ENC 1102 Sect 44
30 April 2009
Literary Review 6
Hamlet: Mad or Sane
In the William Shakespeare play, Hamlet, by all indications, appears to be driven mad by the news he receives from the Ghost, and by his Mother marrying his Uncle. In fact the story calls into question his sanity. However, only the reader can answer the real question of his mental stability. “The mooted question of the Prince's sanity has divided the readers of Shakespeare into two opposing schools; the one defending a feigned, and the other an unfeigned madness” (Blackmore). “"Was Hamlet mad?" The problem is not merely insoluble; it cannot even be propounded in an intelligible guise. Psychology knows no rigid dividing line between the sane and the insane. The pathologist, indeed, may distinguish certain abnormal conditions of brain-areas, and call them diseased; or the lawyer may apply practical tests to determine the point where restraint of the individual liberty becomes necessary in the public interest. But beyond this you cannot go; you cannot, from any wider point of view, lay your finger upon one element here or there in the infinite variety of human character and say, that way madness lies”(Chambers).
“Throughout the first Act, wherein the Prince is pictured in acute mental grief at the loss of his loved father and the shameful conduct of his mother, there is nothing even to suggest the notion of dementia. It is only after the appalling revelations of the ghost, which exposed the secret criminals and his own horrid situation that he resolved to, wear
the mask of a madman in the furtherance of his suddenly formed plan of "revenge." Hence, at once confiding his purpose to his two trusted friends and swearing them to
secrecy, he begins to play the part and to impress upon the court the notion of his lunacy”
(Blackmore). Horatio is well aware that everyone assumes his friend to be demented. Nevertheless, being true to his...