Shakespeare's Hamlet is a master of deception. Hamlet decides to make Claudius believe that he is insane, but the scheme backfires when everyone, except Claudius, falls for it. Ophelia is one of those who believes Hamlet lost his mind, and when he does not return her love, she is so brokenhearted that she commits suicide. Near the end of the tragedy, Hamlet plays the part so well, that he convinces himself he is insane. Clearly, Hamlet's plan to put on an antic disposition is a tragic error.
Hamlet's plan for the antic disposition is to fool all the courtiers, especially Claudius. This way Claudius will not think that Hamlet is capable of killing him and usurping the throne. Hamlet clearly hates Claudius, and wants revenge for his father. "A little more than kin, and less than kind!" (I; ii; 65) Hamlet tries repeatedly to portray the image of insanity, but often Claudius sees through the antic disposition. "Love? his affections do not that way tend,/ Nor what he spake, though it lacked form a little,/ Was not like madness." (III; i; 159-161) After Claudius realizes that Hamlet is not actually insane, but playing the part for his antic disposition, he sends Hamlet to England to be executed.
And, England, if my love thou hold'st at aught-
As my great power thereof may give thee sense,
Since yet thy cicatrice looks raw and red
After the Danish sword, and thy free awe
Pays homage to us- thou mayst not coldly set
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...rol of his mind, but as the plot unfolds he is thrown into a fit of true madness.
Through examination, it is proven that Hamlet's choice of displaying an antic disposition is a tragic error on his part. Claudius was the only courtier who sees through the act, Ophelia fell into utter madness, and Hamlet convinces himself that he has lost his mind. As Claudius said, "Madness in great ones must not unwatched go." (III; i; 185)
Bloom, Harold. Modern Critical Interpretations Of Hamlet. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.
Charney, Maurice. All of Shakespeare. New York, NY. Columbia University Press. 1993.
Magill, Frank N. Masterplots. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1995.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The Riverside Shakespeare. ED. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Haughton Mifflin Company, 1974.
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