Hamlet Unmasked Essay

1755 words - 8 pages

Hamlet, a dispirited victim of unfortunate family circumstance, or a man plagued by a serious and debilitating mental illness? This is a topic that has intrigued literary and psychological critics alike for many years and has produced many interesting theories about Hamlet’s less than stable behavior throughout the length of the Shakespeare’s play. While the question of Hamlet’s sanity is debatable, his inability to act on his decisions and his constant depressed and agitated mood do inspire some curious questions about his methods and behavior towards other characters in the play. While it is true that the death of a loved one can propel any being into a state of grief and depression, ...view middle of the document...

While major depressive disorder is a relatively new medical term this is not to say that people from the past did not suffer from the same debilitating symptoms of this disorder as they do today, there just simply was not a name for it back then. In order to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder today you must be suffering from “a constellation of symptoms in addition to depressed mood” (Fundukian, 681). While “the core symptom of major depression is a sad mood that does not go away” (Fundukian, 680), a person suffering from this disorder may also “appear sad, irritable, and easily moved to tears. They may sleep poorly and complain of vague physical and pains” (Fundukian, 681), and they also may have “problems with clear thinking, concentration and decision- making” (Fundukian, 681). Suicidal thoughts are also extremely prevalent in a person suffering from major depression and while a person may not actually commit suicide, the looming and disturbing thoughts still may plague that person.
Major Depressive disorder is not sustained to a certain age group and can effect anybody from early childhood through adulthood and on into ones elderly years. However researchers have found that “it is most commonly diagnosed in young adults in their twenties” (Fundukian, 681), making “adolesance a high-risk period for MDD” (Fundukian, 681). While researchers are still not positive about what causes major depressive disorder, studies have suggested that depression is linked to biological and environmental factors. Commonly depression can be triggered by a single traumatic event in a person’s life such as a natural disaster or death of a loved one, however most people are able to recover from tragic events in their lives, but some are simply not able to cope, and like Hamlet, this begins their long and painful journey through depression. Just like people today who suffer from a depressive disorder, Hamlet’s Character exemplifies the behavior and actions one would expect from a depressed person, as he fits the diagnosis almost perfectly.
Watching Hamlet’s character in social interactions with himself and others throughout the play is essential to discovering the mental illness that dwells within Hamlets mind. There is not a single scene in which Hamlet acts normal, and even when he is pretending to be crazy in order to disillusion the other characters, he is clearly not in his right mind. Furthermore, his interactions with himself are even more disturbing, in which many of his soliloquy’s Hamlet thinks seriously about suicide or about his inadequacies as a human being. “More than once he expresses his guilt at his failure to act” (Shaw, 1), which would usually induce some sort of action from the guilty party, but it’s not until the end of the play that Hamlet seizes his opportunity to avenge his father and finally ends the kings life.
One scene in particular serves as a great example for Hamlet’s obvious depression. In scene three, act one, Hamlet...

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