When we first meet Hamlet, he is a sad, dark, loathsome figure; the loss of his father and the whoring of his mother have upset him indefinitely.
Like a ticking time bomb, Hamlet’s noticeable temper reflects the storm of emotions and thoughts brewing in his head, and then like a catalyst, his meeting with the Ghost of King Hamlet brings his anger to a boil. With revenge in mind, Hamlet plans to fake his madness so that he may be free to pursue his father’s killer. Everyone, except his close friend Horatio, seems convinced that he is mad. Claudius however, fearful that someone will discover his evil deed, has also had his perceptions heightened by his guilt and he experiences chronic paranoia throughout the play as a result. He is doubtful as to whether Hamlet is really mad, as we find him telling Polonius, “…
what he spake …Was not like madness. There;s something in his soul O;er which his melancholy sits on brood, And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose Will be some danger” (3, 1, 157-161). On the contrary, I believe that Hamlet, lost in his soliloquies and vengeful thoughts, actually becomes mad. Ironically, his form of madness is paranoia.
In a Mental Health Forum created by Med Help International, an anonymous doctor describes paranoia as a “personality disorder characterized by long-standing suspiciousness and mistrust of people.” He continues by saying that “suspicion, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, deceiving, or harming the person” is a common condition. Also, “persistently bearing grudges, i.
e., being unforgiving of insults, slights, or injuries” easily describes a person afflicted with paranoia. As if the doctor couldn’t describe Hamlet any better, he continues to state that another condition of this disorder includes “perception of attacks on the person;s character or reputation that is not apparent to others, with quickness to react angrily” (med help). Throughout the play, Hamlet is being watched and he feels that he is being watched; the tone of paranoia is very present.
Constantly on his guard, and constantly in a state of agitated unrest, Hamlet wrestles with obsession, suspicion, and irritation. A product of this mental overload is his quickness to react angrily.The death of Polonius is a prime example of Hamlet’s paranoid and volatile mental state. Moments after sparing Claudius’s life in the chapel, Hamlet meets with Gertrude in her bedroom.
Behind the arras is Polonius, spying on their conversation. Then, in hearing Gertrude’s cry for help, Polonius hollers for help, revealing his position. In all his fury and confusion, Hamlet draws his sword and stabs Polonius through the arras, killing him. In a booklet printed by the National Institute of Mental Health, hypersensitivity is said to be a common condition of paranoia.
“Because persons with paranoid personality disorder are hyperalert, they notice any slight and may take offense where none is intended. As a result, they tend to be defensive and antagonistic. When they are at fault, they cannot accept blame, not even mild criticism. Yet they are highly critical of others. Other people may say that these individuals make ‘mountains out of molehills’” (NIMH). Interestingly enough, Hamlet believed the man behind the arras was the king. “Nay I know not, is it the king?” (3, 4, 26).
How could Claudius have moved from the chapel to behind an arras in Gertrude’s bedroom in shorter time than it took Hamlet? For an instant, Hamlet looses contact with reality and neglects reason, another indication of paranoia.Those suffering from paranoia can also have hallucinations and they can hear things that are not really there. Hamlet;s hallucinations are very clear when he sees his father;s ghost in his mother’s bedroom. He sees and hears his father’s ghost while his mother does not: Gertrude: ;To whom to you speak this?; Hamlet: ;Do you see nothing there?; Gertrude: ;Nothing at all, yet all that is I see.
; Hamlet: ;Nor did you nothing hear?; Gertrude: ;No, nothing but ourselves.; Hamlet: ;Why, look you there- look how it steals away- My father in his habits as he lived-; (3, 4, 130-136) Apart from his volatile irritability, his neglect for reason, and his bizarre delusions, Hamlet is notorious for his incessant drivel, or better known as his famous soliloquies. He goes from one point to the next without pause, his mood changes from one thing to the other, and he keeps on talking and talking. In his first soliloquy, Act 1, Scene 2, he changes from feeling suicidal, to expressing.