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Is Hamlet Mad or Faking It?

Shakespeare’s masterpiece “Hamlet” is really a complex play, which concerns many different themes. One of the major themes of “Hamlet” is madness, which is reflected through the protagonist, The Prince of Denmark, Hamlet. His madness is always a question and suspicious throughout the play. It is not answered certainly in the play, but both answers have strong evidence. Despite the fact that Hamlet’s madness seems to be clear during the play, it seems slightly more logical to me that Hamlet is acting that he is mad. In order to understand Hamlet’s “maddish” behaviours’ real reason, the evidence from the text could be examined. The conundrum of Hamlet’s madness starts with Hamlet seeing his father, Ghost, who asked him to get his revenge from his “beast uncle”.

The first proof, for Hamlet acting madness, is the reality of Ghost. If Hamlet was the only person to see the Ghost, we could be sure that he is really mad, but in Act, I Scene I, the sentry, Barnardo and Fransisco sees the Ghost entering the Elsinore Castle three times, as they see together with Horatio, Hamlet’s best friend, as Marcellus explains the appearance of the Ghost in these lines: “Horatio says ’tis our fantasy/ And will not let the belief take hold of him/ Touching this dreaded sight, twice seen of us. / Therefore I have entreated him along/ With us to watch the minutes of this night, / That if again this apparition come/ He may approve our eyes, and speak to it. / He may approve our eyes, and speak to it.” (A1.s1.L 23-28) and Horatio who did not believe the two guardsmen see the Ghost too. Therefore, this shows us that Ghost’s existence is doubtless. However, he only talks with his son twice as we are not sure that Horatio and the two sentry hear Ghost’s command to swear at the end of Act I (a1.s5.L-155, 162,182).

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After Hamlet sees his father, he declares that he will behave strangely from that time, and he makes the three followers swear that they do not tell anyone about this night: “…Here as before, never so help you mercy, / How strange or odd some I bear myself, / As I perchance hereafter shall think to meet/ To put an antic disposition on-/ That you at such times seeing me never shall/ with arms encumbered thus, this head-shake/ pr by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase…. /So grace and mercy at your most need help you, swear” (a1.s5.L.165-181). After the sear of Horatio, Marcellus and Fransisco, there is nobody in the world to know the existence of the Ghost, so it seems very probable for Hamlet makes up his mind to use his madness to hide his anger for his uncle and his desire for revenge. Consequently, after examining the start point of Hamlet’s strange behaviours it is not very hard to realize that he decided to use madness as a camouflage for his revenge.

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From the scene that Hamlet sees Ghost to the end of the play, it could be observed by Hamlet’s behaviours that he is acting mad. He only reflects his feelings and ideas from the events to his best friend Horatio and he tries to message Gertrude that he is not mad at all but only behaving it when they talk in Gertrude’s private room: “…It is not madness That I have uttered. Bring me to the test/ And I the matter will reword, which madness Would gambol from…That’s not your trespass but my madness speaks;…Forgive me this my virtue, / For in the fatness of these pursy times/ Virtue itself of vice pardon beg”, “The death I gave him. So again, good night./ I must be cruel only to be kind;/ Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.” and “…..That I essentially am not in madness/ But mad in craft” (a3.s4.L140-200). If he was mad at all, he would not reflect himself that much clearly because a mad person would not have thought very rationally as we observe this in his words to his mother. It is clear that he speaks normally with his mother at this stage.

Therefore, it is seen that Hamlet is determined to fake madness in front of people. On the other hand, when he is alone with her mother, because of his grief for his father and hatred for her mother for marrying Claudius, Hamlet first insults her mother in Act 3 Scene 4. However, when the Ghost reminded him about his revenge, he remembers he is only acting madness and he claims this to his mother. The second character he tries to speak normally is his friend, Horatio, as he discusses the events. For example, before his duel with Laertes, he talks with Horatio normally as he explains how he found the letter of Claudius with command of his death and how he sent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to England, to their death. Before Hamlet’s play “Mouse Trap” started he explained his plot for organizing such a play only to Horatio: “…There is a play before the king: On scene of it comes near the circumstance/ Which I have told thee of my father’s death. / I prithee when thou seest that act afoot,/ Even with the very comment of my soul/ Observe my uncle.

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I his occulted guilt/ Do not unkennel in one speech/ It is a damn�d ghost we have seen, / And my imagination’s are as foul…”(a.3.s.3L-60-77). By this speech, it is noticeable that he is trying to find out if the Ghost was really his father’s spirit, and this shows he behaves through a track of a plan. Furthermore, at the end of the play in Act V Scene II, he prevents Horatio from sipping the poisoned glass that Gertrude drank during the duel and died, as he was fighting with Laertes. The last evidence for Hamlet faking madness is his relationship between Laertes and Ophelia. Firstly, the reader notices that Ophelia loves Hamlet without question but it is not still sure if Hamlet loves Ophelia truly. It is noticeable that his feeling for women after he meets Ghost is disgust. This might probably a part of his plan to hide his aims against Claudius. As he says, Ophelia “…Get thee to nunnery/Farewell. Or if thou wilt needs marry, marry/ a fool; for wise men know well enough monsters/ you make of them…” (a.3.s.1.L.138-141).

These lines imply that he is trying to hide his love for Ophelia as he is trying to hide his love for taking his revenge from Claudius. Because, if did not hide his love for Ophelia, and if he did not pretend to be like a son who had a huge downfall. Consequently, he would not be able to avenge his father’s death, as he would be a loyal boyfriend of Ophelia. If we look at the dialogues between Laertes and Hamlet, the reader could again observe that Hamlet is acting like a lunatic. Before their duel, Hamlet asks for a forgive for killing Laertes’s father, Polonius, however, it is very doubtful that he thought Claudius was spying on his speech with his mother but not Polonius. “…If Hamlet does it not, Hamlet denies it/ Who does it for them? His madness…. His madness is poor Hamlet’s enemy…” (a.5, s.2, L.208-210).

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To conclude, it can be acclaimed that Hamlet’s acts against Laertes and Ophelia are clearly evidence of Hamlet’s fake insanity. After observing some numerous quotes from the play and some statements about the plot, as they are parallel with the quotes, shows that Hamlet is faking madness in order to hide his hatred and revengeful thought about his uncle. Because a mad man could not behave logically and could not have, the ability to talk normally to some people but madly to others. It is clear that he is determined to hide his revenge and he does this very effectively by acting like a mad prince who had a downfall after his father’s death.

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Is Hamlet Mad or Faking It?. (2021, Jun 06). Retrieved September 30, 2022, from