Hamlet Essay, Research Paper
Hamlet went through various emotional states because of different unfortunate
circumstances that confronted him. Yet Hamlet never went so far over “the edge” so as to
not come back from reality, yet for reasons psychological, he procrastinated actions that
he should have taken, until it was too late. I will first discuss Hamlet, the origins for his
queer behavior and if it twas feigned or not.
In the first act we see that Hamlet is a sort of idealistic man coming back to
the world from university in Wittenburg. Coleridge described Hamlet in this point of the
play as a “Renaissance” man, who has never really come in contact with the dark side of
humanity. In the very beginning of Act 1 scene i the guards dialog reflect that “there is
something rotten in the state of Denmark”. It is full of corruption, deceit, passion,
ruthlessness, and ambition that Hamlet is not used to (Lidz, 71). His mind temporarily can
not handle his situation because, as I will mention later, his mother is at the center of it.
He has to try to find meaning, direction and a stable identity in the midst of all the evil
about him (Lidz, 73).
We clearly see that Hamlet is quite upset by his mother’s quite hasty marriage to is
uncle, and this causes some deep seeded emotional problems for Hamlet. I can not talk
about Hamlet’s emotional state without also going into the fact that Hamlet already
suspects the King of killing his father, before the ghost tells him so (Leavenwoth, 34).
First I will go elaborate on how Hamlet, at certain times, was clearly not feigning
insanity, but that insanity only lasted for brief periods of time because of the emotional
blows that Hamlet undergoes.
I and many literary folk believe that Hamlet suffered from a Oedipus complex.
Freud described this as a desire for a young boy to kill his father and become sexually
involved with his mother. Now that Hamlet’s father is eliminated, he believes that he will
now be the number one
person receiving affection from his mother, Queen Gertrude (Lidz, 48). This is the
principal reason of why even though Hamlet should have grown out of the Oedipal, it gets
reawakened (Lidz, 48). But, to Hamlet’s great disappointment his mother has remarried
and he will not be the number one person to receive his mother’s affection and his
superego is greatly damaged (Leavenworth, 95). He feels like his mother has betrayed
him in, by marrying, and to boot that she married with great haste. It is this anger that gets
pent-up inside of Hamlet and he releases it by way of lashing out at Ophelia and his
mother. However, while this anger is still brewing inside him he is truly mad until it is
released by some cleansing means (Babcock, 112).
It can be clearly stated that Hamlet really is in love with his mother, and expects
her to be a supporting mother figure that is going to cradled Hamlet and take care of his
needs, basically mother Hamlet. I think that Hamlet also needed the comfort of a loving
mother badly because he returns home to find his father dead and the world he once
thought would be so perfect, collapsing around him and the only thing that can make him
feel truly safe and out of harm’s way is his mother. That yearning and extreme need for the
comfort of his mother is a pivotal point of why Hamlet feels betrayed by his mother, when
she can not afford him the love he expects.
Besides Hamlet’s desire to find comfort in his mother, it is evident that he is
sexually attracted to his mother in a sexual fashion. Because of some of Hamlet’s actions
in the “closet scene” it is first apparent that he is making some sort of sexual advance
towards his mother the Queen. This is where Hamlet’s Oedipus complex really bears
itself completely, we know exactly what Hamlet wants, but like in the rest of the play his
words seem haphazard and spurned on by disillusionment
(Lidz, 130). He is here making an attempt to not only regain the love of his mother, but a
whose flames were ignited by Gertrude’s hasty marriage.
The dear and lovely Ophelia is another person who plays a pivotal part in
confusing Hamlet even more than he already is. Hamlet, me thinks, is truly in love with
Ophelia through the duration of the play. Even though is seems that Hamlet’s love for her
wanes at certain times, he needs her in his live. She (and I’m going out on a limb with this
one) in Hamlet’s mind might be considered a temporary substitute for his mother. He
needs her as a support for his life. He is desperately grasping for something to hold onto
and someone that will hold onto him.
