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Madness and Insanity in Shakespeare's Hamlet - Hamlet is Sane

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Hamlet is not crazy

 

 

Is Hamlet insane? Literary scholars have debated that question for more than 400 years. Still People wonder. Throughout the play, there are questions of whether Hamlet is sane or not. His moods change abruptly throughout the play.

 

Hamlet is not crazy at all. He is very depressed because of his father's death. And especially because of his mother's hasty marriage to his Uncle Claudius, one month after his father's death. Hamlet is still in mourning. His mother should be also. He doesn't understand why she isn't in mourning. Upset by his mother's unfaithfulness to his father, Hamlet scorns his mother saying, "frailty, thy name is woman" (I.2.46).

 

A point I would like to make is in act I, we learn that his father's ghost has appeared to Horatio, Marcellus and Bernardo. These three people give credibility to the ghost's existence. If Hamlet was the only one who saw the ghost, then we could assume that he was mad. The three men witness the ghost before even notifying Hamlet. Horatio states "Before my God, I might not this believe Without the sensible and true avouch Of mine own eyes." (I.1.56-8) All three men are witnesses to the ghost demanding that Hamlet speak alone to it. And all three swear upon Hamlet's sword to keep it secret.

 

Besides being depressed, he is acting like a madman to conceal his motive, revenge for his father's murder. He gets the idea of his insanity plea from Horatio's warning when he meets with his father's spirit. "What if it tempts you toward the flood, my lord, Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff That beetles o'er his base into the sea, And there assume some other horrible form Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason, And draw you into madness?" (I.4.69-74) When he comes back from meeting with the spirit, he reveals to the three men that everything is wonderful and that they have nothing to worry about. Putting his plan into motion, he tells Horatio that if he's acting crazy to just ignore it and pretend that you're confused too.

 

"How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself, As I perchance hereafter shall think meet To put an antic disposition on, That you, at such times seeing me, never shall, With arms encumb'red thus, or this head shake, Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase, As "Well, well, we know," or "We could, and if we would," or "If we list to speak," or "There be, an if they might" Or such ambiguous giving out, to not That you know aught of me: this not to do." (II.1.170-179)

 

Another point I would like to make is although Hamlets behavior toward Ophelia is inconsistent, I truly believed he loved her. Hamlet barges into Ophelia's room and grabs her by the wrists, without saying a word, sighs and leaves. In my opinion, it's an act to divert suspicion away from Hamlet's true purpose of wanting to kill Claudius, his father's murderer. Ophelia's father, Polonius, believes that Ophelia's rejection of Hamlets desire has caused Hamlet to go insane. Then when Hamlet sees Ophelia at the play, he's hurt because she's rejected him, by giving him back his personal belongings and letters that he's written her. He tells her he's never loved her. He wants to hurt her back by talking nasty to her. "That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs." (III.2.100) He has no use for women right now. He feels that women are fickle. Ophelia can turn her feelings off for him. His mother can love Claudius and marry him one month after Kings Hamlet's death. However, during Ophelia's funeral, Hamlet jumps into Ophelia's grave, and fights with Laertes. During the fight, Hamlet professes how much he loved her when he says "Forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my sum." (V.1.272-274).

 

Another way I can tell that Hamlet is acting, is his strange behavior toward Polonius. He is playing Polonius by telling him he's a fishmonger and acting like he doesn't know him, because Polonius is a weasel and would go back and tell the king. Hamlet might as well give Polonius something to talk about. Hamlets sets in motion his insane behavior. "For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a good kissing carrion,- Have you a daughter?" (II.2.180-181) Whereas Polonius says to himself "Though this be madness, yet there is method in `t." (II.2.199)

 

Hamlet really seems to be sane when he asks the actors to perform a specific act in the play. The scene will resemble the murder of King Hamlet. Young Hamlet expects that if the ghost is telling the truth about Claudius murdering his father, then Claudius will react to the scene, admitting his guilt. Hamlet states "The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King." (II.2.581-82). Anyone who can plot that, and think that far ahead, needs to have a clear head. Besides, Hamlet's sane friend, Horatio is helping him with his plot to catch the murderer. Horatio states "If `a steal aught the Whilst this play is playing, And `scape detecting, I will pay the theft." (III.2.75-76)

 

Another reason he appears depressed is because of his own fixation of death. He ponders thoughts of suicide by his own soliloquy. "To be, or not to be; that is the question: Whether `tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, `tis consummation devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep." (III.1.58-64).

 

One more point I would like to make is it would appear that Hamlet is mad when he is confronting his mother in her room and kills Polonius. When his mother asks what, he has done, Hamlet says "Nay, I know not: Is it the King?" (III.4.27). I believe it is wishful thinking on his part. However, there is no remorse and he will not tell anyone where the body is. Instead he assumes his insane character. "Not where he eats, but where `a is eaten. A certain convocation of political worms a e'en at him." (IV.3.20-21).

 

His violent outbursts toward her are more out of jealousy than of being insane. He didn't have time to be with her alone to mourn the death of his father. She was wooed by King Hamlet's brother and married rather quickly. Although his mother would think him mad when Hamlet is the only one who sees the ghost in her bedroom, we cannot forget that the spirit appeared before three guards in the beginning of the play.

 

In conclusion, my opinion is that Hamlet is not crazy. He is so obsessed with his father's murder that he over reacts to and rejects the people around him; giving reason to suspect his insanity.Everyone, but Horatio is deceived by the "good" king, who always seems to be putting blame elsewhere. But in the end, Hamlet gets revenge of his father's death.

 

 

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"Madness and Insanity in Shakespeare's Hamlet - Hamlet is Sane." 123HelpMe.com. 19 Apr 2014
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