Friday, February 28, 2014

Psychoanalyzing Hamlet

Can we diagnose Hamlet with a mental disorder? It’s hard to say. A mental illness is characterized by the instability of mood, thought, and behavior. The condition must be considered to be “distressing” to the patient and the behavior/way of thinking must be out of the norm. The condition must also be recognized by American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. It’s likely that Hamlet has a mood disorder. Mood disorders, particularly major depression (which also goes by the name of clinical depression or major unipolar depression) are extremely common. Major depression could possibly explain Hamlet’s dark, bleak outlook on life. This mood disorder is characterized by a sad or depressed mood, lack of interest in things that once made the person happy, fatigue/tiredness, guilt without logical reason, difficulty concentrating, and reoccurring thoughts about death. Depression can often be triggered by stressful events such as death. Considering Hamlet’s father died, his mother married his uncle not two months after King Hamlet’s death, and his uncle took the throne in place of himself, the chance that Hamlet has experienced a stressful enough situation to trigger a mood disorder is pretty high. As the reader, it’s also possible for us to reach the conclusion that Hamlet feels immense guilt over his father’s death without reason (after all, he wasn’t the one that killed King Hamlet). Guilt is often a feeling one feels after someone close to them has died. One can argue that King Hamlet’s ghost is a manifestation of Prince Hamlet’s guilt. Prince Hamlet must feel guilty for doing nothing because the ghost of King Hamlet calls him a “fat weed” and implies that he’s being a coward. Hamlet seems to be bothered by his cowardice, his indecisiveness, and passiveness. In one of the earlier soliloquies he tells us that he is not Hercules, that he is not a hero. Some psychologists believe that depression is simply self hatred turned inward towards the patient. If this perspective is true, Hamlet can be suffering from major depression because he hates his cowardice and desperately wants to please his father. From a Freudian, psychodynamic perspective, Hamlet’s abnormal relationship with both his mother and father can be to blame. Hamlet seems to worship his father. He compares him to a Greek God, specifically Hyperion. Hyperion was one of the Titans and the sun to Helios, the sun, Selene, the moon, and Eos, the dawn. It can be said that Hamlet views his father as the creator of this world, a god. He admires his father and puts him on a pedestal, something that is unusual for normal children to do. The relationship with his mother is also odd and questionable. One can say that he has a bit of an Oedipus complex. He is very concerned with his mother’s private sex life, to the point of obsession. At the end of Act III, he has a whole conversation about the morality of her relationship with his uncle. In their conversation, he finds it appropriate to tell her, “O, throw away the worser part of it, / And live the purer with the other half. / Good night: but go not to mine uncle’s bed;” For the majority of people, giving advice and taking control of one’s mother’s sex life is inappropriate and uncomfortable. But it’s possible that Hamlet feels the need to do this because he is in love with his mother. It’s possible that these repressed feelings of desire simply show up under the disguise of disgust and shame over his mother’s choices rather than his true feelings of jealousy.

Hamlet's Many Faces

Hamlet as the fool.

Hamlet takes on many different archetypes during the course of the play. He plays the moral judge, fool/jester, impulsive fighter, scholar, artist, philosopher, and coward. We see a different side of Hamlet every time he puts on a different mask. The scholar is witty. We see him play the scholar as he shows off his intellectual prowess. This is often seen in his exchanges with Polonius in which he makes Polonius seem ignorant and foolish. He keeps his cool and calm demeanor in these scenes. However, as the fool, Hamlet is at his most honest state (see what I did there?). He is able to speak his mind, though his sincerity is masked by his outlandish humor. It’s the only way he knows how to break out of his silence. In Act I, he speaks about his inability to express his emotions through a soliloquy, in which he says, “But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.” So playing “the fool” is the only way Hamlet knows how to break free of walls that conceal his emotions. With humor, there is truth. By being absurd, rude, and comical, Hamlet is able to get away with saying some pretty sharp comments. In Act III, he insults both his mother, Queen Gertrude, and his exgirlfriend (depending on how you interpreted the scene before), Ophelia, in front of the entire court. He makes some very crude jokes, and even remarks, “That’s a fair thought to lie between maidens’ legs” for the pure purpose of provoking her. Ophelia has no choice but to keep her anger hidden because Hamlet is much higher in rank, since he is the prince of Denmark, and because she is a woman and the time period expected her to take the insults. He also treats his mother in a similar way by bringing up the death of his father, King Hamlet, her disloyalty, and the “incest” that is taking place between the sheets since Gertrude is Claudius’ sister in law (since King Hamlet was Claudius’ brother). Still conversing with Ophelia, he points out his mother, “O God, your only jig-maker. What should a man do / but be merry? For, look you, how cheerfully my / mother looks, and my father died within these two hours.” Though his mother waited two months rather than two hours to get married to Claudius, Hamlet purposefully says, “two hours” in order to be humorous and sharp tongued at the same time. Hamlet also takes on the part of “the fool” when he acts mad (or actually is mad, depending on the interpretation). We see this as he speaks with his childhood friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, after the play. He acts slightly crazy, demanding them to play the pipe. Guildenstern refuses to try and play the pipe despite Hamlet’s demands, and Hamlet turns the situation around by revealing that he knows about their spying. While they planned and plotted behind his back, convinced that he was crazy, Hamlet knew exactly what was going on. By pretending to be mad and playing the fool, Hamlet gives himself the upper hand because he is able to feign ignorance. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On Rhymes

