My Favourite Literary Mentalists – 2) Hamlet, William Shakespeare


” I essentially am not in madness/ But mad in craft”  Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 4.

When we first meet Hamlet,  he is grieving for his murdered father and obsessively seeking the truth about his death in order set in motion his plan to take revenge on his uncle Claudius. (Who, lets not forget has committed fratricide, usurped the throne of Denmark and wasted absolutely no time at all bedding Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude). Naturally, Hamlet is more than a little pissed off about this state of affairs and rallies and rages in solitude against the corrupt and claustrophobic atmosphere in the court, bitterly remarking that something is more that a little ‘rotten’ in the state of Denmark. By turns melancholic, discontented, mercurial, paranoid, indecisive and thoughtful to the point of obsession, Hamlet contemplates death and suicide several times throughout the play. In his attempt to feign madness to disconcert Claudius and the court, we see flashes of his quicksilver humour, showmanship and deeply philosophical nature, until, inevitably the play thunders toward its tragic conclusion.  The rest is silence.

This is an interesting read on the nature of Hamlet’s madness and mentions Freud’s theories on Hamlet and the Oedipus complex.


My Favourite Literary Mentalists – 1) Miss Havisham ‘Great Expectations’ Charles Dickens


Jilted on her wedding day by the fraudulent and morally bankrupt Compeyson, the haunted and deeply humiliated Miss Havisham takes refuge for the rest of her days in the gothic and crumbling ruins of Satis House, never to remove her bridal gown again and wearing only one shoe, exactly as she had been at the moment she received Compeyson’s letter cancelling the wedding. Heartbroken and wasting away, surrounded by the remains of her wedding feast and decorations, she pines for her lost love incessantly and obsessively. Lonely and grief-stricken, Miss Havisham adopts a young girl, Estella, who promises to be a great beauty. Miss Havisham brings Estella up to be cold and impassive in order to break the hearts of men in vicarious revenge for her suffering. Enter Pip, and his fate is tragically sealed on the first day he sets eyes on Estella. Arguably one of Dickens’ most famous gothic creations, it is sometimes hard to draw the line between caricature,  eccentricity and genuine madness.

This is an interesting read on Miss Havisham, Dickens and Victorian Psychiatry.