Triggers to Hamlet’s Madness – 400 Years the Bard has walked the earth

shakespear google

Hamlet, written between 1599-1601, continues posing the same question is Hamlet really mad? As we know, the general speculations have left not a verse undissected.  I’m, therefore, going to add nothing new to an old debate, but will include the most fundamental triggers contributing to his ‘supposed’ madness, and shall offer a summary of my personal analysis  –  and why not, since it is a day in which to remember The Bard, who after 400 years, still, walks the earth through the virtue of his esteemed works. And, if Hamlet who is my favourite Shakespearean character, the most famous and complex prince on the globe, had not been careful deliberating his actions he might have lingered his ‘spirit’ long after his death on earth, too. Like that of his creator’s, except for Shakespeare’s is immortalised in art but Hamlet risked an eternity of damnation.

The triggers to Hamlet’s madness are linked to a succession of events:

1. The death of his father 2. Seeing the ghost of his father 3. The ‘hasty’ marriage of his mother to his uncle (father’s brother), and 4. His uncle’s move to the throne

Hamlet’s considerations and state of mind following the visitation of his father’s ghost

Doubt – whether he saw the ghost of his father or the apparition of his own mind, which  pivoted the implications on Criminality v Moral Duty – The murder of his father was suggested through his ‘perturbed spirit’. Alerting Hamlet to foul play, damnation and how it would wonder the face of the earth for eternity unless it was put to ‘rest’ by avenging its murder. As per, the religious believes of the time of Hamlet’s writing, Hamlet felt duty bound to liberate the tormented spirit by taking the life of the  murderer, if and when he established the facts

Doubt – about his uncle’s possible ‘murderous’ actions, versus, Hamlet’s own possible future ‘villainy’ and the spiritual implications of killing an innocent man. If he were mistaken about the ghost then he too would be damned.

Hamlet’s state of mind was: Grief, melancholy, despair, confusion, anger, anxiety, fear and doubt


Hamlet was forced to contemplate his uncle’s criminal action, versus, the redemption of his father’s soul in the context of a spiritual framework without room for error. Lest, both souls and that of an innocent man’s be damned as well. In investigating his father’s death, he needed to establish if a murder had, indeed, taken place and if so, who was the murderer?

Spurred on by retributive duty and the reinstatement of restoration resting solely on him Hamlet’s life turned into hell on earth, engendering him in solitude and melancholy that he quickly become disenchantment with life and its beauty. His world transformed into an emotional, psychological and spiritual vacuum brilliantly personified in Denmark’s mass of ”corruption” that was wringing his heart and dominating his mind.

At the same time, Ophelia, his beloved and betrothed, had suffered Hamlet’s rejections, repeated humiliation and cruelty. He was seemingly unrequiting her love, by which shattering her mind,  and dimming her heart to a world that would become absent of her beloved Hamlet’s affections.  A rapid descend into madness plunged Othelia in a floral  lake where she sought closure. Though Hamlet dearly loved her he was powerless to save her, from himself, or from an existence he viewed was consumed by “rankness” and “corruption” where everything was subject to the same state – “get thee to a nunnery”, he tells her.

The action of the play begins with Hamlet seeing his father’s ghost. It marks Hamlet’s turning point and the inception of his torment. For the reader, it realised his deepest apprehensions in an exclamation when pondering the matter of his father’s murder, in which he had succinctly summed up reluctance towards his subsequent actions which he, obviously, had felt were thrust upon him,

“O cursèd spite,

That ever I was born to set it right!” (Act5 Sc:1)

And further described himself as being  “betwixt heaven and hell”.

He was torn between the worldly and the metaphysical, existing in neither one nor the other,  but in a state “betwixt” the two – could you just imagine that for a moment.

Returning his father’s spirit to grace was no small matter – suspended between ‘heaven and hell’ and compelled by Morality towards an obligatory but tragic and fateful path.  The above lines illuminate the severity of Hamlet’s conflictual reality, and it is through such metaphors that one can begin to accurately understand his state and what was really going on in his mind.

It is this state, for me, which is the key to understanding the crux of his distress, which is as distant from madness as we are from the truth. Considering that Hamlet was grieving, and experiencing extreme spiritual and emotional turbulence, he still exercised acute ‘reason’. His very reactions of ‘suspicion and doubt’, instinct and behavioural control showed a rational and strong mind under the affliction of trauma.

Hamlet’s painful awareness surrounding the King’s death, was surely sufficient enough to fracture his mind, but it only fuelled his anxiety and distress, and caused his emotional and behavioural aberrations.

