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What is a mental disorder Hamlet or any of the major characters has? I have to choose...

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matam | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:47 PM via web

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What is a mental disorder Hamlet or any of the major characters has?

I have to choose a character from Hamlet, give a diagnoses of a disorder, and explain why with a quotation.  I really need help because I do not understand Hamlet at all!

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 31, 2009 at 9:47 PM (Answer #5)

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Indubitably, Hamlet is depressed.  In fact, his depression seems to parallel the depression of many in our times who witness the hypocrisy and treachery even of family and friends such as Gertrude and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. 

She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not nor it cannot come to good:
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue. (I.ii)

It has been documented that clinical psychiatrists claim that anyone who is realistic about the state of things, is diagnosed as depressed.  Certainly, Hamlet is realistic about Claudius as a criminal who has slain his father and stolen the affections of his mother; he is realistic about all that "is rotten in Denmark," but he feels helpless to fix it, at least, until he is roused from it by the noble Fortinbras, who is willing to go into a battle that he knows he may not win.  In his final soliloquy, Hamlet remarks,

Witness this army of such mass and charge,/Led by a delicate and tender prince,/Whose spirit, with divine ambition puffed,/Makes mouths at the invisible event,/Exposing what is mortal and unsure/To all that fortune, death, and danger dare,/Even for an eggshell..../O, from this time forth,/My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth! (IV,iv,47-66)

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 12, 2009 at 8:04 AM (Answer #9)

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I think Hamlet marks the first time that a character is really torn between the pagan concept of revenge and Christian morality that opposes it.  Up until then, in the plays of Seneca, we've had an eye for an eye mentality.  One of them kills one of us, one of us kills one of them.  Even in other Shakespeare plays, it's worked like that: Macbeth kills Macduff's family, Macduff kills Macbeth.  Even in the supernatural world, a person murdered usually haunts the person who killed him: Banquo is a revenge ghost who sits down at the banquet.

But Hamlet is a departure from all this.  Hamlet's ghost doesn't visit Claudius; he visits Hamlet.  Hamlet could have killed Claudius any number of times, namely at prayer, but he doesn't want to send his soul to heaven.  He's clearly operating in Christian terms.  He's conflicted in doing a pagan act of revenge because it might have consequences in the afterlife.  Not to mention that Christ said to turn the other cheek.  His feigned madness and delays at revenge show signs of spiritual confusion.

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parkerlee | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:53 PM (Answer #2)

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With his mood swings and exaggerated introspection, Hamlet displays symptoms of depression

If anybody becomes crazy in this play, it is Ophelia, who, in extremes of despair and grief and shock, wanders off, singing nonsense rhymes and not seeing the danger when the branch she is holding onto breaks causing her to plummet into the water in a gown that will absorb with water and pull her under. This kind of affectation suggests hysteria, for a long time (long after Shakespeare) considered exclusively a feminine mental disorder.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 30, 2009 at 11:24 AM (Answer #3)

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The above post is fairly dead on about the levels of neurosis in the play.  I think the above post's explanation of Ophelia is particularly compelling.  About fifteen years ago or so a book came out entitled Reviving Ophelia.  The primary idea of the book called for a new approach to understanding adolescent girls and how we raise them.  I think using Ophelia in the title, given the topic, really spoke to how psychologically profound Ophelia's depiction is in the play and how rich her character was depicted.  I found it interesting that the searching for identity that Ophelia undergoes in the play is something that is a significant psychological dimension to modern adolescent girls.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 30, 2009 at 3:18 PM (Answer #4)

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Hamlet's behavior really does demonstrate depression, and who would blame him for feeling depressed? His father has died suddenly and unexpectedly and his mother has married his uncle. By the time he gets home, Hamlet realizes his father's death is very suspicious, to say the least. Then his girlfriend dies and his two best friends are employed to kill him. Who wouldn't be depressed?

Three symptoms of depression are the inability to think clearly, the inability to make a decision, and the inability to act. Those who are severely depressed are trapped by feelings of powerlessness and lethargy; frequently, they do not even realize they are depressed. They simply suffer, unable to break out of their depression on their own. All of these symptoms certainly fit Hamlet and his behavior.

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ukteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted September 11, 2009 at 11:12 PM (Answer #8)

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Just a point about Ophelia -bullied by men; her father, her brother and Hamlet, and allowed no thoughts or freedoms of her own.   Her psychosis is that of a supressed girl unable to develop her own personality.  When the men around her leave through death etc she is left anchorless, and retreats into her own insane world. 

Marvellously observed by Shakespeare, a psychologist before psychology was invented.

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