Hamlet at one time admitted that he was mad, but only because of how the events
that transpired effected him and how he felt he was extremely wronged by his mother (V,
ii). As I stated before, this feeling of betrayal is because Hamlet did not have primacy
with Gertrude’s affections. He just becomes very disillusioned and hostile toward the one
person he thought would support him in his time of need (Lidz 230). He was in fear of
reality (because of how badly it shattered his dreams) and he needed the one person he
thought he could trust. But it also could of resulted from the fact that Hamlet has
suspicions that Gertrude might have been in the plot to kill his father. However
Shakespeare keeps this thought in the air by not having Hamlet outright ask his mother
about it. (Charlton, 67). I think this also can be seen as an attempt to return the mother he
loved so much back to the “good side”, because subconsciously he doesn’t care if she did
it (killed his father), he just wants his “mommy” back; this is due in part to his Oedipal
Proof of Hamlet’s hostility and manic behavior observed by his remarks to Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern about his mother’s message that she wants to speak to him. His remarks
are too bitter
and upsetting, unlike some of his other witticisms, to be humorous and they appear to be
very like manic behavior. Another interesting point is that Hamlet compares himself with
Nero, who killed his mother and also had an incestuous passion for her (Charlton, 67).
The Emperor Claudius was Nero’s step-father and great uncle who incestuously married
his niece (Charlton, 67). I psychiatrist might say that since Hamlet thinks that his mother
has made very bad judgment calls, when he talks to Gertrude in the “closet scene” he
loosens his super ego restraints and in the process, losses self-control. (Leavenworth,
140). He can no longer take on the role of moral guardian and snaps once again; I believe
he is now extremely manic and confused and must vent his anger and disappointment
towards his mother (Leavenworth, 140). This is done in-order to reverse the parent and
child roles and seek to act as his mother’s conscience or super-ego, he has to wait until the
pressures within him are unbearable, then when he can finally express his feelings he
verges on losing all self-control.
“In Hamlet’s mind she has died as his mother.” (Leavenworth, 45) This is what I
believe to be the root of his on/off madness, the betrayal of his mother; he tries to get her
back, but he is just so perplexed. When Hamlet is talking with the ghost of his late father,
the ghost tells Hamlet not to kill his mother, even though he is extremely anger and
disillusioned by her actions; this I think causes him even more grief, and thus causes him
to fall into a deeper state of madness, by not allowing him to vent his anger in a simple
way (I,v). “The closet scene is when the time has come for Hamlet to vent his feeling
about his mother and therefore rid himself of his antic behavior. They have become more
violent and threaten to destroy his life or sanity.” (Lidz, 234). “He is caught up in
are gaining control over his thoughts, feelings and behavior. He will seek his mother’s
redemption, in so doing, tries to escape destruction” (Lidz, 233). But because of all his
pent up frustration and anger, Hamlet’s disposition just seems antic, he doesn’t think, he
Ophelia plays another significant part in Hamlet’s intricate insanity or “antic
behavior”. Both she and Hamlet displayed “melancholia” during certain parts of the play.
Ophelia was likewise in love Hamlet, but she was warned by Polinous, that Hamlet might
just very well take her virginity and marry another. Hamlet and Ophlia share a common
bond of both of them losing their father and both die because there is nothing left for them
but to desire death as an escape from an existence that has become intolerable (Charlton,
109). “In (II, i, 78-83) we see how Hamlet reacts to the events in act I. He scared
Ophelia, even thought we are aware that Hamlet has planned to feign insanity, it seems
strange that by entering Ophelia’s room in so disheveled a condition. This may be
because of the way Ophelia offended Hamlet, by repelling his letters and denying him
access to her.” (Lidz, 46). Ophelia’s “repelling” of Hamlet causes him to become
depressed and even more confused. This may be why in his letter to her (II, ii, 119-123)
might mean that he will commit suicide unless Ophelia takes him back (Lidz, 85).
