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Psychoanalysis Of Hamlet

2506 words - 11 pages

Hamlet: Antic Disposition or Actually Deranged?
“I perchance hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on.” In Act I scene v of The Tragedy of Hamlet: Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare, Prince Hamlet proclaims these famous words. But what do they actually mean? For decades, readers and audiences alike have been wondering if Hamlet’s “antic disposition” is actually an act, or complete and total madness. It is very possible that, if Hamlet were alive today, he would have been diagnosed with many mental illnesses including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and bipolar disorder. This is not to say he had these throughout the entirety of his life, but after the ...view middle of the document...

Adding to this, his mother marrying his uncle so soon after her husband’s abrupt passing confused and concerned him greatly. This combination of events caused Hamlet to have what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder.
There are many different factors that can cause post-traumatic stress disorder. Most common are severe trauma, or when one sees, lives through, or experiences an event that can cause intense fear, helplessness, and horror (Vilens 23). In Hamlet’s case, He has experienced both of these things. The effects of post-traumatic stress are hopelessness about the future, difficulty maintaining close relationships, and hearing or seeing things that are not actually there, all of which Hamlet displays in the text. Looking to the famous “To be, or not to be” soliloquy, we see the quote “to die—to sleep, no more;” displays exactly this hopelessness about the future. Throughout the entirety of this monologue, hamlet is absolutely devastated about his future and contemplates suicide. He also has difficulty maintaining relationships, specifically with his lover Ophelia. In Act II Scene i, she rushes to her father, proclaiming she has “been so affrighted!” Hamlet appears to her chambers looking as though he “had been loosèd out of hell.” His increasing madness frightens Ophelia and drives her to her own death as the play goes on. Finally, it can be argued that Hamlet does indeed see and hear things that are not there. The ghost of Hamlet’s father appears to Horatio, Marcellus, Bernardo, and Francisco, but says nothing. When Hamlet sees the ghost of his father, they carry on a conversation. Whether this the spirit of King Hamlet actually relaying information to his son or a fabrication of Hamlet’s madness is an ever debated topic, but if Hamlet indeed has post-traumatic stress disorder, is it entirely likely it was not an apparition, but a hallucination.
Another symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder is depression. Like PTSD, depression is caused by a combination of factors (Cryan 157). In Hamlet’s case, what influences his depression most are the environmental factors the surround him, namely the death of his father. In many instances in the text, Hamlet beings a soliloquy with a statement that would not cause much alarm, but then the abnormality of the text escalates (Heaton 36). For instance, in Act I Scene ii, beginning with, “‘But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue,” Hamlet is obviously lamenting over the death of his father, and rightfully so. Yet, he becomes increasingly more somatic. He goes on to say, “How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world!” The world, to him, seems to have no meaning. He is almost suicidal in this scene. This is a prime example of depressive behavior. In another example, going back to the famous soliloquy, the opening line “to be or not to be” is perhaps the best example of this illness taking over Hamlet’s life. In this line, he is literally contemplating if...

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