Hamlet's Antic Disposition

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Hamlet's Antic Disposition

In William Shakespeare's famous tragedy Hamlet, the main character of the story is one majestically elaborated, aside from being quite complex. There are infinite volumes written about this character because Shakespeare leaves no firm proof of many of his character traits. Yet on Hamlet's antic disposition, meaning his obviously absurd temperament or madness, Shakespeare leaves plenty of reason to believe that it is feigned, meaning that it is simply a ploy to help Hamlet carry out his plans for revenge. It is feigned, meaning that it is faked, merely put on as a façade. This is denoted in various aspects of his antic disposition. Hamlet's antic disposition is self imposed, meaning that he himself decides to appear "mad", assuming the antic disposition willingly because he thinks it meet. It is methodical because there is a system to it. He is able to turn it on and off when he has reason for it; other characters in the play notice it and Hamlet himself states it. Finally, Hamlet's madness is also clever because it allows him to express himself and his thoughts clearly, and through comments full of wit that show his awareness of reality when he mocks other characters in their faces without their noticing. Therefore, Hamlet's antic disposition is not true madness; rather it is feigned because it is self imposed, methodical and clever.

Hamlet's antic disposition is self imposed, meaning that he chooses to impose this disposition upon himself. He willingly appears to be mad in order to obtain all he wants. This comes up in the situation after Hamlet has seen his father's ghost and is with Horatio and Marcellus. He, on this occasion warns them that he does "think meet to put an antic d...

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... and off at his will, being it a means for an end. This again, shows that the madness is feigned because true madness lacks method. Finally, the cleverness of his madness shows it to be feigned because he expresses his true opinions through the madness, being able to even mock others willingly, a characteristic that clearly renders his madness fake. Shakespeare lets us know that his main character is mad through all these proofs he leaves behind. Yet there are many other aspects of Shakespeare's Hamlet to be analyzed and discussed, but that you will not find here for they are elsewhere, in endless volumes of infinitely large libraries.


1. Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1958.

2. Wilson, John Dover. What Happens in Hamlet. Cambridge: University Press, 1935.
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