I generally like rhymes. They draw attention to work at hand, stress the importance of what the speaker is trying to convey, facilitate memory, provide entertainment and verbal wit, and marks the end of soliloquies (if you’re William Shakespeare). There are many different kinds of rhymes of course, perfect rhymes, eye-rhymes, imperfect rhymes, half rhymes, and head rhymes (better known as alliteration) just to name a few. But for this blog post, I would like to concentrate on the best known, most widely accepted types of rhymes. These are often identical rhymes, eye rhymes, and perfect rhymes. Perfect rhymes can be divided into three subcategories: masculine, feminine, and dactylic. Let’s start with the eye rhyme. The eye rhyme, unlike some of the more traditional rhymes that rely on the “sound” (or pronunciation) of the word, rely on the spelling of the word. For example, while “slaughter” and “laughter” don’t “sound” much alike but they rhyme because of their almost identical spelling. The perfect rhyme can be split up into three categories: masculine, feminine, and dactylic. The first subcategory, masculine rhymes, is characterized by the stress on the final syllable of the word. “Sublime” and “rhyme” are a good example. While “sublime” and “rhyme” are not spelled the same way, they do sound the same, at least the last syllable does. Unlike the eye rhyme, with perfect rhyme does not depend on the spelling of a word. Instead, it relies on pronunciation. The stress is placed on the last syllable, meaning the “-ime” part of the word in “sublime” and “rhyme”. Feminine rhymes are a tad bit trickier than masculine rhymes. Feminine rhymes, like masculine rhymes, still depend on pronunciation over spelling and still uphold the expectation that the last syllable must match in sound. However, in terms of the “stressing” of the words, feminine rhymes differ. Unlike the masculine rhyme that places the stress on the last syllable, the feminine rhyme places the stress somewhere in the middle, usually the second to last syllable. For example, “tricky” and “picky” are both perfect rhymes. However, they are not masculine, they are feminine In both words, the stress is placed on the second to last syllable of the word. That’s the strong “i” in “tricky” and “picky”. If it was a masculine rhyme, the stress would be placed on the “y”. In a dactylic rhyme, the stress is on the third to last syllable. The dactylic rhyme is much more uncommon in comparison to the masculine and feminine rhymes, and that’s because such long words are harder to come across. “Cacophonies” and “Aristophanes” are an example of a dactylic rhyme. The stress is placed on the “o” sound in both words rather than the “fa” sound or “ees” at the end. Identical rhymes are probably the most well-known. These are often the first rhymes we are exposed to as children. An example of an identical rhyme would be “gun” and “begun”. Homonyms or “punning rhymes” would also be considered identical rhymes, such as “bear” and “bare”.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Love Sonnet 18

Love Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

William Shakespeare’s Love Sonnet 18 compares the object of his affection to a summer’s day. Line 2, “Thou art more lovely and more temperate:” expresses how his lover is more mellow and beautiful than a summer day. The word temperate has more than one denotation, making this statement have more than one meaning. Temperate can mean moderate or self-restrained in opinion, not susceptible to extreme passion or emotion, or moderate in temperature or weather. So line 2 can be speaking to both his lover’s personality and temperament as well as their physical beauty, meaning that aesthetically, their features are not harsh. “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May” speaks to the fragility of love and relationships. Rough winds signify the conflicts and difficulties that the couple may face, while the “darling buds of May” represent the romance. The month of May is in spring, and spring is connotated with renewal, rebirth, and love.
            “Summer’s lease” in line 4 is the amount of time that this pleasantness will last. “Lease” has the meaning of owning temporary possession. So “summer’s lease” is a way of saying summer’s pleasant weather and romance won’t last forever. It’s limited because the lease will end, which is summed up by “too short a date”.  Line 5’s “Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,” explains that sometimes the relationship will be scrutinized by everyone. The “eye of heaven” refers to the sun, and gives the image of a bright, hot spotlight on his lover. The sun, which is a great source of light, reveals small details and flaws in people, allowing scrutiny to occur. As a result, the speaker worries that, “often is his gold complexion dimm’d; / And every fair from fair sometime declines”.  “His gold complexion” can literally be referring to his lover’s skin, but “complexion” can also mean viewpoint or attitude. So while the sun can literally be damaging his lover’s complexion with its harsh rays, in a metaphysical sense, the scrutiny from the people around them is causing his lover to lose his bright attitude. “Fair” is used in a way so that its multiple meanings are being used in one sentence. “Fair” as a noun can mean “woman” or “lover”, free from bias and injustice, pale in color and untainted, straight (as in direction), or an exhibition. So in “And every fair from fair sometimes declines”, the first “fair” takes the meaning of “woman” or “lover” and the second “fair” takes up the meaning, free from injustice, bias, or dishonesty.
            While conflict can come between their love, the speaker goes onto say, “But thy eternal summer shall not fade.” While the season itself may pass, the pleasantness that comes with summer will remain eternal within his lover, making fading impossible. The speaker ends the sonnet by proclaiming his faith in his lover, “When in eternal lines to time thou growest:/ So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, / So long lives this gives life to thee.”