Madness of Hamlet: a Tussle between Pain & Sanity Essay
When a person is dealing with feelings of grief and anger, often their domination drives him to the extent of taking severe & illogical actions. Hamlet, the main character in Shakespeare’s, “The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark”, is also frequently deluded as an imprudent disposition. In the play, Hamlet determined to achieve his goal of avenging his father’s murder, pretends to be in a lunatic state. My goal in this paper is to bring about the evidence justifying that Hamlet’s insanity was merely a guise and a clever tactic in his plot for revenge.
To achieve this goal, several instances from the play are selected and carefully analyzed. The intention is to leave no room of doubt, regarding his occasional instability and viewing him more as a multifaceted and sound person, fighting against diplomacies surrounding him.
Hamlet was an absolutely sane person. He had been pretending madness in order to just promote the ways he had for avenging his father’s murder. He wisely chose his speech such that everyone else considered him mad. Such wisdom itself refutes any claims of Hamlet being mad. A mad person cannot act so intelligently. Hamlet was sane and clever.
At each occasion in the play, where Hamlet’s actions are perceived to be crazy by people around him, there appears some underlying motive, indicating that he was intentionally performing those insane acts. The death of his father, King Hamlet, made him miserably sad and depressed from life. However, after hearing the truth from his father’s ghost, about the treacherous scheming by his uncle, Claudius who after murdering him, took over the throne, and married his wife, Hamlet’s mother, Hamlet’s throbbing and pain further agonized. At the request of his father’s ghost, however, he decided to take revenge from Claudius for the tragic death of his father and for ruining their family. Hence from now on, Hamlet started to prepare himself for a conscious struggle to deal with the strange situations, he found himself in.
After seeing his father’s ghost; Hamlet was determined to take revenge. However, been confused and distressed by his mother, Gertrude’s behavior of hastily marrying Claudius while he himself was still in mourning, he decides to pretend to be insane. This is evident when Hamlet tells his trustworthy friend, Horatio, that he intends, “To put an antic disposition on”(I, v, 169-71) and will demonstrate acts of insanity in order to unveil the truth. Horatio acknowledged of the feigned madness of Hamlet, sworn promise of secrecy, and lends him to sustain the common delusion in public. He even mentioned his pretended madness to his mother: “That I essentially am not in madness/ But mad in craft” (III, iv, 209-210).
A notice made of the play was that Hamlet acted mad only around specific people. For instance, he acted insane when there was Polonius, Claudius, Gertrude, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern around. On the other hand, he was absolutely rational when he was with his friends, for instance, Horatio and Bernardo. This gives further evidence of Hamlet’s sanity as an only as sane person would be able to pull off such a convincing behavior of insanity.
Throughout the play, Hamlet, the mastermind, indulges in planning and countering against his enemies, while cautiously using his apparent insanity as a mere guise. For instance, Hamlet skillfully ridiculing himself, in front of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (his former friends sent to spy on him by his mother & his stepfather), utters, “but mad north-north-west: when the wind/is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw” (II, ii, 377-78). Again this was just a trick to ascertain them that he is “mad” in certain situations so that when they go back to the King, they report just what he wanted to hear from them. However, Hamlet is using figurative language to adeptly establish the fact that he pretends to be mad, when he has to deal with his enemies and dangerous circumstances, like the cruel northerly winds. Though when the wind is from the south, metaphorically referring to times when he is surrounded only by friends, he displays his real self. Here it becomes well-understood, that Hamlet was always cautious & mindful, about the people surrounding him, and his purposeful madness was convincing to such extent that none of the enemies realized his intentions.
The diplomatic Polonius, Claudius’ trusted chief counselor and father of Ophelia, however, recognized some sort of craft behind Hamlet’s madness saying, “Though this is madness, yet there is a method in ‘t.” (Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, 193-206). However, he mistakenly, diagnosed Hamlet’s madness, a result of the altered behavior of his daughter, Ophelia, and her ignorance towards him & his letters, caused by her father’s orders.
“Love? His affections do not that way tend/Nor what he spake, though it lacked form a little,/Was not like madness. There’s something in his soul/O’er which his melancholy sits on brood /And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose” (III, I, 176-180).
The above was at the time Polonius had been conversing with Hamlet and the latter was behaving in a strange manner. Polonius mentioned that he thinks Hamlet has a motive behind such behavior and everything is absolutely logical.
Finally, we see the secret design fabricated by a sound mind, which was under an immense emotional burden. At the arrival of a group of actors in the castle, Hamlet uses a trick, to testify the story told by his father’s ghosts. He instructs the actors to perform a play very similar to the circumstances in which his father was killed, to reveal if Claudius was truly guilty. “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king”. (Act II – Scene II), shows his plot. While the actors were performing the play, Hamlet carefully kept an eye on Claudius, to see his reactions. The particular moment when Hamlet’s father’s murder is performed by the actors, Claudius angrily stands up, and leaves, as he was feeling culpable about himself. His reaction made it crystal clear that the time to blissfully end the deceit has come. Hamlet follows the king with an intention to kill him, but upon discovering him, busy in prayers, he decides to encounter him later. He was mindful and conscious to such an extent that he did not murder him, although he had an opportunity.
Further evidence of Hamlet’s mindfulness can be exposed by comparing his attitude with the absolutely crazy behavior of Ophelia, being crossed by thorny comments of Hamlet and her father’s death. Her ludicrous behavior was not all identical, with Hamlet’s rational conduct to secretly contrive a plot to seek revenge from King Claudius. Though he was also upset, due to the entire situation prevailing after his father’s death, which heavily aggravated when his love, Ophelia, changed her attitude on the orders of her officious father, towards him, Hamlet’s reaction was always well-thought-out.
In the play, Shakespeare put forward a convincing example of a person who has really, in actuality, gone insane. We see Ophelia be really mad. After facing rejection from Hamlet and the death of her she lost her senses. She danced around and sang regarding death. Her attitude became erratic. It was too much for her to take and eventually she “died”. This was not the case with Hamlet, who was completely sane and had absolute control over his mind throughout the play.
Works Cited: Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark. New York: Gramercy Books, 1991.