Hamlet: Was He Out of It or Just Plain Genius?

Hamlet tells his friends that he will pretend to be mad. His act is extremely convincing, though. Is it really an act, or does Hamlet slip into madness during the play?

Honestly, if it hadn’t been for you, Mr. L, I would have never taken much thought to this idea. Without prompting this question from the start, it can be quite easy to judge Hamlet as either simply insane or intelligent, merely an individual without complexity. However, diving deeper into Hamlet (the play), uncovering the minuscule details and contrasting contexts, we as readers can see that Shakespeare left a lot of leeway in how we interpret Hamlet (the character). Furthermore after having discussed and analyzed Hamlet, I now see how important the way we visualize the character, Hamlet, determines how we visualize the play as a whole, the meaning and what we get from it.

Personally, I am more in the middle of this argument because I feel that there is no way to justify that Hamlet was solely acting or actually becoming mad, but if I had to take a side I would lean more towards Hamlet purposefully acting the way he does. Firstly, Shakespeare makes a clear distinction between Ophelia’s very apparent madness with Hamlet’s more coherent “strangeness.” As seen in Ophelia’s speech later on after her father’s death, she speaks out of iambic pentameter, in song, and scattered thoughts (IV.iv.20-48). And although Hamlet may seem to express his words dramatically and in an unorthodox manner at times, his speech has a deeper meaning and stays in iambic pentameter (III.i.57-91). There was also discussion over the scene where Gertrude can not see the ghost while Hamlet can (IV.iii.104-140). Many may argue that Hamlet created the ghost out of his imagination, but the fact that so many others, Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo, (I.i.37-50) see the ghost seems to emphasize that Shakespeare does want us as readers to infer that there really is a ghost. Also, King Hamlet’s death seems too extensive and specific to just have been made up in Hamlet’s mind (I.v.40-91).

In all, I believe that the underlining reason that Hamlet may act out of sorts throughout the play is not from mentally breaking down or becoming obsessed with his act but more caused by his insecurity and immaturity, leaving him unable to cope with what is happening in his life. From the start, before meeting the ghost, before being informed of his father’s murder, before deciding to be insane, Hamlet already has a hard time trying to deal with his mother marrying his uncle (even though this was much more common than it is today) (I.ii.65-160). He continues to mope around and mourn though he is around 30 years old (V.i.160-170). The way Hamlet treats others adds to his “man-child”-like qualities. Finally, an interesting point to note is that throughout the entire play, Hamlet is quite human and normal when speaking with Horatio. When Hamlet does say things that makes us skeptical about his state of mind, I feel that he is being more overwhelmed and overtaken by his strong flush of complex emotions that he feels and has difficulties comprehending rather than by mere madness.


Is it a …?

No. 1 - Jackson Pollock

Number 1A by Jackson Pollock, 1948

What do you think itself? Don’t worry, I don’t have a clue either…

I do see a number of simple colors: red, blue, yellow, white, and black. This definitely seems to be a splatter painting. Though the yellow background is bright the black paints creates a mysteriously ominous aura to the painting. To be honest, my first reaction was: Woah… (eyes opening wider and eye brows raised more out of confusion and surprise than sudden awe). Why do I suppose this painting is as famous as it is… Well, by just looking at the painting with no prior background it does not seem particularly astounding. It’s just one of those paintings that we, as less acclaimed viewers, think we could do ourselves. I really have no idea whatsoever…

Okay, now I really have nothing else worthy to say and am dying to know the meaning behind this painting! Let’s go find out:)

“Number 1 by Jackson Pollock (1948)” by Nancy Sullivan

No name but a number.
Trickles and valleys of paint
Devise this maze
Into a game of Monopoly
Without any bank. Into
A linoleum on the floor
In a dream. Into
Murals inside of the mind.
No similes here. Nothing
But paint. Such purity
Taxes the poem that speaks
Still of something in a place
Or at a time.
How to realize his question
Let alone his answer?

I’m still confused… but it is quite intriguing to see Sullivan’s reaction to this abstract painting. She definitely has an imagination that allows her to compare the splotches of paint as “trickles and valleys of paint,” a maze, a Monopoly game, and a linoleum. Though it does seem apparent that Sullivan herself does not know the true meaning of this piece of art, Sullivan underscores the meaning behind how we view the painting. Furthermore, she relays how it is not important (to say the least it is probably impossible) to find the artist’s true intent but to enjoy it as our own by finding something meaningful in our lives or ourselves with which to find a connection.

Very clever Mr. L 🙂

Is this just another encouraging “poem analyzing” analogy for us?