Expect the unexpected. Sometimes in life, certain events can take place that can rotate someone’s entire life. These events are circumstances that can be to such extremes that they can cause people to isolate themselves from the rest of the world, sometimes even leading themselves to their own madness. This idea is also shown in the play Hamlet, in which Shakespeare shows how the death of his father can lead the main character to a state of madness, or perhaps, an act of madness.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare develops the theme of madness and how it can affect an individual as well as the people around them. Upon learning of his mother’s new, and sudden, relationship with his uncle, Hamlet is even more in shock than before and talks about wanting to die and kill himself, arguably going mad. This is demonstrated through the quote “O, that this too solid flesh would melt, Thaw and resolve itself into a dew.” (I. ii. 133-134) This quote shows how he is going mad, or pretending to be mad, as he states that he literally wants his skin to melt, something that is not normally heard of, though really he is just wishing to die. This is important because it shows how due to the shocking circumstances in front of him, his entire mood and behaviour changes and he begins to go into a stage of madness and insanity. In today’s time, some might say that he is experiencing shock or going into depression, but during Shakespeare’s time, his words could only mean madness. Furthermore, in the face of horrible situations, one may choose to ‘act’ a certain way, in order to plot a plan or get revenge. Whether or not Hamlet was actually mad can be argued, but he does state that he is acting mad in Act I for he says “How strange or odd some’er I bear myself.” (I. v. 190) This quote shows that Hamlet will go to any circumstance, even if that means acting mad, in order to figure everything out. This illustrates how Hamlet depicts himself to be mad to the people around him, perhaps a trait of madness itself. Both examples, prove how in shocking and extreme circumstances, a person may end up in a state of madness. This may be an act, in order to better understand and cope with the situation or simply real madness because of too much shock. Shakespeare develops this idea through Hamlet and how the discovering of his father’s strange death leads him into a different, ‘mad’ state of mind.
In modern society, I would not be classified as ‘mad’. I myself am not even sure what madness is defined as. According to medical terms and society in general, the term madness can categorize a bunch of mental illnesses or behaviours which I often see as wrong. Who is to define what madness really is? What if the ‘mad’ actually see all of us as ‘mad’ and insane? I believe that all people have their own kind of madness. This could be isolating themselves from the rest of the world, acting out in public, doing drugs, or many other things. We are all mad, just in different ways and during different situations. I believe that I myself have gone through a phase of madness. In the last year, I have lost a lot of close family and friends and this has impacted me. I cannot say that I have been through exactly what Hamlet has, as he lost his father, yet I can relate to the play in terms of loss and feelings of loneliness and madness of some sort. I went into this state of isolation in a way. Even my friends noted how much quieter I had become. I would keep my thoughts to myself, but the thoughts kept coming and circling in my head. It was an almost drowning feeling, and I was frustrated because I just wanted it all to go away. It did eventually, but not fast enough. And at that point, during my combined anger and sadness, it may have been my state of madness. Everyone deals with loss differently, everyone goes through different situations, some, like me, may end up in madness. Because everyone goes mad at some point, for one reason or another.
Madness cannot be defined as one thing or another. It is unique and different to every person. In today’s society we often choose to organize and put labels on everything, yet feelings and state of minds such as feelings of madness and insanity are something that should not be just stuffed into a labelled container. Madness can simply mean a behaviour or phase in which someone deals with the world around them or responds to shocking, sudden circumstances. Everyone undergoes madness of some sort, whether that be through obsession, anger, sadness, loneliness, or everything combined. Everyone has feelings. Madness is just one of them.
“You just have to trust your own madness.” -Clive Barker