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Discuss Shakespeare's portrayal of madness and the feigning

            Discuss Shakespeare's portrayal of madness and the feigning of madness, with particular reference to Hamlet and the role of the female protagonists within this tragedy.
             Shakespeare portrays madness and the pretence of madness through its use, cause and consequences that affect the plot and relationships of this tragedy. Hamlet incorporates the pretence of madness to complete his revenge, but it is a delay in the course of action. Hamlet's use of madness shapes the drama but equally it is his relationship with Gertrude and Ophelia that moulds the direction of Hamlet's pretence and inadvertently shapes the path to revenge and ultimately the play, resulting in tragedy.
             Hamlet employs madness as a tool, but also as a double-edged sword. Hamlet's insanity is a disguise for his true intent for revenge, but also a hindrance. Schlegel affirms that Shakespeare presents a Hamlet who, "has no firm belief in himself or in anything else", and that, "his far-fetched scruples are often mere pretexts to cover his want of determination" (2). A strong case indeed, as it is Hamlet's uneasy conscience, acute sense of duty, and lack of self-confidence that turn him towards the pretence of madness.
             Hamlet uses madness in the play as a disguise, but it is believed by many critics to be an excuse for his delay towards revenge. However, Shakespeare acknowledges that Hamlet does hide from his "bloody deed" [IV.iv.58] through the pretence of madness when he still had, "cause, and will, and strength, and means to do't". [IV.iv.40] Hamlet himself admits it is a, "bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple / Of thinking too precisely on th"event" [IV.iv.41] (that inhibits him from action. It is arguably Hamlet's thoughts and scruples, which lead him to don the cloak of madness, which strongly suggests this view as procrastination.
             Most of Hamlet's soliloquies are, "transactions between himself and his moral sense effusions of his solitary musings" (1) that are often believed to be mad ramblings.

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