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Hamlet Madness

Hamlet Madness “I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw” (II.ii.376-7). This is a classic example of the “wild and whirling words” (I.v.134) with which Hamlet hopes to persuade people to believe that he is mad. These words, however, prove that beneath his “antic disposition,” Hamlet is very sane indeed. Beneath his strange choice of imagery involving points of the compass, the weather, and hunting birds, he is announcing that he is calculatedly choosing the times when to appear mad. Hamlet is saying that he knows a hunting hawk from a hunted “handsaw” or heron, in other words, that, very far form being mad, he is perfectly capable of recognizing his enemies.

Hamlet’s madness was faked for a purpose. He warned his friends he intended to fake madness, but Gertrude as well as Claudius saw through it, and even the slightly dull-witted Polonius was suspicious. His public face is one of insanity but, in his private moments of soliloquy, through his confidences to Horatio, and in his careful plans of action, we see that his madness is assumed. After the Ghost’s first appearance to Hamlet, Hamlet decides that when he finds it suitable or advantageous to him, he will put on a mask of madness so to speak. He confides to Horatio that when he finds the occasion appropriate, he will “put an antic disposition on” (I.v.173).

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This strategy gives Hamlet a chance to find proof of Claudius’s guilt and to contemplate his revenge tactic. Although he has sworn to avenge his father’s murder, he is not sure of the Ghost’s origins: “The spirit that I have seen / May be the devil” (II.ii.596-7). He uses his apparent madness as a delaying tactic to buy time in which to discover whether the Ghost’s tale of murder is true and to decide how to handle the situation. At the same time, he wants to appear unthreatening and harmless so that people will divulge information to him, much in the same way that an adult will talk about an important secret in the presence of a young child. To convince everyone of his madness, Hamlet spends many hours walking back and forth alone in the lobby, speaking those “wild and whirling words” which make little sense on the surface but in fact carry a meaningful subtext.

When asked if he recognizes Polonius, Hamlet promptly replies, “Excellent well; you are a fishmonger” (II.ii.172). Although the response seems crazy since a fish-seller would look completely unlike the expensively dressed lord Polonius, Hamlet is actually criticizing Polonius for his management of Ophelia, since “fishmonger” is Elizabethan slang for “pimp.” He plays mind-games with Polonius, getting him in crazy talk to agree first that a cloud looks like a camel, then a weasel and finally a whale, and in a very sane aside, he then comments that “[t]hey fool me to the top of my bent” (III.ii.375). Although he appears to have lost touch with reality, he keeps reminding us that he is not at all “far gone, far gone” (II.ii.187) as Polonius claims, but is in fact very much in command of himself and the situation. With his rantings and ravings and his seemingly useless pacing of the lobby, Hamlet manages to appear quite mad. The nave and trusting Ophelia believes in and is devastated by what she sees as his downfall: ” O, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown! / . .

. The expectancy and rose of the fair state / . . . quite, quite down!” (III.i.152,4,6).

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are also fully convinced. They are Hamlet’s equals in age but are far inferior in intellect and therefore don’t understand that he is faking. However, although Hamlet manages to convince these simple friends and Ophelia of his insanity, other characters in the play such as Claudius, Gertrude and even Polonius eventually see through his behavior. Claudius is constantly on his guard because of his guilty conscience and he therefore recognizes that Hamlet is faking. The king is suspicious of Hamlet from the very beginning. He denies Hamlet permission to return to university so that he can keep an eye on him close by.

When Hamlet starts acting strangely, Claudius gets all the more suspicious and sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on him. Their instructions are to discover why Hamlet is pretending to be mad: ” And can you, by no drift of circumstance, / Get from him why he puts on this confusion, [my italics] / Grating so harshly all his days of quiet / With turbulent and dangerous lunacy” (III.i.1-4). The reason Claudius is so reluctant to believe that Ophelia’s rejection has caused Hamlet’s lunacy is that he doesn’t believe in his madness at all. When Claudius realizes through the play-within-the-play that Hamlet knows the truth about his father’s death, he immediately sends him away to England. The prevailing piece of evidence demonstrating Claudius’s knowledge of Hamlet’s sanity is the fact that he feels threatened enough by Hamlet to order him killed by the king of England: “For like the hectic in my blood he rages, / And thou must cure me: till I know ’tis done, / Howe’er my haps, my joys were ne’er begun” (IV.iii.67-9).

