Madness and Melancholy in Hamlet

How strange or odd some’er I bear myself / (As I perchance hereafter shall think meet / To put an antic disposition on) HAMLET, Act I, scene v
And with a look so piteous in purport / As if he had been loosed out of hell / To speak of horrors – he comes before me…He raised a sigh so piteous and profound / As it did seem to shatter all his bulk and end his being. OPHELIA, Act II, scene i
The spirit that I have seen / May be the devil…and perhaps, / Out of my weakness and my melancholy / As he is very potent with such spirits, / Abuses to damn me. HAMLET, Act II, scene ii
Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep, / And, as the sleeping soldiers in the alarm, / Your bedded hair, like life in excrements, / Starts up, and stands on end. GERTRUDE, Act III, scene iv
…poor Ophelia / Divided from herself and her fair judgement, / Without the which we are pictures or mere beasts… CLAUDIUS, Act IV, scene v
It is not difficult to see why Hamlet values the theatre and the Players…he himself constantly adopts roles…generally to disconcert the orthodox: Gertrude, Claudius, Polonius, Ophelia…all have to face performances from him that are designed to baffle and humiliate. Stephen Siddall
Hamlet’s disorder not only transgresses acceptable aristocratic behaviour but can be spoken of as something threatening the well-being of the state as well as of the individual. Kate Flint
Hamlet’s madness gives him the licence of a fool to speak cruel truths, transgressing the language of social decorum. Kate Flint
Of the feigned madness of Hamlet there appears no adequate cause…He treats Ophelia with so much rudeness, which seems to be useless and wanton cruelty. Samuel Johnson
Too many subsequent Hamlets…have tended to overemphasise the solemnity of the part. After all, the pseudo-lunatic is conventionally a figure of comedy. Harry Levin
When Hamlet puts on an antic disposition it is feigned, forced, rather than the natural…role of inflamed madness according to revenge tragedy custom. Glyn Austen
Shakespeare’s audience, like Claudius, would have had little trouble in identifying the attributes of melancholy. Kate Flint
Hamlet’s feigned madness seems injudicious; for so far from securing himself from any violence which he fear’d from the usurper…it seems to have been the most likely way of getting himself confin’d and, consequently, debarr’d from an opportunity of avenging his father’s death. Thomas Hamner
Hamlet is mad because politics is itself madness when it destroys all feeling and affection. Jan Kott
The one person in the play who is without a doubt driven to mental breakdown is Ophelia. Her two ‘mad episodes’ are both poignant and bizarre…and her songs display a curious mixture of innocence and sexuality, sense and nonsense. Richard Andrews
[Hamlet is] a sardonic bridge between play-characters and audience…over half the proverbial sayings in the play are uttered by him. Kate Flint