Explore the theme of madness throughout Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, using specific examples throughout the play.

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Madness is a consistent theme in William Shakespeare's Hamlet, and most of it centers around the protagonist, Hamlet. It is true that the appearance of the Ghost makes Hamlet and others question reality (and their own sanity for believing the Ghost exists), and Ophelia suffers from some form of madness after her father's murder and Hamlet's apparent betrayal. The majority of the madness, however, concerns Hamlet. 

After he meets with his father's ghost, Hamlet resolves to avenge King Hamlet's murder by killing Claudius. Though he does not reveal a specific plan, he asks his closest friends a favor:

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rienzi | Student

I am not an adherent to madness as a theme. I see it more as a theatrical device. We have no way establishing whether Hamlet suffers from madness or not. Clearly Shakespeare left the question to the actors. How much is real and how much is for show. It fits better within the image/reality theme. The play is marvelously ambiguous on this and other points. The sort of things that fill out high school essays. But the lack of an answer is a testament to the idea that the journey is worth more than the destination. Now Ophelia, being separated from herself and her fair judgment is another matter entirely. I have posted on that issue elsewhere.