Hamlet in Wonderland

Hello Friends and welcome into the looking glass of insanity or dare I say madness? Either phrase can be examined in both Lewis Carell’s Alice in Wonderland and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.


The highlighted theme in both Carell and Shakespeare’s literature is the concept of madness. When examining Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the audience must be aware that the main character Hamlet drives himself into a self-induced spiral of crAzY after the apparition of his recently deceased father appears to him one night telling him this brother, Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, killed him in his sleep by pouring poison into his ear while he was sleeping. After hearing this news Hamlet goes on to destroy all of his personal relationships by trying to prove Claudius’s guilt. *SPOILER ALERT* Hamlet kills his girlfriend, Ophelia’s, father in the process, indirectly ALSO resulting in the death of his ‘beloved’ Ophelia by way of suicide. *Que Lumineer’s Ophelia*

Lewis Carell’s Alice in Wonderland’s main character, Alice mirrors Hamlet’s madness in a less self-destructive way. Although Alice does not accidentally kill anyone, she goes on the trip of a lifetime which is revealed to the reader to be just a ‘dream’ at the very end. After being bored with her sister reading to her, she sees a little white rabbit running across the way frequently checking his pocket watch and worried about being late to something. This piques young Alice’s interest as she chases the rabbit down a rabbit hole and finds herself falling for what seems forever. After falling she finds herself in an entirely new world made up of nonsense and peculiar people such as the Mad Hatter, Queen of Hearts the Cheshire cat, and a caterpillar that smokes a hookah on top of a mushroom.

The two main characters closely parallel each other in regards to acting on impulse. In Alice’s case, her initial choice to chase a rabbit with a pocket watch down a rabbit hole instead of deeming the event impossible. One could blame the pursuit on childish curiosity but one should then question common sense (outside the overarching question of sanity). Hamlet’s parallel on acting on impulses is evident in his conscious decision to act mad when trying to prove his father’s death instead of taking the honest approach and going to his mother and telling her the truth. He openly tells his friends that he is going to start acting in a different manner and to just go with it. Another impulsive act is shown later in the play when he stabs the tapestry in his mother’s chambers thinking it was Claudius. However, it was Polonius, Ophelia’s father, hiding behind the tapestry only reacting to Gertrude’s, Hamlet’s mother,  call for help.

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The two characters differ in their contemplation of the events unfolding in front of themselves as Hamlet worries about his choices and how they will reflect in his afterlife. He not only questions his final destination, which is seen in one of his soliloquies in the play but others around him. He approached Claudius from behind to kill him in private only to find him praying for forgiveness for the sin he has committed. Hamlet then decides it is best to wait to kill Claudius as he fears if he was to end his life while he was praying it would send him to heaven, and that was not good enough for Hamlet, he wanted Claudius to suffer for eternity.

Alice is too preoccupied with the events unfolding in front of her to think of the consequences of her actions. Although her experience is an abundance of peculiar happenings, her curiosity takes the best of her clouding her main objective of finding a way home. She emerges herself into her obstacles rather than avoiding them. However, in this sense, one could also make a connection between the characters when taking Hamlet’s ignorance regarding his kingdom and the people he would rule into consideration much like Alice’s ignorance of finding her way home. Both characters differ in terms of critical thinking in regards to action and consequence, but only to an extent. They both seem to lack the bigger picture: home.

When making the connection between these two characters an obvious question comes into play. Mental stability. When taking a look into the two characters’ psyche they both share a disconnect from the real world. Although in the ending of Alice in Wonderland reveals to the audience to be just a dream it leaves a lot of unanswered questions. This extremely vivid ‘dream’ creates a completely new world, characters, and minor details that a child is less than likely to put thought into let alone dream about. Alice exhibits obvious signs of paranoid schizophrenia or a disorder that disables people to think, behave, and feel clearly. Common side effects of paranoid schizophrenia are hallucinations and delusions (What is Paranoid Schizophrenia?) which is seen throughout Alice’s journey in ‘wonderland’.

Hamlet displays more bipolar depressive mental illness. Bipolar depressive mental illnesses take the form of mood swings ranging from manic highs and depressive lows (Diagnosis and Symptoms). A common symptom related to bipolar depressive disorder is the trait of acting impulsively which can be correlated previously mentioned to Hamlet’s rash choices when avenging his father’s death. He talks about how “the clouds still hang on” him (1.2.66). In his soliloquy in lines 68-72 , Hamlet refers to death and has definite suicidal undertones. The more he thinks about his objective to avenge his father’s death the more he looks to suicide in order to make himself feel truly at peace.

Both Lewis Carell and William Shakespeare’s main protagonists exhibit uncanny parallels in terms of madness that are hard to ignore. Although their madness varies in each of their journeys, the audience is left wondering for the mental wellbeing of both characters. The concept of madness is an overarching theme shared in both stories which in a way can bring light and awareness to mental illness. Whether the mental illness is displayed in a movie, show, play, or and piece of literature there is no reason to ever take it lightly. If you or a loved one ever feel this way there are resources to get help.