Madness And Antic Insanity In Shakespeare's Hamlet

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Madness is a condition that is often difficult to identify, especially when trying to analyze the behavior of a fictional character in a play that was published in 1603. In the play, Hamlet is asked to avenge his father’s death and to accomplish this task in a less apparent manner, Hamlet decides to put on an antic disposition. The madness of Hamlet is often disputed, for good reason, as his behavior is frequently baffling throughout the play. Shakespeare, the author of this tragic play, leaves the audience to decide whether Hamlet is truly mad or not. However, through careful examination and analysis, it becomes clear that Hamlet’s act of madness was just that—an act. Hamlet’s antic disposition was an act of deception, fabricated to draw attention…show more content…
Hamlet’s first soliloquy begins with, “O that this too sullied flesh would melt,” (1.2.133). This reveals that he is depressed and appalled, but does not provide any evidence of insanity. In the same act Hamlet also directly tells Horatio that he is going to “feign madness” and that if Horatio notices any strange behaviors, it is because he is putting on an act (1.5.166). In the second act of the play, Shakespeare continues to drop hints that Hamlet’s madness is deliberately feigned in order to confuse and disconcert the king and his attendants. In one instance when Hamlet speaks to Polonius, Hamlet states, “Slanders, sir; for the satirical rogue says here that old men have gray beards; that their faces wrinkled; their eyes purging thick amber and plum-tree gum” (2.2.197). In this interaction, Hamlet uses his feigned madness to his advantage to insult Polonius. Hamlet’s wit clearly shows that he has not yet lost his reason and is not mad. In this act, Polonius begins to believe that Hamlet has indeed gone mad, and he believes that the reason for his madness is Ophelia. Polonius explains to Claudius how he had advised Ophelia to “lock herself from his resort, admit no messengers, receive no tokens…into the…show more content…
When Hamlet is completing the arrangements for the play, Hamlet says, “I must be idle.” (3.2.85). This is clearly a declaration of his intention to act foolish. Then, when speaking to his mother, he assures her that he is not mad and says, “I essentially am not mad in madness, but mad in craft.” (3.4.187). Furthermore, Hamlet’s madness had only manifested itself in the presence of certain characters. Around Gertrude, Polonius, Claudius, Rosencratz, Guildenstern, and Ophelia, he behaves irrationally. While he behaves rationally around Horatio, Bernardo, Francisco, The Players, and the Gravediggers. Act 3 also contains Hamlet’s most famous speech that begins with “To be or not to be: that is the question” (3.1.64). In his third soliloquy Hamlet seems to be governed by reason and has even less frenzied emotion than the first two. This speech is his internal philosophical debate on the advantages and disadvantages of existence. While this soliloquy may seem like madness on the surface, it actually works to dispel the notion that Hamlet is truly mad. It makes clear the fact that Hamlet still has his senses and his madness is simply an antic. In this act, the king also becomes suspicious of Hamlet’s madness and is never quite convinced of it. His instructions to his henchmen from earlier in the play, “Get from him why he puts on this confusion” (2.1.2), imply that he perceives it as a pretense. He
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