by week's end.

-- Orion (truthblade@hotmail.com), December 14, 2004.


First of all, who we feel the safest with, is who we ultimately feel arousal around... If you take the time to pay attention to your own psychological dynamics as you're around people, that is.

With that, said, Hamlet does clearly not trust and resultingly respect females any longer... Nor does he particularly have those feelings toward males any longer, as shown in his "man delights not me, nor woman either" line.

In actuality, Hamlet thereby feels estranged from the entire dynamics of the human race, and comes to feel like a member of some alien race, and thereby his schizophrenic demeanor.

The truth is, however, that the only person he truly trusts any longer is Horatio. Throughout the play, Horatio and he share a degree of unconditional trust and ease with each other that is the foundation of a new sort of sexual dynamic, beyond what he perceives between males and females, and which is to him a contemptible form of cutthroat opportunism. In lump form, his has become the homosexual perspective.

Is Hamlet right in lumping all heterosexuality together like this? Could Ophelia's love for him have been truly genuine? Was the shameful example that his mother and uncle made of heterosexuality, telling of the whole of heterosexuality? Was Ophelia's display of love for him any different than what his mother's was, for his father, before his uncle killed him? Was it any more genuine?

This is what I'm talking about when I say that, ultimately, I see Hamlet as a pro-homosexuality -- and anti-heterosexuality -- argument.

-- Orion (truthblade@hotmail.com), January 02, 2005.

>>"First of all, who we feel the safest with, is who we ultimately feel arousal around... If you take the time to pay attention to your own psychological dynamics as you're around people, that is."

What? Is this the premis of your argument? I feel safest with my dogs. Don't you dare suggest it. I know whom I feel aroused by, and it ain't them. Moreover, one's a boy and one's a girl. Go figure on the homosexuality issue.

>>"In actuality, Hamlet thereby feels estranged from the entire dynamics of the human race, and comes to feel like a member of some alien race, and thereby his schizophrenic demeanor."

Again I have to say, huh? Surely Hamlet shows in III.i and elsewhere that he feels all too human and part of the human race, failing alongside all 'such fellows as I'. And what is 'his schizophrenic demeanor'?

I could go on querying, but really, it all comes down to one query: What is your evidence? You are still talking in theories and generalities without basing anything on the words of the text, or even the characters they portray. And I think your theories are not really logical.

You are also lumping together quite different emotions and thoughts which I don't think should be lumped together - love, respect, misogyny, friendship, trust, sex, admiration. These are very different things, and in any relationship they may or may not all be experienced.

Towards the end of that post, you are even arguing with hypothetical questions which may or may not be in Hamlet's mind at any relevant point. What tells you that they occur to him?

I will also say that I think you are making an error in assuming that the people and society of Shakespeare's England, and Shakespeare himself, necessarily viewed homosexual activity as a culture and mind-set in itself, and one in opposition to heterosexuality.

I can only ask again that you make a case based on the text of the play.

-- catherine england (catherine.england@arts.usyd.edu.au), January 02, 2005.

Well, I had posted an answer to you earlier, but I went back to see if you'd responded to it, and it hadn't been posted.

Apparently, someone who controls this site, has decided to enjoy the petty pleasures of playing God, and not allow it to post. Oh well.

But for the record, I had posted it. And now I must let babies have their rattles.


-- Orion (truthblade@hotmail.com), January 05, 2005.

Hmm. I get the email alert for this forum. That is, when anything is posted, the post is immediately emailed to me, along with a link back to the site. Whenever the administrator of the forum decides to remove a post, it's because of filthy language in my experience, not because she's deciding whose ideas she's going to allow in the forum. I know this because even when she removes a post from the forum, it is still emailed to me. Didn't get yours though. Hmm.

-- catherine england (catherine.england@arts.usyd.edu.au), January 05, 2005.

What are Hamlet's reasons for pretending to be mad? Is it only to buy himself time, or is there another reason?

-- TwistedLogic (nschill@sover.net), February 16, 2005.

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