Melancholy And Hamlet Essay, Research Paper
Melancholy and Hamlet
In the play Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare, Hamlet is greatly affected in his thoughts and
his actions by his ever changing state of melancholy. Melancholia is a medical term categorized by extreme
depression, apathy, and withdrawal. Hamlet gives in to this illness and throughout the play he shows several
characteristics of it. Hamlet being so self-centered steers him away from performing the vigorous duties he has been
chosen to do by the ghost of his father and also himself. Hamlet develops a wariness of family and companions that
keeps him from incriminating himself and destroying his plans for revenge. In the end, it is Hamlet?s perseverance
and determination that keeps him focused on his plan and gives him a relentlessness with which he pursues his goal.
The conduct of Hamlet causes him to become the exact definition of melancholy, as defined by the medical field over
The time in which Shakespeare lived and wrote this play was a time where the medical profession
was just beginning. The people depended on ancient theories and practices that are no longer used in the medical
field today. It was believed that black bile was a fluid found in the body. Any person with an excess amount of blood
or fluids was believed to be in the state of melancholy. Hamlet was viewed as being composed of too much black bile
which placed him as melancholic. Skepticism, a stubborn outlook and attitude about life, self absorption, and
excessive gloomy response to recent events are all symptoms of melancholy. All of these symptoms apply to Hamlet
during the course of the play. It is the fulfillment of these symptoms that proves Hamlet is in fact melancholic.
Hamlet?s constant thoughts and feelings about himself come from his state of melancholy. His continuos
introspection as to how he is thinking, behaving, and feeling at any given time keep him from acting swiftly on the
commands given to him by the ghost of his father. During all this time Hamlet still shows occasional signs of
intelligence as he should. Hamlet is after all, an educated man. He refuses to perform his given duty without first
questioning each area of the task at hand. He ponders the consequences of the task then he questions his very own
position on the issue. Because of this, his ?thinking too precisely on th? event? (IV, iv, 41) has taken so long that he
misses the opportunity to complete his responsibility. Hamlet is led to even more contemplation before he is able to
move on to the secondary plan of action resulting from the failure of the first. You can see that Hamlet is able to
recognize his pattern of behavior when he says, ?I do not know why yet I live to say ?This thing?s to do:? sith I have
cause and will and strength and means to do ?t? (IV, iv, 43-6). By seeing the source of his inability to act, Hamlet is
now capable of correcting it. Now Hamlet gives in to his passions rather than debating them, which in turn brings
more positive actions than lengthy excuses for his failure to act.
Hamlet?s melancholy is also displayed by his overwhelming emotion for any mood he is currently
in. Biggest of all is the death of his father, after which he sinks into a great depression that traps his mind and spirit
for the rest of the play. It is more complicated than a simple state of mourning. Hamlet has become obsessive about
preserving the memory and integrity of the former king. Hamlet is the last person in the kingdom to continue
mourning for his father, and shows his sadness by dressing only in ?nighted color? (I, ii, 68). While his mother sees
his choice of clothing as showing his complete emotion, Hamlet tells her that it ?does not denote me truly? (I, ii, 83).
His real emotions are much stronger than the simple decision of what to wear. The players come to put on a play and
Hamlet focuses all of his time and energy on the performance. He wants to achieve his goal of catching ?the
conscience of the king? (II, ii, 548). Hamlet has once again forgotten everything he was concerned with and is now
only interested in one small part of his life. Hamlet?s behavior shows that he is wrapped up in the mood or feeling he
is currently in, whether it be depressed or happiness.
Hamlet?s suspicion?s for the motives of the actions of those around him are due to his melancholic
nature. He does not like to be taken advantage of and he would like for everyone to be honest with him as he is, with
them. Hamlet?s friends have been sent for by the king and queen to find the reason behind his current state of mind.
When Hamlet says, ?Were you not sent for? Is it tour own inclining? Is it free visitation? Come, come, deal justly
with me,? (II,ii, 256-8) he is demanding an answer from his friends as to their unexplained arrival. From the time the
ghost originally speaks to Hamlet to the final act of the play, Hamlet is a man obsessed with a sense of obligation.
Nothing can side track him from what he knows he must do to avenge his father.
Hamlet, the protagonist in the play, suffers from melancholia, to which most of his actions can be
credited to. Hamlet?s constant challenging of himself and his actions makes him unable to act on his desires
consistently during the play. Hamlet then becomes deeply absorbed in different emotions and moods that are
currently affecting him, such as the rage of his father?s death followed by the happy occasion of the players? visit to
the castle. Hamlet will not permit his plans to be changed or delayed, except by himself, in order to remain in control
of his own fate. As you can see, each of his decisions and actions was determined and, partially, predicted by his