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