Because Hamlet lost the only person he still truly loves he becomes even more
enraged and antic, when she repels him again, after her father’s accidental murder. If
Hamlet were not antic after he killed Polinus he might have begged Ophelia’s forgiveness.
Hamlet loses Ophelia when he kills her father and thus he become more enraged with
himself and he became even more determined to
avenge his father’s death. The next logical place for Hamlet to vent anger is with Claudis,
he already had words with his mother. He is looking to solve the problems of the
kingdom and thus the problems within himself (his depression). And thus the on/off antic
disposition is shown again; stress builds up then vents, it builds up again and must again
Besides Hamlet’s venting of anger, in which he was clearly mad, he did have the
rest of the character convinced that he was mad, even though Hamlet was feign madness
most of the time.In Hamlet’s Enemy: Madness and Myth in Hamlet, Lidz has a very
interesting opinion of what Hamlet means when he states to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,
“I am not mad north-north west; when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a
handsaw (I, ii). This could come to mean “Don’t worry, I’m not so mad that I don’t know
one tool from another, as well as one bird from another, and I’m bright enough to confuse
you with this remark”. Along the same lines Lidz translated it as “I know who the hunter
is (hawk; Claudius) and who the hunted is (heron, Hamlet).”
Along the same lines of Hamlet being aware that his life is in danger he replies to
Polonius, “You cannot sir, take away from me anything that I will more willingly part
withal; except my life, except my life, except my life (I,ii,212-214). This tells us that
Hamlet is in a precarious state, despite his wits (Lidz, 234).
Throughout the play Hamlet uses word play inorder to “act” insane. His faked
insanity serves as a sort of cover for his plot of revenge against the man that killed his
father. Most of the time when Hamlet seems to be acting mad, he is using the freedom
afforded to him by his supposed
madness, to “mess” with Polinus and Claudius by displaying his wit in playing with words
and phrases. One example of Hamlet’s word play is “Pol. What do you read my lord?
Ham. Words, words, words. Pol. What is the matter my lord? Ham. Between who?
Pol. I mean the matter that
you read.” Then Hamlet goes on to describe a book about a gray old man that is,
basically, an imbecile; which I can only come to conclude, refers to Polonius. The great
thing about Hamlet’s words are that they are witty enough to fool Polinus, but to the
audience Polinus appears to be a fool. It is a way of Hamlet saying that he is in control,
and shows without a doubt that Hamlet had his wits about him.
The players also play an significant part in the events of Hamlet. We see that
Hamlet it cunning enough to “test” Claudius, to see if what the ghost told him was the truth;
“The play’s the thing/ Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King(I, ii,580-581) (Lidz,
150). These are not the actions of an insane person, they are those of a intelligent and
cunning one, who is unsure and of his future and the further of his mother and the kingdom.
On the issue of Hamlet’s uncertainty, it is evident that he is extremely unsure, this is
apparent in his “to be or not to be” Soliloquy. He questions himself, should he try to clear
the court of corruption or just give up and end his life now. It is this doubt that drives
Hamlet to act deranged at times, but he overcomes it, and tries to answer all the difficult
questions posed in his life. As I stated before, pressure builds up for Hamlet, then he must
find some way to release it, ” in act V, because when calm returns, Hamlet repents his
behavior.” (V, ii, 75-78) (Lidz, 164).
In Lidz’s book Freud is quoted as saying, “that if anyone holds and expresses to
others an opinion of himself such as this (”Use every man after his desert, and who shall
he is ill, whether he is being more or less unfair to himself.” I am using this quote to show
that Hamlet is a very ambiguous person, and evidence for both sides of the argument can
be made for either the side that he was crazy or that he was sane; it is just up to
Curious circumstances revolve around why Hamlet procrastinated in the killing of
Claudius. On his way to see his mother Hamlet sees Claudius praying and decides not to
kill him. It clearly shows that Hamlet was not kept from gaining vengeance through lack
of opportunity. In fact that act is one of self damnation, which eventually ends five lives
in the court. It states in the play that Hamlet did not kill Claudius, because if he killed him
while he was praying, Claudius would go to heaven. This would seem to people in
modern times that there was a deeper reason, which there is a definite probability there is
one, but we must remember that people in Elizabethan times truly believe in heaven and
hell; and if Claudius had purged his soul by prayer, but he did not and Hamlet lost his
chance (Weston, 181).
