Madness in Hamlet and Macbeth

Hamlet and Macbeth are two of William Shakespeare's most famous plays. Each share not only fame, however, but format: Both feature main characters with tragic flaws that become their demise. In the cases of Hamlet and Macbeth, this flaw is madness. Whether their insanity is feigned or unfeigned, it plays a key role in their downfall. These characters have the ability to be something great, but they let their madness corrupt them and bring them into the chaos that only has a fatal end.

In Hamlet, Prince Hamlet seemed to be in a state of madness ever since the demise of his father, King Hamlet. Though at first, no one knows the cause of King Hamlet's death, but Prince Hamlet soon finds out through a conversation with his dead father's ghost. In it, the ghost reveals to him that he was poisoned by Hamlet's uncle, Claudius. As Claudius pursued Queen Gertrude and married her soon after King Hamlet's death, the chain of events is all Hamlet needs to hear to be convinced. He promises to take vengeance upon his stepfather, swearing "to put an antic disposition on" (2.1. 173) so that his revenge can be accomplished. His "wild and whirling words" (1.5. 137) evoke empathy from the readers because one...

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