Hamlet is a problem play, as it represents the theme of madness. Hamlet tries to make people think he is harmless, pretending to be mad. But examining the death of his father, Hamlet is losing touch with reality. As he plans his revenge, he starts acting weird and without thinking. It turns out that his mind hides issues that are much more real than he thinks.
A problem play is a narrow genre that differs from a problem play developed in the 19th century. It is usually called Shakespearean problem play. A complex tone and unique features characterize it. Shakespeare’s Problem Plays states that Shakespeare’s works cannot be called “pure tragedy or pure comedy.” They do not have happy endings, but, at the same time, their plots do not include tragic elements. In a problem play, one can see a character who stepped on a dark road.
Britannica describes tragedy as a branch of drama. It represents “sorrowful or terrible events encountered or caused” by the main hero. This kind of play has a rich history, starting from ancient Greece. It is often filled with psychological insights and investigates the nature of existence. As a problem play, it may contain the elements of darkness. Yet it usually includes more disastrous events and ending.
Without a doubt, Hamlet has some key elements of a tragedy. Several deaths during the plot, including the protagonist’s passing, can be called tragic events. Also, Hamlet is often called a revenge tragedy. It was popular in the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras when the play was written and popularized. In this subgenre, the main character seeks revenge. As the plot develops, this desire can remain only in the hero’s thoughts or lead to real actions. The theme of revenge is vividly represented in the play. Hamlet wants to kill Claudius for murdering his father and ends up killing more people and dying himself.
Nevertheless, Hamlet is more related to a problem play. The reader sees the character who is not tragic in the usual way but falls into the darkness. Hamlet pretends to be mad to fool Claudius. But later, he loses his grip on consciousness and reality. His madness ceases to be a pretense, the evidence of which can be his violent outbursts. For starters, Hamlet kills Polonius by mistake, never feeling guilty about it. Darkness is also reflected in a moody setting: a graveyard in one scene and night time in others. The tense atmosphere is evident throughout the play.
Shakespeare emphasizes various spiritual and emotional problems. However, he doesn’t give any resolution to them in his play. The article Introduction to Hamlet states that the protagonist feels uncertain all the time. He struggles to “find the truth in a mire of delusion.” Nevertheless, he can’t answer the questions that torment him. In Hamlet, the focus is shifted to mental and moral issues without instructions for dealing with them. It makes the play closer to real life, where no one gives direct answers to anyone. In the end, Hamlet’s death symbolizes his inability to overcome his madness and uncertainty.