Hamlet's Sanity Throughout Shakespeare?s play, Hamlet, the main character, young Hamlet, is faced with the responsibility of attaining vengeance for his father?s murder. He decides to feign madness as part of his plan to gain the opportunity to kill Claudius. As the play progresses, his depiction of a madman becomes increasingly believable, and the characters around him react accordingly. However, through his inner thoughts and the apparent reasons for his actions, it is clear that he is not really mad and is simply an actor simulating insanity in order to fulfill his duty to his father. Hamlet only claims madness because it allows him to say and perform actions he otherwise would be prohibited from, while keeping people from taking his actions seriously.
"Beyond the Comedy: Othello" Modern Critical Interpretations, Othello Ed. Harold Bloom, Pub. Chelsea House New Haven CT 1987. (page 23-37) Wheale, N. (2000) Nineteenth- and Early-Twentieth Century Critical Evaluations of Othello. Shakespeare Text & Performance
Hamlet, Polonius, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and the King Claudius are all part of this circle of deception. Hamlet, while more genuine than the rest, brings himself into the deceptions with his feigned insanity. At least in this case there is a worthwhile justification; his every action and word is reported directly to Claudius by Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Polonius or any number of other people loyal to Claudius. His insanity is a clever method of protection; he will be left alone and free as long as he is not considered a threat. Though employing quite a bit of deception, Hamlet's falseness is small in comparison to that of Polonius, the royal assistant.
London: Macmillan, 1946. Rhoades, Duane. Shakespeare's Defense of Poetry: "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "The Tempest". Westport, CT: Greenwood Press,1986. Young, David.
As the play goes on, Hamlet's tendency of thinking too much causes him to become mad. Hamlet's focal problem is his madness. As the play progresses, Hamlet's moral perspective on life begins to alter. The first change in his morality occurred following Hamlet's first visit from the ghost. Hamlet is told by the ghost to avenge his father's murder.
Shakespeare uses references to plays and acting throughout the play to keep in mind the theme of appearance Vs reality. Hamlet says, “Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well, when our deep plots do pall, and that should learn us/ There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will” (V, ii.lns 8-11). He is referring to the plot, the plan to alter the Murder of Gonzago, that he had earlier used to catch the conscience of the king. Hamlet also refers to a play when speaking of his voyage with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: “being thus benetted round with villainies-- or I could make a prologue to my brains, they had begun the play” (V, ii. lns 29-31).
“An Explication of the Player’s Speech.” Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. Rpt.