Act 4 Scene 4 Hamlet Essay On Madness

Hamlet Soliloquy Act 4 Scene 4

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In the sixth soliloquy of Hamlet, written by Shakespeare, Hamlet finally begins to realize his procrastination. In this soliloquy we discover how Hamlet is purely a follower; he needs to compare himself to another person in order to realize his own flaws. This constitutes his madness as he is seemingly an intelligent man, as suggested by some of his previous soliloquies, but yet is unable to see his own wrongdoings until after it becomes too late. In his sudden realization, he confesses his procrastination and it all becomes clear that he was aware of it the whole time.

It thus can be concluded that Hamlet has been fooling us, as all of his wise choices seem to come after some unusual circumstances and not solely from his intellect. Hamlet starts off with a terse statement indicating that he was given “all occasions” (32) and yet did not act upon it, which is marked by his “dull revenge” (33). Rather than to slowly ease his way to his point, he chooses to start out strongly, in turn, revealing how quick he must have came to this realization.

It suggests that it must have always been at the top of his head at one point or another as its sudden appearance came at the very beginning of the soliloquy. He goes on to compare himself to that of a “beast” (35) asking the rhetorical question of “What is a man/If his chief good and market of his time/Be but to sleep and feed? ” (33-35). By questioning his own worth, its shows his acceptance and admittance to the matter. He acknowledges and attempts to better himself as the first step to recovery is recognizing one’s problem.

As to comparing himself to the likes of an animal, which suggests his sense of uselessness and self degradation, at the same time, confirms his feelings of guilt and thus illustrates the intense emotional impact it must have had on him upon his realization. As the soliloquy continues, Hamlet begins to become more specific, throwing out references to his previous mistakes, that is, by delaying Claudius’s death. He claims, at the time, to be “thinking too precisely on th’ event” (41).

This is a reference to his so called logical thinking in the fifth soliloquy, admitting that he indeed was thinking too heavily on the event given such a perfect window of opportunity. He further continues to beat himself up by classifying his decision as “one part wisdom/And ever three parts coward” (42-43) meaning that his seemingly logical thinking in his fifth soliloquy of extending Claudius’s life was all in fact mostly composed of fear rather than good judgment. His last onfession came as he claims that it was all in his power to do justice as he possesses the “cause”, “will”, and “strength” but yet chose not to follow through. It can thus be concluded that at the time he possessed all these qualities to justify his actions, but he was supposedly unaware of it as he was blinded by the reasons he admits above: fear. All in all his list of regrets when combined with the terse statements, shows his organization and well thought out statements which in the end gives evidence of his awareness during the whole ordeal up until this point of confession.

Upon analyzation of Hamlet’s previous soliloquies, it can thus be conclusive that Hamlet has been fooling us about his intelligence this whole time. Such is evident in the third soliloquy as he portrays his envy of the actor’s passion, commenting on their abilities to “force” their “soul” to take part in fictional plays of “dream” and “passion” (510-511). Hamlet at that moment begins to realize his own flaws, but it was made apparent through his jealousy of the actors and their skills to portray emotions.

The realization of his flaw thus causes him to think outside of the box, mainly his need to confirm whether or not the ghost was lying to him as Hamlet describes the ghost to be that of a potential “devil” (561). Thus the ghost may be manipulating his weak emotions. Likewise, as in the sixth soliloquy, Hamlet compares himself to both Fortinbras and his army. He becomes envious of Fortinbras and his courage in “Exposing what is mortal and unsure/To all that fortune, death, and danger dare” (50-51) for something as questionable and meager as, in his understatement, an “eggshell” (52).

Fortinbras, as Hamlet describes, is able to act without any fear of death “When honor’s at the stake. ” (55) Everything that Fortinbras is seems to be the opposite of Hamlet, even though they are both seeking revenge and have lost a father. Thus Fortinbras’s presence reminds Hamlet of his own goals he originally set out for. It was due to Fortinbras and his army of “twenty thousand men” who “Go to their graves like beds” that allowed Hamlet to question his own courage and thus see his flaw. His fear of his own death which was supposedly decided in his fourth soliloquy is now once again troubling his own mind.

Should he risk his life and face the unknown afterlife in his quest of vengeance? His intellect portrayed in the fourth soliloquy steered him into the belief that he should choose life over suicide, for fear of the “undiscovered country” (81) in which “no travelers return” (82). Though the image of “twenty thousand men” marching to their deaths and fighting for a piece of land which is not even “tomb enough and continent/To hide the slain” gives reason for Hamlet to doubt his courage as he is afraid of death whereas Fortinbras and his army is not.