Hamlet had to contend with his inability to forgive his mother and the pain of her ‘hasty’ and ‘incestuous’ marriage to the late King’s brother. Who had not only usurped the throne, but in effect he stripped Denmark of its rightful kings. The gravity and enormity of these life changing events are clear and so are likely temporarily personality alterations, but not necessarily sanity.

We saw how Hamlet demonstrated sharpened wit, mental dexterity and sound faculties, as well as perceptive clarity. We saw the way in which he established whether his father–in–law was his father’s murderer – the mouse trap was a genius device needless to say. It set the stage, exposed and ensnared the villain and proceeded to the bloody denouement, the tragic peak. But prior that, Hamlet determined the truth beyond ‘reasonable’ doubt, identified the murderer before enacting his moral obligation, displaying sanity not the loss of reason, or, the madness of an extraordinary protagonist.

Of Hamlet’s death, Hamlet said, “I am dead, Horatio” – I just love this line.

What do you think?

NB: Tragedy – a distinction.

Hamlet is a Tragedy, a Revenge Tragedy, which is slightly different from the classical Greek Tragedy. Technically speaking, Hamlet’s circumstances were driven by choice, rather than destiny, which is the major difference between the two. The heros of Greek Tragedy and their circumstances, are usually determined by something larger than life, such as in the prophecy of Oedipus,  where it was ordained that he would kill his father and marry his mother.




The Faustian Society: I Have Seen Them All.


  1. The deeper question is, was Hamlet really a small ham omelette? And how could he then cross the road? I’ve never read Hamlet. Apparently from comments I heard long ago, he feign madness so that his uncle wouldn’t have him murdered also. And did Hamlet get his revenge for his father’s restless spirit?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. :::-)).You’re Funny.😉
      He was actually a very fluffy ham omelette. The issue of madness always balanced on whether he feigned it or not. Yes, he got his revenge, as is the case in the of the genre Revenge Tragedy., but he too dies. By the way he didn’t need to cross the road….as he didn’t require any more eggs for the omelette, from the local shop.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Maybe not madness, even he told us this, but was suffering from ‘melancholy’ – which impacts on sanity? I think his defining mood or state, was the level and degree of suffering. He described himself existing ‘betwixt heaven and hell’ (from memory)


  2. I don’t know if Fluffy Ham omelette was mad or not but the story was certainly thought provoking and causes many a soul to wander ‘betwixt heaven and hell’ (copied from you!!!) for an answer as can be seen 400 years later 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. the most famous troubled enigmatic prince. His a ‘word’ class player, who knows what is the ‘matter’. very provocation, yes. The metaphors are plenty (read you had an interest in them,) ; But, the overriding question, still. Can Ham Homlette stir eggs to a fluffy aired omelette? The quest for an answer continues….thanks to Sha’Tara. your feed back appreciated and most welecomed. Thanks for visiting

      Liked by 1 person

      1. [[But, the overriding question, still. Can Ham Homlette stir eggs to a fluffy aired omelette?]]

        Well now, you see, if he’d had the sense to live in our modern times, Ham Homelette could have used a Homelite chain saw… He could have even used it to dispatch that nasty uncle fellow.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I always have seen Hamlet’s strange actions as a mix of Hamlet grieving then seeking revenge for his father’s death, and an deliberate act to throw off observers, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems that way, grieving combined with plotting revenge, effected his behaviour. And he left nothing to chance, culminating in the mouse trap. Hamlet’s preoccupation with obtaining certainty beyond ‘doubt’ before carrying out his revenge is notable and most impressive…As a tragic hero Hamlet, is quite different from the rest. He doesn’t appear to have a ‘flaw’ (or does he?), but in likeness he is close to a classical tragic hero whose fate overrides his power…. Given Hamlet’s Catholicism of the day, the unrested spirit of his father, meant that murder had indeed taken place, and in order to restore it revenge had to take place, which was central to the play. I think Hamlet here echoes the classical tragic hero elements. You could say that the revenge was ordained by the God of his day, and was beyond his power. All that was left to do was secure ‘certainly’, in case he killed in error, which was important, and pivotal to the play, an error would have failed to restore his father’s spirit, and caused the murdered spirit as well as his own to walk the face of the earth in eternal damnation…. “damned spite.. I was born to put it right” and “betwixt heaven and hell”, shows his unwillingness to do it but he ‘must’, would have been enough to drive any one mad, and effect their behaviour….. many thanks for leaving a response and thanks for reading


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s