Life Is Madness

As I do another read through of Act IV of the text of ‘Hamlet’ I find myself with a good couple of pages of notes broken down into what I find interesting or relevant. I know I don’t have everything the text has to offer and so I have produced a few questions in a hope to retrieve some more info.

The part of act IV that catches the most of my interest is the character of Ophelia. It is here where she goes off the deep end, losing herself in madness to go skipping around the castle while singing and passing around dead flowers. I really love this part of the scene because it is so poignant and poetic; I am immediately drawn to the visual and metaphorical niche she hold in regard to nature. In thinking of this I become curious if TAPoR itself is able to pull anything of depth out of what Ophelia does in the act.

At first, the results I pull are a bit disappointing. But then I see the first two frequent words: ‘come’ and ‘gone’. Looking at their context, I see Ophelia uses these words in reference to her father’s death. I think over the connection of the words and I can’t help but think about their reference to life and death. Reading the text, it is clear that Polonius’ death is the reason for Ophelia’s madness, but I come upon the impression that it is also caused by the thought on the futility of life…

Thinking back to 4.3 when Hamlet encounters Fortinbras’ army, I see that this is the answers my question as to why Hamlet is inspired at that moment: Fortinbras is invading Poland for nothing; he is sending his men to die for nothing. Hamlet sees the futility in this and is inspired to do something. TAPoR even demonstrates this answer  in Hamlet’s most frequent words:

Noticing the similarity between Ophelia and Hamlet questioning futility, could it be that ‘madness’ provokes this sort of existential questioning? This is something I may have to return to at a later time.

The main question I pull from Ophelia and her madness is its relation to the supposed madness of Hamlet. It is obvious that Ophelia is much more extreme in what she does. There are similarities I notice between the two, but I still wonder why she is more far gone than Hamlet when they both have the same trigger of death. This thought leads me to question weather Hamlet is genuine in madness, or is putting on an act. I resort to answering this query by searching the word madness and other related references. Here, I find that Ophelia is referred to as mad much more than Hamlet. The references to Ophelia being mad are more to do with her odd actions and speeches, as well as having lost her ‘wits’, where as the only references to Hamlet are in the use of the words ‘mad’ or ‘madness’, despite him having just killed a man…

In my exploration of some of the questions I found while reading, I have found that TAPoR has the ability to make me notice details I hadn’t seen before. In my results, I find a common connection having to do with the states the characters are in in regards to their situations, which just so happens to be the route my group is choosing to go down for our exploration of the act.

One thought on “Life Is Madness

  1. I think you are coming to some really interesting results here. The main problem our group has been having is that Shakespeare doesn’t always bluntly state what he is talking about. For instance, he does not simply use the word “death” all the time. Many times he alludes to it, as you found with the use of “come” and “gone.” Therefore I think that your observations are very useful. Nice work.

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