Hamlet is “The Mad Prince of Denmark.” Although it is hard to decide if Hamlet is truly mad, or just acting insane following this theme helps keep track of the plot in a movie where even Hamlet questions his own sanity. Feigning insanity, or at least more insanity that what he feels provides an opportunity for Hamlet to plot revenge without being scrutinized. This does not go unnoticed by Ophelia’s father who observes, “If this be madness there is a method in it.”
There is good reason for Hamlet to go insane, to feign madness or for the truth to be a combination of both. As the movie proceeds, we watch as his father’s ghost tells Hamlet that his brother, Hamlet’s uncle Claudius, poisoned him so he could seize the throne, and marry Queen Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother.
It is enough to drive a man insane, act insane to plot revenge without being scrutinized or to be mad in the sense of being irrationally angry. In this case seeing ghosts cannot be considered proof of insanity because Hamlet is not the first one to encounter the ghost. Two guards, see him first, then Horatio, who is otherwise stable personality, a scholar and a reliable witness. Hamlet is brought to the spot by the reports from these people and is the fourth person in the play to see the ghost.
So in the context of this play seeing ghosts is not unreasonable. Insanity does not stop with Hamlet’s ghost hunting activities; it is based on the prince’s behavior throughout the play. Gertrude and Claudius notice it and want to find out the reason why he is acting strangely so they use Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, couple of Hamlet’s friends, to watch him. Polonius thinks he is crazy in love with his daughter Ophelia. In this sequence of events, Ophelia changes from a bright cheerful girl singing, laughing and clearly in love with Hamlet to the depths of misery. Her farther Polonius tries to intervene and Hamlet ends up killing him thinking he is Claudius That sends Ophelia over the edge of despair and Ophelia kills herself. Her brother, Laertes vows revenge and begins to plot with Claudius.
All the action and madness tumbles out to the final act were the actions are replayed and repaid. Ophelia as a suicide should not get a Christian burial but her family orders the grave dug. Coming on the scene, Hamlet and Horatio play out an ironic scene where the gravediggers do not recognize them and they do not realize the grave is for a Ophelia. This scene has the frequently quoted and more frequently misquoted line “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times;” .
They hide at first when Claudius, Gertrude, and Laertes enter the scene and Hamlet watches them but ends up joining them in the burial scene and mourning loudly and vehemently enough to thoroughly alienate Ophelia’s brother. Who he ends up in a loud argument with about who loved her more.
In the course of the final act the plot replays itself as if an act of karma. Hamlet explains how he survived the plot to kill him in England by exchanging the letter with the instructions for his execution for one that targeted the bearers of the letter. This sentence is passed on the friends who betrayed him; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Claudius and Laertes plot Hamlet’s death. At the same time, Hamlet plans to kill Claudius in revenge for his father’s death. In the end, all the prior actions are discussed considered and it is time for action. This act is mysterious and controversial compared to the previous ones.
The last scene focuses less on the foreshadowed death of Claudius than it does on the replay of the action in the prior part of the movie laced with the poisonous plot. A message comes through that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Hamlet wounds Laertes twice and Claudius toasts him then offers him a poisoned cup. Hamlet refused and his mother drinks it instead. Claudius proves his guilt by trying to stop her but even knowing about the queen drinks it anyway while Claudius watches. This can be seen as a parallel to how Hamlet watched Ophelia’s grave being dug.
Hamlet and Laertes both get wounded by the poisoned sword that will kill them both. Before he dies Laertes tells Hamlet about Claudius’s involvement in both the poisoned wine and the poisoned blade. Hamlet knows he will die but first he forces Claudius to drink from the prisoned cup that killed Gertrude then Hamlet stabs him. Laertes lives long enough to exchange forgiveness with Hamlet. Hamlet charges Horatio with the responsibility of living to tell the story. Part of this is choosing Fortinbras as successor so this is how in the end only Horatio survives from the Danish Court to say, “Good night sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” .
In the end, Fortinbras enters along with the English ambassadors. The ambassadors announce that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead to a room of death. Horatio offers the story of the events that brought about the death scene to everyone assembled. Fortinbras orders that Hamlet’s body is to be carried away with military honors like a soldier.
Doran, G. (Director). (2010). Hamlet [Motion Picture]. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/episodes/hamlet/watch-the-film/980/
Shakespeare, W. (1602 - 2002). Hamlet. London, UK: Barron’s Educational Series. Retrieved from http://shakespeare.mit.edu/hamlet/full.html