I have a mildly serious problem.
My term paper is due tomorrow, the one for my Shakespeare class. It is worth 30% of my grade. And I can’t get myself to write it.
I say it is only mildly serious because I most likely will write it before it is necessary to turn it in. Also, I don’t care about anything right now. But it’s a not caring in the best of ways. Nothing is serious! I don’t care if I fail this class, and I don’t care about being responsible, and I just want to be happy and talk about Hamlet like Sherlock Holmes talks about crime.
Meaning on and on and on.
Hamlet is the most beautiful play I have ever read. I fell in love with the character of Hamlet. He wrestles with the ideas of death and injustice. He has a deep rooted anger against the entire world, and yet, he is funny. He keeps an insane sense of humor even as everyone he has ever known betrays him. Last night I stayed up much, much too late watching the BBC Hamlet starring David Tennant. I love the play even more than I did before.
You would think that this would make it easy to write a term paper. My problem is I have to discuss a shared theme between two tragedies that I read this term. Because of this I chose a fairly awful topic: suicide.
Have you noticed how much suicide is in Shakespearean plays? Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Macbeth, etc. I decided on that topic because Hamlet talks about suicide in a fascinating way. But I also have to write about the suicides in Julius Caesar, which are not as fascinating. (Side note: What is interesting is, if you look it up, most sites will tell you that there are three suicides in Julius Caesar: Brutus, Cassius, and Portia, Brutus’ wife. There are actually four: Titinius kills himself once he sees that Cassius is dead.)
But I don’t want to write or think about the suicides in either play! I want to write about madness.
Hamlet is all about madness. For the majority of the play, Hamlet fakes being crazy for various reasons. (I think the main one was getting away with insulting his relatives as often as he felt like.) But I would like to debate that he actually does go completely insane at one point in the story.
Here’s why. In the beginning of the play, Hamlet meets the ghost of his father. He is not the only one to see it. His friend Horatio was the one who told him about it, and several guards also witnessed the ghost. I will assume that it was actually there, and that it actually spoke to Hamlet. Hamlet reacts by faking madness.
Fast forward several acts, and the ghost appears once more. But this time is different. It shows up in the middle of a heated discussion between Hamlet and his mother. Hamlet is terrified and speaks to it, but his mother does not see it. What is the meaning of this? Assuming the ghost was real, why would he show himself to a couple of random guards and not his own wife? Perhaps Hamlet was imagining this ghost. He had just killed a man. Perhaps this is what drives him over the edge. Afterwards, he acts completely uncharacteristic of himself; he behaves more like a legitimate crazy person.
There’s my theory, but I cannot write about it because there is no insanity in any of the other tragedies we read this year. I can write about Ophelia’s insanity because she ends up committing suicide, but I don’t have the same zeal for her. (Sorry Ophelia. You really deserve better
Anyway, I was hoping that this post would motivate me to write my paper. Instead I am further convinced of the injustice of term papers. I’m not sure what the injustice is, but I am convinced it’s there. I can only imagine what my teacher will think of this paper.