A consideration of the madness of the hero Hamlet within the Shakespearean drama of the same name, shows that his feigned madness sometimes borders on real madness, but probably only coincidentally.
Hamlet’s conversation with Claudius is insane to the latter. Lawrence Danson in “Tragic Alphabet” describes how Hamlet’s use of the syllogism is pure madness to the king:
What Hamlet shows by his use of the syllogism is that nothing secure can rest on the falsehood that masquerades as the royal order of Denmark.
From Claudius’s point of view, however, the syllogism is simply mad: its logic is part of Hamlet’s “antic disposition.” Sane men know, after all, that “man and wife is one flesh” only in a metaphoric or symbolic sense; they know that only a madman would look for literal truth in linguistic conventions. And Claudius is right that such “madness in great ones must not unwatched go” (III.i.end). For the madman, precisely because he does not accept society’s compromises and because he explores its conventions for meanings they cannot bear, exposes the flaws which “normal” society keeps hidden (70).
Phyllis Abrahms and Alan Brody in “Hamlet and the Elizabethan Revenge Tragedy Formula” consider the madness of the hero to be completely feigned and not real:
Hamlet is a masterpiece not because it conforms to a set of conventions but because it takes those conventions and transmutes them into the pure gold of vital, relevant meaning. Hamlet’s feigned madness, for instance, becomes the touchstone for an illumination of the mysterious nature of sanity itself (44-45).
Hamlet’s first words in the play say that Claudius is "A little more than kin and less ...
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...y Martin). On Some of Shakespeare's Female Characters. 6th ed. London:
William Blackwood and Sons, 1899.
Felperin, Howard. “O’erdoing Termagant.” Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1986. Rpt. of “O’erdoing Termagant: An Approach to Shakespearean Mimesis.” The Yale Review 63, no.3 (Spring 1974).
Foakes, R.A.. “The Play’s Courtly Setting.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. of “Hamlet and the Court of Elsinore.” Shakespeare Survey: An Annual Survey of Shakespearean Study and Production. No. 9. Ed. Allardyce Nicoll. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1956.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. http://www.chemicool.com/Shakespeare/hamlet/full.html No line nos.
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