Hamlet's behavior affects that of the other characters in the play in that his action drastically alters, not only their perception of Hamlet and his intentions, but also their actions and words in dealing with Hamlet. It is difficult to classify Hamlet as either sane or insane; however, it is certain that his mad behavior, whether feigned or authentic, serves only to heighten the confusion and eventual suspicion of the court, particularly Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guilderstern, and Polonius and Claudius duo.
Hamlet's mental state is hard to decipher due to the complexity of the issue and the variety of ways his actions can be viewed. Edward Strachey believes that Hamlet is, "…A character made of many elements, ramifying themselves in many directions, some being healthy and some diseased" (Strachey 173). Strachey goes on to say that an attempt to classify Hamlet as either mad or sane is an, "…Over simplification of what is most complex" (Strachey 173).
At the beginning of Hamlet, Ophelia tells her father about the vows of love that Hamlet has expressed to her. Polonius immediately questions Hamlet's intentions and reminds Ophelia that making a rash decision could cost her; but Ophelia assures her father that, "…He hath importuned me with love In honorable fashion…And hath given countenance to his speech, my lord, With almost all the holy vows of heaven" (Shakespeare 17). However, after Hamlet visits Ophelia in a crazed state she immediately turns to her Father and reports Hamlet in a much darker light.
Lord Hamlet with his doublet all unbraced,No hat upon his head, his stocking fouled, Ungartered and down-gyved to his ankle, Pale as a shirt, his knees knoc...
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...t for revenge. If Hamlet is indeed truly mad then he alerts his foes to this information and they in turn become very circumspect of Hamlet and his plans. Hamlet's madness serves to call attention to himself and raise suspicions of his enemies.
Coleridge, Samuel Traylor. "Notes on the Tragedies of
Shakespeare: The Character of Hamlet." Shakespearean Criticism. Ed, Thomas Middleton Raysor. Vol. 1. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1930. 40.
Lennox, Charlotte. Shakespeare, the Critical Heritage.
Ed, Brian Vickers. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976. 129.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Norton Critical Edition.
Ed, Cyrus Hoy. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1992.
Strachey, Edward. A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare:
Hamlet. Ed, Horace Howard Furness. Vol. IV. J.B. Lippincott Company, 1877. 173.
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