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Method in the Madness Hamlets Sanity Supported Through His Relation to Ophelia and Edgars Relation to Lear In both Hamlet and King Lear Shakespeare incorporates a theme of madness with two characters one truly mad and one only acting mad to serve a motive The madness of Hamlet is frequently disputed This paper argues that the contrapuntal character in each play namely Ophelia in Hamlet and Edgar in King Lear acts as a balancing argument to the other characters madness or sanity King Lears more decisive distinction between Lears frailty of mind and Edgars contrived madness works to better define the relationship between Ophelias breakdown and Hamlets north-north-west brand of insanity Both plays offer a character on each side of sanity but in Hamlet the distinction is not as clear as it is in King Lear Using the more explicit relationship in King Lear one finds a better understanding of the relationship in Hamlet While Shakespeare does not directly pit Ophelias insanity or breakdown against Hamlets madness there is instead a clear definitiveness in Ophelias condition and a clear uncertainty in Hamlets madness Obviously Hamlets character offers more evidence while Ophelias breakdown is quick but more conclusive in its precision Shakespeare offers clear evidence pointing to Hamlets sanity beginning with the first scene of the play Hamlet begins with guards whose main importance in the play is to give credibility to the ghost If Hamlet were to see his fathers ghost in private the argument for his madness would greatly improve Yet not one but three men together witness the ghost before even thinking to notify Hamlet As Horatio says being the only of the guards to play a significant role in the rest of the play Before my God I might not this believe Without the sensible and true avouch Of mine own eyes Ii56-8 Horatio who appears frequently throughout the play acts as an unquestionably sane alibi to
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