In this week’s blog post I am going to be a little more risky. I typically would write about Ophelia, keeping with my theme of women in the play, but I am thinking that I might look at Ophelia and Hamlet and the way that my own religion helps me to determine if they have gone mad.
For some time it has been debated whether or not Hamlet has gone mad. Many of the characters have shared with each other, and particularly with Claudius and Gertrude, that the boy has gone crazy after his father’s death.
Ironically we see Ophelia enter into a world of “madness” as well. “All from her father’s death, and now behold!” (4.5.74). Now we have two characters that are driven mad because of their father’s deaths. Quite frankly Claudius is to blame for both deaths. If he had not killed his brother, Hamlet would not be in this state of revenge. If he had not killed his brother, he would not be with Gertrude and she would not have been confronted by Hamlet the way that she was and Polonius would still be alive.
I think the real question here though is if the characters really are mad or not. Is Hamlet mad? In the eyes of those during Shakespeare’s time I would guess that majority of the audience would think that he was not mad but was simply seeing his father’s ghost and needing to put his father’s soul to rest through revenge.
I read this play from a Catholic perspective. When I read these moments where Hamlet sees the ghost and some see it yet others do not, I have to believe that this is true. I have to believe that he really is being visited from someone who has died, but remains in purgatory. In my own faith, when someone close to us dies, we are given prayer cards, and we must pray for that person every night for 30 days so that they will ascend from purgatory to heaven.
As I am reading this play I can only see Hamlet as doing the things that needs to be done to put his father to rest. In this play Claudius says, “…and we have done but greenly in hugger-mugger to inter him” (4.5.81-82). Claudius talks about not giving Polonius a proper funeral, and that is also what my faith believes will keep a soul from reaching heaven.
I am curious how my peers read into this. If you do not share the same faith as me, do you see Hamlet as being mad rather than faithful to God? Do you see God as being angry for not giving Polonius a proper funeral? (This is what I am chalking up to Ophelia’s madness)