The Genius of Hamlet, the Very Sane Prince of Denmark

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The Genius of Hamlet, the Very Sane Prince of Denmark

Hamlet in Shakepeare's The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is often seen as a lunatic. Lucid and ingenious, Prince Hamlet falls into a state of emotional turmoil, but he is never insane. Hamlet feigns madness to reveal his anguish concerning the two women he used to love - his mother Gertrude and his lover Ophelia. To escape estrangement from his countrymen, Hamlet appears to waver between madness and sanity. And, to avoid moral estrangement, the Prince plans on revenging his father's death under the guise of madness. There is no question that Hamlet feigns insanity, and he does so to voice his emotions to the two closest women in his life, to influence the opinions of his peers, and to plan the revenge of his father's death.

With his famous line "frailty, thy name is woman" (I, ii. 146), Hamlet descends into an abyss of emotional turmoil. He loses faith in his mother Queen Gertrude and in his lover Ophelia. Feigning madness, Hamlet is able to make his innermost anguish known to these two important women in his life. Still grieving at his father's death, Hamlet is shocked when his mother Queen Gertrude marries Claudius two months after the King's death. At this point in the play, Hamlet does not feign madness but is genuinely and openly melancholy. As Hamlet explains to his mother, his "inky cloak" shows his grief, but the pain is much deeper. Grief is not a sign of madness. Gertrude feels that her son has greatly changed, for he no longer views her as his mother . Instead, he calls her his “good-mother” - his step mother. Gertrude marrying her husband's brother is incestuous, and this bestirs feelings of bitterness in Hamlet. However, sinc...

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...mark. Unable to speak freely before Queen Gertrude and Ophelia, Hamlet exaggerates his emotional turmoil so that these two women will soften their attitudes towards him and listen to him. Not only does Hamlet wish to win back the hearts of Gertrude and Ophelia, these two women also serve to verify Hamlet's supposed madness to the other characters. Furthermore, Hamlet must hide his rationality and cunning from his peers and from King Claudius so that he may proceed with his revenge plan. Freed from the suspicions of his mother, his lover, his peers, and King Claudius, Hamlet succeeds in avenging his father's death and in remaining sane throughout the play.


Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. In The Norton Shakespeare: based on the Oxford Edition. Edited by Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997.
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