In Act III, Hamlet embarks on coaching several players on acting andemphasizes the importance of the forthcoming performance. The othermain events in the act involve Gertrude’s and Claudius’sdiscussion about Hamlet’s behavior. These events and others inprior scenes reveal Hamlet’s disillusionment with life. This statehas been caused by:
The desire to avenge the murder of his father,
His frustration with corruption,
Inability to act,
Women in his life have wronged him,
His friends turn on him easily.
Out of suchdisillusionment, he states in one of his soliloquies that his life isladen with “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”(3.1.58). Through this idiom, he intends to say that his life is fullof things that he has no control over. He attempts to question thesethings in order to understand himself and gain self-knowledge. Thisconcept of self-knowledge or self-discovery is pursued through othercharacters such as Ophelia whose identity is shaped by the men in herlife. As for Hamlet, he is stripped off key attributes need to formhis identity. They include
Values- He has conflicting values
Career- He appears to instruct several actors in a manner that suggests he has acting skills, but it is not clear.
Responsibility- he attempts to escape his role and responsibility as a prince
Sanity – the character of Hamlet feigns madness to escape reality (Hamada 63).
There is evidencethat Hamlet feigned for various reasons as below:
He took to act "strange or odd" and to "put an antic disposition on" 1 (1.5.170, 172) so as to make other people believe he is mad
He clearly reveals to his mother that he is feigning madness. He says
"I essentially am not in madness,
But mad in craft." (3.4.187-8.).
He tells Guildenstem that "his uncle-father and aunt-mother are deceived," and that he is only "mad north-north-west." (2.2.360.)
Hamlet misleads Polonius to think that he is mad but the king expresses his doubts about the madness by saying
"Though this be madness,
yet there is method in`t." (2.2.203-4.)
Griefing Ophelia andHamlet
To start with, griefis triggered by various occurs. Milne notes that “Hamlet’snatural grief is modified by his intuition that something isstrangely amiss in his father’s death” (35). Thus not, he onlymourns the death but also the tragedy of betrayal (Cooper 194)
Ophelia is in grief as he seeks to acquire an identity free from themen in her life. She struggles to have a voice of her own and beconsidered a human being. Hamlet griefs the death of his father. Hismother notices his grief and even commands him to shape up. She says,
cast thy nightly colour off…” (1.2.68)
Ophelia feeds offHamlets grief because of his actions. In the mousetrap scene, Hamletprovokes Ophelia and makes sexually suggestive remarks and evendismisses the capability of women to love for long in reference tohis mother who betrayed her dead husband by marrying her brother inlaw. At the same scene, Ophelia is mad and her language reveals thedivergence between reality and appearance as seen in corruptgovernment operations.
Again, Hamlet expresses pent-up anger by in the nunnery scenes whereshe tells her Get thee to a nunnery” (3.1.6). Here again, sheimplies that Ophelia should not marry of give birth. However, she isindirectly referring to his mother who angered him by marrying hisuncle shortly after the father’s death.
Hamlet believes that he will get over the grief of his father if heavenges him by killing King Claudius. Similarly, Ophelia believesthat she will have her own voice and become a person of good socialstanding. Hamlet revels in puns and dumb jokes to escape the normalcyof life. His puns are even interpreted as madness by some people.
Cooper, Helen.“‘Hamlet and the Invention of Tragedy.’ Ferndndez-Corugedo,”Sederi vol. VII,
Doloff, Steven. "TheAugury Motif in Hamlet." Shakespeare Yearbook vol. 7,1996, pp. 403-12.
Hamada, Shihoko."Kojin and Hamlet: The Madness of Hamlet, Ophelia, and Ichiro.
Comparative Literature Studies vol. 33, 1996, pp. 59-68.
Milne, Joseph."Hamlet: The Conflict between Fate and Grace." HamletStudies vol. 18, 1996,
Schley, Stella Cate."Seeing Hamlet at the Source." Dramatics 62, no.3,1990, pp. 12-13.
Shakespeare,William. Hamlet. New Haven: Yale U Press, 2003.