A Critical Analysis of Shakespeare’s HamletDave BeastonHamlet. Is he an insane madman or a revengeful, scheming, genius? Thereare many conflicting ideas and theories on this subject, and hopefully thispaper may be of some assistance in clearing up the confusion. The paper isdivided into three separate analytic sections beginning with the beginning ofHamlet’s so called madness, and why it may have occurred. Next, is an analysisof why Hamlet delays revenging his father’s death.
To conclude the paper,Hamlet’s incestuous acts towards his mother are discussed, in WilliamShakespeare’s Hamlet. In the first act Hamlet seems to be in a perfectly sane state of mindthroughout all five scenes. It is in the second scene where the audience beginsto see a change in his character. Ophelia meets with Polonius and recalls themeeting she had previously with Hamlet. She tells her father that Hamlet cameto her disheveled and in a shaken state of mind, speaking of “horrors.
” (Act 2Scene 2 line 94). Her father immediately believes that he is “Mad for thylove?” (Act 2 Scene 2 line 95). Opelia answers a question posed by Polonius bywhich she replied that she had told Hamlet that she could not see or communicatewith him any more. Her father makes reference to Hamlet’s madness once again byproclaiming that what his daughter said, “. . .
hath made him (Hamlet) mad. ” (Act2 Scene 2 line 123). The argument of whether Hamlet is insane because of his love for Ophelia isoften debated, but a more confusing and complex situation is the struggle withinHamlet’s mind. His personal struggle is revealed to the audience in scene oneof the third act.
In this scene Hamlet recites his famous “To be or not to be-that is the question:” (Act 3 Scene 1 line 64) speech. Here the the audiencetruly realizes that Hamlet is torn two ways in his life. To be or not to be,essentially is Hamlet debating on whether he should toil the pains of living insuch a harsh world and fight to avenge his father’s murder or take his own life. Hamlet is confused as to whether he should avenge his father’s death when hehimself, as Sigmund Freud’s “Oedipus Rex Complex” suggests, wished to murder hisfather to gain all of his mother’s attention. But, in the back of Hamlet’s mind,which keeps him in constant turmoil, is his loyalty to his family and moreoverhis father. Hamlet, in act four scene two, meets with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern andhe seems to be breaking down into insanity.
Hamlet had just killed Polonius,and his two friends were questioning him as to where he placed the body of thedead man. The strange thing about this scene is that Hamlet seems to play withRosencrantz and Guildenstern and does not give them a straight answer. Hamlethas practically transformed into a different person and doesn’t seem to becompletely sane. Next is another situation that cannot be totally explained. The situationbeing Hamlet’s delays in avenging his father’s death.
The first that Hamletlearns of his father’s death is in act one scene five, where he follows theghost. Hamlet is told, by the ghost, that he (the ghost) is the soul ofHamlet’s father, and that he was murdered by Claudius. This all took place atthe beginning of the play and Hamlet waited until the end of the play to getrevenge for his father’s murder. Then again there are different perspectives asto whether Hamlet waited until the end to actually gain revenge. For within theplay there are many insinuations that Hamlet tortured Claudius all the way upuntil he killed the king. Two instances are particularly evident.
First, theplay within a play confirms that Claudius was the murderer of Hamlet’s father. Hamlet stages the Murder of Gonzago in which the actor who is playing the partof the king is murdered in the same manner that Claudius killed Hamlet’s father. At the moment that the actor playing the part of the king is killed Claudiusleaps from his seat and rushes out of the theater infuriated. This violentaction by the king overjoys Hamlet for now he knows that it was Claudius whomurdered his father.
More than the fact that he knows that Claudius is themurderer, Hamlet is slowly and painfully gaining his revenge of his fathersdeath. The other instance where Hamlet could have killed Claudius was in act threescene three. In this particular scene Hamlet comes upon Claudius while he isknelt in prayer. Hamlet draws his sword and intends to kill Claudius there inprayer but then decides to wait. Hamlet comes to the conclusion that he shouldwait until Claudius is commuting a sin so he will go to hell, as opposed tokilling him in prayer where he would then go to heaven.
This is another exampleas to why Hamlet procrastinates revenging his father’s death. The obviousreason Hamlet waits is to bring more than just the pain of his sword to Claudiusand torture him until the end. Finally, Hamlet’s sexual attraction towards his mother is to be discussed. In act three scene four, Hamlet enters his mothers bedroom at her wish and firstkills Polonius, then proceeds to make love to his mother. This action is calledthe “Oedipus Rex Complex”, which was invented by Sigmund Freud on the basis ofOedipus the epic poem by Sophocles.
This theory states that all young men wishto destroy their fathers so that their mother’s attention will be guided on themsolely. Also the fact that Hamlet thought that Polonius was Claudius adds tothe evidence that Hamlet had the “Oedipus Complex”. Hamlet was obsessed withhis mother but before the situation in the bedroom escalated his father, theghost, appeared and reminded him of the plight which he was supposed to beaccomplishing. Hamlet’s madness at times is justified and at other times is pure insanity. At first Hamlet seems to be going mad over the fact that he is not allowed tosee Ophelia. Then it seems that the fact that he is overwhelmed with hisfather’s death, and begins to fight with himself over the thought of suicide.
He is then determined to gain revenge for his father and goes about torturingClaudius in a systematic and genius manner. Finally, Hamlet is caught up in hislove for his mother which brings him back to the point of insanity. Inconclusion Hamlet is torn between two worlds, that of the sane and well and thatof the crazed and insane.