Throughout the play, Hamlet displays many characteristics indicative of madness. At the beginning of the play, Hamlet is visited by the ghost of his father. His father’s ghost tells him that he was murdered by Claudius, which drives Hamlet to want to seek revenge. This causes him to display erratic behavior, indicating that he has become mad with his desire to avenge his father’s death. He also becomes quite deeply over the death and murder of his father and begins to question life as a result. While Hamlet feels the need to avenge his father’s death, he also worries that the ghost may actually “be a devil who will betray his soul,” rather than the actual ghost of his father . This makes Hamlet confused as to what he should actually do in response to seeing the ghost and drives him further into madness.
Hamlet had a chance to kill Claudius early in the play while Claudius was praying, but decided that, if he were killed while praying, that Claudius’s soul would go to Heaven. Hamlet decided that a better revenge would be to wait until some other time to kill him to prevent his soul from going to Heaven. The longer Hamlet waits to exact his revenge, the further he descends into madness and melancholy. A prime example of Hamlet’s thoughtful state is his famous “To be, or not to be” monologue in Act 3, Scene 1. In this soliloquoy, Hamlet seems to be having an existential crisis as he contemplates the meaning of life and death and whether or not he would be better off to take his own life. His madness and erudition has driven him to the point wanting to commit suicide.
In act 3 scene 2 he designs a play to see if Claudius was actually guilty of killing his father. This is a example of his madness yet again. he confids the true nature of his madness in his mother stating that “iam not in madness, but mad in craft”
Hamlet’s madness likely stems from an actual mental illness, most likely a depressive illness. Hamlet admits to suffering from melancholy. The death of his father only worsened a preexisting condition. Throughout the play, Hamlet displays pessimistic thoughts and negativity. He is unable to cope with his perceived responsibility to his father and is driven further into a state of depression .
Hamlet’s madness and his quest for revenge ultimately resulted in his death. This quest for revenge resulted in not only his own death, but in the deaths of many other characters in the play as well, including his mother, Gertrude, who drinks the poison that was meant for him. His need for revenge against the man who murdered his father ended in the further destruction of his own family.
On the other hand Ophelia has a different story of her madness
Another character that can be construed as mad in Hamlet is Ophelia. Ophelia is portrayed as a weak character who is unable to think clearly for herself or to have any sense of individuality. Early in the play Ophelia says to her father, Polonius, “I do not know, my lord, what I should think” (Shakespeare). This indicates that she is too weak-willed to have an identity of her own, which could indicate some type of mental illness or “madness.” Her father’s identity is her identity and this loss of identity propelled her further into madness.
Ophelia’s madness is driven by the loss of the male influences in her life. Once these male influences are removed and these descriptions no longer define Ophelia, she loses her identity and becomes mad.” Once her father is dead, she loses a major part of her identity disappears along with the disappearance of male dominance. As a result of her madness, she is unable to recognize herself as an independent person without these dominant male people in her life. Mad with grief over the death of her father, Ophelia drowned herself in a river. This madness, in the end, led Ophelia to commit suicide as she had nothing to live for without the men in her life who bestowed her sense of identity upon her.
Overall madness is portrayed as a very dominant theme leading to the deaths of many characters. Hamlet reserves his truthful thoughts for time his soliloquoys and puts on a mask when out in public. Showing the theme of appearance vs truth which strongly links in to the theme of madness.
In conclusion
Madness is one of the main themes of Hamlet. Hamlet and Ophelia both display symptoms of madness, but each become mad for different reasons. Hamlet’s madness is fueled by his father’s death and his desire to seek revenge on the man who killed him. Ophelia’s madness stems from her lack of identity and her feelings of helplessness regarding her own life. While the death of Hamlet’s father made him angry enough to want revenge, Ophelia internalized the death of her father as a loss of personal identity. While these deaths both sparked madness in these characters, they each dealt with their madness in different ways.

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