Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What are some similarities between Hamlet and Ophelia's madness? I have to write a short essay (1.5-2 pages, double-spaced) about this topic: "Behind the mask of madess, both Hamlet and Ophelia can speak freely." My teacher suggested that to write essays comparing two characters, I should look for similarities and write about it. 1) Hamlet and Ophelia both went mad because of their father's death. 2) They were forced to do things they did not want to do. 3) Their madness leads to their tragic deaths.

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There is a point in which Hamlet seems overwhelmed by the reality of the state of Denmark.  His realizations about his father's death, his mother's lustful behavior and the treachery of others in the Danish court certainly disturb Hamlet and shake his rationality.   However, he does not really lose his sanity.  Therefore, the contrasting of Hamlet and Ophelia may, as suggested above, serve you better.

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lmetcalf eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think you have to be careful with the assertions you make in your post above. First of all I would argue that Hamlet isn't truly mad/crazy like Ophelia is. He plainly states at the end of Act 1 that he is going to "put an antic disposition on." He is only pretending to be crazy to throw off the people at court so that he can perhaps find out if Claudius is truly guilty of the murder of King Hamlet.  Secondly, I would disagree that Hamlet's madness leads to his death. Hamlet's death is a result of his inaction against Claudius and his allowing Claudius time and opportunity to plot against him.

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Hamlet and Ophelia were both forced into situations they were not ready for because of circumstances. Given their royal and social position, they had to deal with certain things most people aren't worried about- such as who has the right to rule and avenging a father's murder. They also were both young. Ophelia had the fact that she was female as well.

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just-s | Student

There is a point in which Hamlet seems overwhelmed by the reality of the state of Denmark.  His realizations about his father's death, his mother's lustful behavior and the treachery of others in the Danish court certainly disturb Hamlet and shake his rationality.   However, he does not really lose his sanity.  Therefore, the contrasting of Hamlet and Ophelia may, as suggested above, serve you better.

totally agree with you!!!

missplum | Student
You might have greater success contrasting their madness instead of comparing it. As noted above, Hamlet's madness is feigned*, while Ophelia's is real. Hamlet puts on his antic disposition so he can conceal his scheme to entrap Claudius. From behind his guise, he indulges in the freedom to speak his mind, mocking and insulting people and occasionally just plain screwing with them. Ophelia on the other hand is so shattered that she cannot bring herself to speak directly of the things that are troubling her (her father's death, her brother's absence, her compromised honor) so she resorts to songs and rhymes that approximate them.
 
 
*although we don't know for sure whether he's hallucinating at a few points