We also must remember that Hamlet had other things on his mind at the same time,
more importantly, his mother. He is not so obsessed with his father’s murder that he must
hasten to revenge (Lidz, 235). He believes (more likely made himself believe) that he can
kill his uncle and get the throne at anytime, but more importantly his mother’s obliquity
will remain with him (Lidz, 235).
Talking about why Hamlet balked on revenge also brings us back to why the
events that unfolded while he was away at college shattered his dreams so violently. I
think that he would consider himself a very idealistic person, an almost Renaissance man.
Killing his uncle in cold blood
would then require him to become a person that he is not. Cooleridge states in
Interpreting Hamlet “Hamlet is placed in circumstances, under which he is obliged to act
on the spur of a
moment. Hamlet is brave and careless of death; but he vacillates from sensibility, and
from thought, and loses the power of action in the energy of resolve.” Being a
Renaissance Man or thinking man of wide and keen intellectual powers, but feeble will. I
believe (and think Cooleridge is trying to purvey) that Hamlet’s will power is suffocated
by reflection and contemplation and he dies of his own moral paralysis. A Hofstra student
who used the book before me put it well, writing in the margin of a book, “Hamlet is too
complex for this simplistic a blood letting, he needs justice.” The question we have to ask
ourselves now is if Hamlet was aware that he must leave off considering all sides of the
question if he is to act.
Another opinion that I think is worth while to look at is, Hamlet’s Oedipal
complex in relation to killing Claudius. This is because of Hamlet’s behavior in the
“closet scene” he cannot kill the man who has only done what he himself had wished to
do. Hamlet identifies with Claudius and has to punish himself for his guilty wishes rather
than take vengeance on his uncle, this is why he can only kill Claudius when he himself is
dying and has been punished (Lidz, 122).
And now to wrap up Hamlet into a nice neat little package. He was a young,
idealistic boy back from college. He has high hopes and dreams, but he sees them killed,
along with his father. The court is crumbling and extremely corrupt and worst of all his
beloved (and I mean beloved) mother is at the center of it. This wreaks havoc with his
mind, as it would any human being. Along with losing his mother, he loses the only other
person he loves, Ophelia. Then on top of that he is
faced with the task of avenging the murder of his father, by killing his uncle; but it is not
that simple because his uncle is doing the same exact thing that he himself wants to do
(kill his “father figure” and get into bed with his mother). All of these circumstances
cause poor Hamlet to swing in and out of
insanity, yet he is strong enough to try to plot a cunning revenge scheme; but sadly in the
end something his way of thinking could not allow him to go through with avenging his
father, until he was near death himself.
And now for some interesting thoughts on Hamlet (non-inclusive of my paper).
Hamlet was actually a woman, and that is why Christopher Marlow did not allow her to
kill the King. John Lennon had the same thesis as mine stating in Her Majesty on Abbey
Road “Her majesty is a pretty nice girl/ but she changes from day to day/ I wanna tell her
that I love her a lot, but I gonna get her a belly full of wine/ Her majesty is a pretty nice
girl some day I’m gonna make her mine.” This could very well refer to Hamlet talking
about his mother referring to her remarriage and the final scene in which it is probable
that they will together in heaven after she drinks the deadly wine
Babcock, Weston. A Tragedy of Errors
Purdue Research Foundation. 1961.
Charlton, Lewis. The Genesis of Hamlet
Kenniket Press, Port Washington, NY 1907.
Leavenworth, Russel E. Interpreting Hamlet: Materials for analysis
Chandler Publishing CO, San Francisco 1960.
Lidz, Theo. Hamlet’s Enemy: Madness and Myth in Hamlet”
Basic Books, Inc. NY 1975.