The Madness of Hamlet

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Each director has a distinct interpretation of the scene of Polonius’s murder. All three interpretations show fluctuating levels of hysteria within Hamlet’s mind. Michael Almereyda portrays Hamlet as having a great level of mental instability and hysteria. This is shown through his actions throughout this scene. At the beginning of the scene Hamlet is shown being extremely violent towards Gertrude. He throws her on the floor with great force, and then while on the ground he grabs her hair and forces her against the mirror. While against the mirror Hamlet makes Gertrude look at her herself. After this he pulls her away and wraps his arms around her neck and holds her there (Almereyda 2000). The violence expressed shows his inability to control his emotions. Further, this shows his mental instability because he lacks that ability have a normal interaction with his mother. He lets his anger overcome all other emotions he is feeling and takes it out on Gertrude. Also, within this scene Almereyda shows Hamlet’s hysteria after he has committed the act of killing Polonius. While still holding Gertrude in a choke like hold he shoots Polonius through a closet door. After Polonius is shot he falls out of the closet and onto the floor. Hamlet stands on the bed and looks down at the body. He appears shocked and as if he doesn't know what to do (Almereyda 2000). Hamlet's mental instability is shown here by the emotions he shows. He shows no remorse for what he has just done and only stays focused on the body for only a short period of time before returning to his interest in Gertrude. Rodney Benner shows hamlet as having both high and low levels of mental instability and hysteria. He is shown as having high levels during the beginning of this scene. Benner shows Hamlet being verbally abusive towards Gertrude. He yells in Gertrude's face and speaks in a harsh tone of voice. His increasingly violent actions thus lead to Gertrude slapping Hamlet across the face. Hamlet responds by pulling out his sword and threatening her with it (Benner 1980). These actions show Hamlet’s mental instability because he is unable to keep his emotions under control. He lets his anger take over and he takes out his rage on Gertrude. He continues to show this high level of instability during the murder of Polonius. After being threatened, Gertrude calls out for help.

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Polonius then reveals himself behind the curtains by responding to Gertrude’s calls. Hamlet responds to Polonius by running over to him and violently stabbing him multiple times (Benner 1980). The violent nature of this killing shows Hamlet’s hysteria because he was unable to stop himself once he started the killing. This act of overkill shows his inability to control his emotions. After the killing he begins to show low levels of mental instability. This is shown through his actions towards Polonius’ body. Once Polonius has died, Hamlet looks at the body with sadness. He then leans down and sits beside the body and touches it (Benner 1980). Hamlet is showing feelings of remorse within this area of the scene. This shows low levels of mental instability because he is still able to express his emotions. Gregory Dovan portrays a great level of hysteria and mental instability throughout this scene. During the beginning he shows Hamlet walking in wearing a crown. Hamlet then begins yelling at Gertrude, while doing so he throws her on the bed and jumps on top of her and holds her done (Dovan 2010). This shows his hysteria because he has exaggerated anger towards his mother. He is unable to control these emotions and therefore is not able to maintain control of his actions. This hysteria is also shown during the murder of Polonius. Hamlet shoots Polonius while still lying in bed with Gertrude. He then lights a match to see the body because the room is so dark. He stands over the body looking at it and doesn’t show any emotion (Dovan 2010). This shows Hamlets mental instability because he is unable to feel remorse for what he has just done. These varying levels of mental instability are also show in other areas within the play.
Each director's interpretation of the enseamed bed scene show different levels of psychopathy within Hamlet’s mind. Michael Almereyda portrays a very high level of mental instability within Hamlet’s character. At the beginning of this scene, Hamlet is shown ripping the sheets off of Gertrude’s bed. It appears as if he is looking for something or someone (Almereyda 2000). This shows Hamlet’s psychopathy because his behaviour is reaching levels of paranoia. He is also unable to express trust in anyone else and fears that Gertrude is hiding something from him. Hamlet also pulls Gertrude onto bed. He then begins to yell in her face, push her around and choke her. He holds her down against the bed and wraps her in the sheets and tries to choke her with them (Almereyda 2000). Hamlet is portrayed as being very violent towards Gertrude in this scene. His level of violence shows how great his mental instability is because this is irrational behaviour. He is unable to control his emotions and is unable to resolve conflict with his mother in a healthy way. Rodney Benner also portrays Hamlet as having high levels of psychopathy and mental instability. Gertrude tries walking away from Hamlet and he follows her until he is able to grab her and throw her onto the bed. He then lies on top of Gertrude and beings shaking her and yelling in her face. He also tries to hold her down while she is trying to push him off and away from her (Benner 1980). His actions show this instability because he cannot control his anger towards his mother. His inability to show normal emotions towards his mother also shows his psychopathy. Much like the other two directors, Gregory Dovan shows Hamlet as having a great level of mental instability. He shows Hamlet sitting on the bed with Gertrude. He then grabs her and forces her to look at a picture in a newspaper. He holds her face as he is yelling at her and begins hitting the bed. Next, he pulls of the sheets off of the bed and throws them on Gertrude while stands up and looks down upon her (Dovan 2010). This shows psychopathy within Hamlets character because he does not know how to react to situations in his life and express his emotions regarding them. He lashes out on Gertrude and is unable to keep his anger under control. These vary levels of Hamlet’s mental instability is also shown in other areas of this play.
Each director's interpretation of the scene with the appearance of King Hamlet's ghost shows various levels of emotional distraught within Hamlet's mind. Michael Almereyda shows a high level of distraught and instability. When the ghost appears Hamlet stays on the bed and continues to hold Gertrude while talking to the ghost. He also looks at Gertrude more than at the ghost (Almereyda 2000). This shows both his emotional distraught and instability. It shows his emotional instability because he is so focused on his mother that he is unable to pay attention to the events happening around him. Also, this shows his emotional distraught he deeply upset by the appearance of his father's ghost and is unable to hide it. Rodney Benner portrays great levels of mental instability and distraught within Hamlet’s character. In the presence of the ghost Hamlet drops to his knees (Benner 1980). Hamlet has finally succumb to all of the emotions he is feeling. When he sees his father he is unable to control all of the emotions inside of him and he finally breaks by falling onto the floor. He is showing his emotional distraught in this area of the scene because he is not able to control the emotional upset he is feeling towards both King Hamlet and Gertrude. Later in this scene as the ghost is leaving Hamlet crawls on the floor after him and reaches out for King Hamlet (Benner 1980).

Works Cited


Almereyda, Michael dir. Hamlet. By William Shakespeare. Per. Ethan Hawke, Kyle McLachlan, Diane Vernore. 2000. DVD. Bona Vista Home Entertainment, 2001.
Bennett, Rodney dir. Hamlet. By William Shakespeare. Per. Derek Jacobi, Claire Bloom, Patrick Stewart. 1980. DVD. BBC Shakespeare Series, 2004.
Dovan, Gregory dir. Hamlet. By William Shakespeare. Per. David Tennant, Patrick Stewart. 2010. DVD. BBC Worldwide Americas Inc., 2010.



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