A Critical Analysis of Shakespeare\'s Hamlet

Dave Beaston

Hamlet. Is he an insane madman or a revengeful, scheming, genius? There
are many conflicting ideas and theories on this subject, and hopefully this
paper may be of some assistance in clearing up the confusion. The paper is
divided into three separate analytic sections beginning with the beginning of
Hamlet\'s so called madness, and why it may have occurred. Next, is an analysis
of why Hamlet delays revenging his father\'s death. To conclude the paper,
Hamlet\'s incestuous acts towards his mother are discussed, in William
Shakespeare\'s Hamlet.
In the first act Hamlet seems to be in a perfectly sane state of mind
throughout all five scenes. It is in the second scene where the audience begins
to see a change in his character. Ophelia meets with Polonius and recalls the
meeting she had previously with Hamlet. She tells her father that Hamlet came
to her disheveled and in a shaken state of mind, speaking of "horrors." (Act 2
Scene 2 line 94). Her father immediately believes that he is "Mad for thy
love?" (Act 2 Scene 2 line 95). Opelia answers a question posed by Polonius by
which she replied that she had told Hamlet that she could not see or communicate
with him any more. Her father makes reference to Hamlet\'s madness once again by
proclaiming that what his daughter said, "... hath made him (Hamlet) mad." (Act
2 Scene 2 line 123).
The argument of whether Hamlet is insane because of his love for Ophelia is
often debated, but a more confusing and complex situation is the struggle within
Hamlet\'s mind. His personal struggle is revealed to the audience in scene one
of 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 audience
truly 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 in
such 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 he
himself, as Sigmund Freud\'s "Oedipus Rex Complex" suggests, wished to murder his
father 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 moreover
his father.
Hamlet, in act four scene two, meets with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and
he 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 the
dead man. The strange thing about this scene is that Hamlet seems to play with
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and does not give them a straight answer. Hamlet
has practically transformed into a different person and doesn\'t seem to be
completely sane.
Next is another situation that cannot be totally explained. The situation
being Hamlet\'s delays in avenging his father\'s death. The first that Hamlet
learns of his father\'s death is in act one scene five, where he follows the
ghost. Hamlet is told, by the ghost, that he (the ghost) is the soul of
Hamlet\'s father, and that he was murdered by Claudius. This all took place at
the beginning of the play and Hamlet waited until the end of the play to get
revenge for his father\'s murder. Then again there are different perspectives as
to whether Hamlet waited until the end to actually gain revenge. For within the
play there are many insinuations that Hamlet tortured Claudius all the way up
until he killed the king. Two instances are particularly evident. First, the
play 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 part
of 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 Claudius
leaps from his seat and rushes out of the theater infuriated. This violent
action by the king overjoys Hamlet for now he knows that it was Claudius who
murdered his father. More than the fact that he knows that Claudius is the
murderer, Hamlet is slowly and painfully gaining his revenge of his fathers
The other instance where Hamlet could have killed Claudius was in act three
scene three. In this particular scene Hamlet