My original panel discussion question was “What does Shakespeare say about women through Gertrude and Ophelia?” However, in my opinion, this question was more straightforward than the other questions presented in the discussion. Therefore, the answer I developed was quite similar to those in my group as well as the rest of my classmates. This has motivated me to blog about a question that can result in polar opposite responses: Was Hamlet really mad? In my opinion, Hamlet was not “mad” at the beginning of this play; however, as his plot for revenge consumed him, he lost control over his actions.
The first part of my assertion can be supported by the fact that Hamlet makes a conscience decision to feign a spell of madness. After discovering the truth about his father’s murder, Hamlet discusses with Horatio and Ghost about a plan to “put on an antic disposition” (I.V.170-172). In this specific scene, it is easy to observe and note Hamlet’s actions as being somewhat rational. In order to take revenge for his father, Hamlet devised a course of action that will help fulfill that goal. Hamlet’s clear state-of-mind is clear to readers in this section of the novel, for the protagonist is able to find reasonable solution to solve his conflict. Unfortunately, this clear minded Hamlet did not last too long. Soon after, Hamlet descends into madness as he further pursuits his end goal.
I think that the turning point of Hamlet’s sanity occurs when Hamlet observes Claudius praying for forgiveness. It is clear to any reader that Hamlet is conflict about how to further proceed. He could simply accomplish his goal by killing Claudius, who has his back turned and has admitted to killing his brother (King Hamlet). Unfortunately, Hamlet, engrossed with his plot of revenge, chooses to spare Claudius only because killing him would allow his soul to rise to heaven. Immediately after this event, Hamlet’s actions become much more irrational and illogical. This is notion supported when Hamlet kills a man in cold blood.
After his brief view into Claudius’s room, Hamlet goes to speak with his mother. The conversation between the two quickly turns sour as Hamlet berates his mother for marrying Claudius. During the heated exchange, a noise behind a tapestry alerts Hamlet, and he quickly thrusts his sword into it. The material is removed to reveal Polonius who was spying on Gertrude and Hamlet. The protagonist drags the body away and proceeds to tell his mother to stay quiet about the incident. This is a prime example of the moments in the play that shows Hamlet losing control in pursuit of his revenge. The lack of reaction from Hamlet after killing a fellow human effectively displays the lack of human regard held by Hamlet at this point in the play. Even after committing the deed, Hamlet insults the recently deceased by calling Polonius a “fool” (III.IV.31). Clearly, the ability for a human being to commit murder and also display no remorse is a sign for someone who has fallen to madness. This downward spiral of madness continues until the end of the play and Hamlet’s demise.