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Feigning Maddness Essay, Research Paper

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies. In the play, Hamlet’s father, the king, has been murdered. Some say that his hatred for his father’s assassin and his love for Polonius’ daughter, Ophelia, makes him mad. Hamlet is not mad, though, instead he was feigning madness. He specifically says that he is only pretending to be mad just after seeing his fathers ghost and then again to his mother the queen. Also, both Claudius and Polonius admit that Hamlet is too clever in his ways to be mad. Quite close to the beginning of the play, Hamlet himself suggests that he is going to act mad. This would be an awkward quote if Hamlet had actually been mad simply because people who go mad do not normally plan it or expect it to happen. When Hamlet says, “How strange or odd I bear myself ……To put an antic disposition on”(Act I; Scene V) he suggest that he intents to act mad. This shows that Hamlet’s madness was planned and that he was not actually mad. Secondly, both Claudius and Polonius confess that Hamlet’s actions, although strange, are not caused by madness. Claudius states this after Hamlet’s encounter with Ophelia. After Hamlet leaves Ophelia, Claudius enters and says, “Love! his affections do not that was tend; Nor what he spake, though it lacked form a little, was not like madness.”(Act III; Scene I). Also, Polonius sees that Hamlet is not mad while they are talking in the library in the castle. As Polonius asks Hamlet question after question, Polonius discovers that Hamlet’s replies are not the replies of someone who is mad. “Though this be madness, yet there is a method in’t.”(Act II; Scene II).Here Polonius is a bit confused and begins to doubt his accusation of hamlet’s madness. Thirdly, Hamlet tells his mother that he is not mad but instead only mad in craft. “That I essentially am not in madness, But mad in craft”(Act III; Scene IV). Here, Hamlet expresses his driven desire to obtain revenge on his father’s murderer. This want for revenge did not make him crazy though. At all times he was completely aware of what he was doing. Hamlet seemed to follow a precise plan for his revenge and at times made adjustments in his plan. For example, he stops himself from killing Claudius while Claudius is praying. “Now, might I do it pat, now he is praying; And now I’ll do’t; and so he goes to heaven; And so am I revenged; that would be scann’d: A villain kills my father; and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send To heaven.” Hamlet realizes that in killing Claudius while he was praying he would send Claudius to heaven thereby rewarding his father’s murderer. For hamlet to draw back from killing Claudius is evidence that Hamlet is not insane.

One could argue that Hamlet was indeed mad. Throughout the entire play Hamlet’s behavior is quite erratic and his moods change abruptly. One could argue that although Hamlet may not have been mad from the time of his fathers death, by the end of the play he had gone insane. A support for this would be that while in his mothers chamber he was the only one to see his fathers ghost. Before when the ghost appeared others could see it clearly. Also Hamlet says to Laertes, “Was’t Hamlet wrong’d Laertes? Never Hamlet: If Hamlet from himself be taken away, And when he’s not himself does wrong Laertes, Then Hamlet does it not, Hamlet denies it. Who does it, then? His madness:”(Act V; Scene II). Hamlet tells Laertes that it is not his fault that he killed Polonius because it was his madness that murdered and not himself. This could be a very strong support for Hamlet being insane. However, it is definite that in all these cases Hamlet is only acting insane. Notice that Hamlet only acts mad when around certian people. He acts insane whenever he is with Polonius, Claudius, Gertrude, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern. On the other hand, Hamlet behaves perfectly rationally when he is conversing with Horatio, Bernardo, Francisco, The Players and the Gravediggers. This shows that he is simply acting because he can turn his madness on and off at will. Also, Hamlet believes in his sanity at all times. He never once doubts his control over psyche. Hamlet’s sanity is clearly seen throughout the entire play. His feigned madness keeps those around him from discovering his intentions of revenge on the king. Other characters only notice that his actions have a method to them and do not assume Hamlet does this purposely. But the reader is blatantly shown that Hamlet’s revenge is specifically planned out and not at all random. Instead of considering Hamlet mad, one should consider him ingenious for succeeding in his attempt to kill the king and get his revenge. For Hamlet to be able to bring justice to his father like this is a great feat, worthy to be acknowledged.


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