Hamlet - Intelligent , NOT Insane

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Throughout the Shakespearian play, Hamlet, the main character is given the overwhelming responsibility of avenging his father’s "foul and most unnatural murder" (I.iv.36). Such a burden can slowly drive a man off the deep end psychologically. Because of this, Hamlet’s disposition is extremely inconsistent and erratic throughout the play. At times he shows signs of uncontrollable insanity. Whenever he interacts with the characters he is wild, crazy, and plays a fool. At other times, he exemplifies intelligence and method in his madness. In instances when he is alone or with Horatio, he is civilized and sane. Hamlet goes through different stages of insanity throughout the story, but his neurotic and skeptical personality amplifies his persona of seeming insane to the other characters. Hamlet comes up with the idea to fake madness in the beginning of the play in order to confuse his enemies. However, for Hamlet to fulfill his duty of getting revenge, he must be totally sane. Hamlet’s intellectual brilliance make it seem too impossible for him to actually be mad, for to be insane means that one is irrational and without any sense. When one is irrational, one is not governed by or according to reason. So, Hamlet is only acting mad in order to plan his revenge on Claudius.

In order for Hamlet to carry out his goal of revenge, he had to be totally sane. In Act I, he is warned by the ghost not to go mad and not to harm his mother. If Hamlet were truly mad, he would have done many unorthodox acts, which would only wreck his plan of getting revenge. There can be no such thing as restrained insanity. Hamlet’s sanity is displayed when he does not harm his mother. Gertrude has hurt Hamlet. She betrayed his father by having an affair with Claudius and eventually marrying him. Since Hamlet does not kill her, it shows he is in full control of his mental state and that he is not controlled by his feelings like most mad people.

Another reason why Hamlet is not mad is in the way he escaped his awaited execution in England. Hamlet knew that he was to be sent to England to be killed on the orders of Claudius. But once he saw a chance of escape on the pirate ship, he took this opportunity to board the ship, which made him escape death, thus prolonging his life a little longer. If Hamlet were actually mad, it would be doubtful that he would know of Claudius’ plans,...

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...nd not making any sense whatsoever. In comparison, Hamlet speaks in regular sentences, and is able to converse normally with those around him. With much thought, and careful planning, Hamlet searches for evidence to determine the truth about his father's murder. And with this in hand, he departs on a path to avenge his father that is both reasonable and rational. While Hamlet might not carry the best of luck with him throughout the play, he certainly holds onto his mental integrity and ability to reason through challenges.

Hamlet feigns madness so that he will be able to successfully get revenge on Claudius. In order for his plan not to be discovered, he has to fake madness in order to throw off his enemies. For his revenge plan to be a success, Hamlet will have to be perfectly sane so that he won’t sabotage his plan in anyway, and to keep himself alive long enough to carry it out. Hamlet’s plan on proving Claudius’ guilt and whether or not the ghost is his dead father shows that Hamlet is too intelligent to be mad. If Hamlet were indeed mad, he would be too dim-witted to come up with such a clever plan.


Shakespear, William. Hamlet. Don Mills

HBJ, 1987
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