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In Hamlet’s book, this is a suicidal attempt, the act which he decided against in the fourth soliloquy. Hamlet’s intelligence thus portrays his madness as it is not his ability to make smart decision, but rather the realization caused by other circumstances that makes him aware. Hamlet thus can be concluded to be revealing his ignorance in his soliloquies rather than intellect we all have been fooled to believe as he is always switching back and forth between progressing and regressing and vice versa.

Author: Brandon Johnson

in Hamlet

Hamlet Soliloquy Act 4 Scene 4

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Summary: Act IV, scene v

Gertrude and Horatio discuss Ophelia. Gertrude does not wish to see the bereaved girl, but Horatio says that Ophelia should be pitied, explaining that her grief has made her disordered and incoherent. Ophelia enters. Adorned with flowers and singing strange songs, she seems to have gone mad. Claudius enters and hears Ophelia’s ravings, such as, “They say the owl was a baker’s daughter” (IV.v.42). He says that Ophelia’s grief stems from her father’s death, and that the people have been suspicious and disturbed by the death as well: “muddied, / Thick and unwholesome in their thoughts and whispers / For good Polonius’ death” (IV.v.77–79). He also mentions that Laertes has secretly sailed back from France.

A loud noise echoes from somewhere in the castle. Claudius calls for his guards, and a gentleman enters to warn the king that Laertes has come with a mob of commoners. The mob calls Laertes “lord,” according to the gentlemen, and the people whisper that “Laertes shall be king” (IV.v.102–106). A furious Laertes storms into the hall, fuming in his desire to avenge his father’s death. Claudius attempts to soothe him by frankly acknowledging that Polonius is dead. Gertrude nervously adds that Claudius is innocent in it. When Ophelia reenters, obviously insane, Laertes plunges again into rage. Claudius claims that he is not responsible for Polonius’s death and says that Laertes’ desire for revenge is a credit to him, so long as he seeks revenge upon the proper person. Claudius convinces Laertes to hear his version of events, which he says will answer all his questions. Laertes agrees, and Claudius seconds his desire to achieve justice in the aftermath of Polonius’s death: “Where th’ offence is, let the great axe fall” (IV.v.213).

Read a translation of Act IV, scene v →

Summary: Act IV, scene vi

In another part of the castle, Horatio is introduced to a pair of sailors bearing a letter for him from Hamlet. In the letter, Hamlet says that his ship was captured by pirates, who have returned him to Denmark. He asks Horatio to escort the sailors to the king and queen, for they have messages for them as well. He also says that he has much to tell of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Horatio takes the sailors to the king and then follows them to find Hamlet, who is in the countryside near the castle.

Read a translation of Act IV, scene vi →

Analysis: Act IV, scenes v–vi

As we have seen, one of the important themes of Hamlet is the connection between the health of a state and the moral legitimacy of its ruler. Claudius is rotten, and, as a result, Denmark is rotten too. Here, at the beginning of Act IV, scene v, things have palpably darkened for the nation: Hamlet is gone, Polonius is dead and has been buried in secret, Ophelia is raving mad, and, as Claudius tells us, the common people are disturbed and murmuring among themselves. This ominous turn of events leads to the truncated, miniature rebellion that accompanies Laertes’ return to Denmark. Acting as the wronged son operating with open fury, Laertes has all the moral legitimacy that Claudius lacks, the legitimacy that Hamlet has forfeited through his murder of Polonius and his delay in avenging his father’s death.

Laertes is Hamlet’s best foil throughout the play, and in this scene the contrast between the two, each of whom has a dead father to avenge, reaches its peak. (A third figure with a dead father to avenge, Fortinbras, lurks on the horizon.) Whereas Hamlet is reflective and has difficulty acting, Laertes is active and has no use for thought. He has no interest in moral concerns, only in his consuming desire to avenge Polonius. When Claudius later asks Laertes how far he would go to avenge his father, Laertes replies that he would slit Hamlet’s throat in the church (IV.vii.98). This statement, indicating his willingness to murder Hamlet even in a sacred place of worship, brings into sharp relief the contrast between the two sons: recall that Hamlet declined to kill Claudius as the king knelt in prayer (III.iii).

As befits a scene full of anger and dark thoughts, Act IV, scene v brings a repetition of the motif of insanity, this time through the character of Ophelia, who has truly been driven mad by the death of her father. Shakespeare has demonstrated Ophelia’s chaste dependence on the men in her life; after Polonius’s sudden death and Hamlet’s subsequent exile, she finds herself abruptly without any of them. Ophelia’s lunatic ravings reveal a great deal about the nature of her mind at this stage in her young life. She is obsessed with death, beauty, and an ambiguous sexual desire, expressed in startlingly frank imagery:

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