In the scene in his mother’s bedroom, Hamlet tells Gertrude that his insanity is assumed: “[I]t is not madness / I have utter’d: bring me to the test, / And I the matter will reword, which madness / Would gambol from” (III.iv.143-6), but even without his confirmation, the queen has seen through his act. While Hamlet is reprimanding her, she is so upset that she describes his words as “daggers” (III.iv.98) and claims, ” Thou hast cleft my heart in twain” (III.iv.158). The words of a madman could not have penetrated her soul to such an extent. The queen takes every word Hamlet says seriously, proving she respects him and believes his mind to be sound. Furthermore, she believes Hamlet’s confession of sanity immediately.

She does not question him at all but instead promises to keep it her secret. “I have no life to breathe / What though hast said to me” (III.iv.200-1). Even Polonius can see that Hamlet has not completely lost touch with the world. Although he frequently misses the meanings of Hamlet’s remarks and insults, he does recognize that they make some sense. After a confusing conversation with Hamlet he remarks, ” Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t” (II.ii.205).

When his theory of rejected love proves wrong, he becomes very suspicious of Hamlet’s behavior and offers to test it by hiding behind the “arras” in Gertrude’s bedroom so that he can listen in on Hamlet’s private conversation with his mother. Polonius’s suspicions about the legitimacy of Hamlet’s madness lead to his death when Hamlet stabs the “arras” in the mistaken belief that the eavesdropper is Claudius. Hamlet’s soliloquies, his confidences to Horatio, and his elaborate plans are by far the most convincing proof of his sanity. Throughout the play, Hamlet’s soliloquies reveal his inner thoughts which are completely rational. In one such speech, Hamlet criticizes himself for not having yet taken action to avenge his father’s murder: “O what a rogue and peasant slave am I / .

. . the son of the dear murder’d, / Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, / Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words” (II. ii. 545, 581-3). Hamlet calls himself a “dull and muddy-mettled rascal” (II.ii.563), a villain and a coward, but when he realizes that his anger doesn’t achieve anything practical other than the unpacking of his heart, he stops.

These are not the thoughts of a madman; his emotions are real and his thoughts are those of a rational man. Even when he contemplates suicide in the “to be or not to be” soliloquy, his reasons himself out of it through a very sane consideration of the dangers of an unknown afterlife: “And thus the native hue of resolution / Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought” (III.i. 85-6). A further important proof of his sanity is how patiently he devises plans to prepare for his revenge. As he explains to Horatio, his “antic disposition” is a device to test his enemies.

His mounting of the play-within-the-play is another well-laid plan to trap Claudius into admitting guilt: “The play’s the thing / Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king” (II.ii.602-3) and even when the play brings him concrete proof, he is careful not to rush to take his revenge at the wrong moment. He could easily kill Claudius while he is praying but restrains himself so that there is no chance of Claudius’s entering heaven. Although Hamlet’s patience can be seen as an example of his procrastination, I think that it is rather a sign of rationality. Hamlet shows himself perfectly capable of action, as well as of rational thought, in escaping the king’s armed guard, dispatching Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths in England, dealing with the pirates and making it back to Denmark. In addition, the letter Horatio from him through the ambassador bound for England is clear and precise and shows no signs of a befuddled mind.

Finally, I am convinced of Hamlet’s sanity by his very normal reactions to the people around him. He is perfectly sane, friendly and courteous with the players, giving them good acting tips which they appreciate and respect. When Polonius and Claudius test the theory of rejected love by “loosing” Ophelia to him, Hamlet acts completely rationally. He greets Ophelia sweetly, gets a little cold when he remembers that he has not seen her “for this many a day,” is very hurt when she returns his remembrances, and becomes completely furious, insulting womankind in general, when she lies to him about her father’s whereabouts and he realizes he is being spied on. He reacts the way any hurt young rejected lover would.

In the end, it is surprising that he is able to keep up the charade of feigning madness for so long, and part of his tragedy is that it doesn’t help him anyway; in the end, he avenges his father by killing Claudius not through an act of madness, but as a result of Claudius’s own treachery.

Hamlet Madness

Hamlet Madness Shakespeares Hamlet is a most enigmatic and complex character, his psyche the subject of more detailed psychoanalysis than any other character in English literature. It is only once in a great while that the reader of literature comes across a man who fakes madness, and ultimately immerses himself so deep into this feigned madness to a point of total metamorphosis into a new being. Hamlets ostensibly concocted madness ultimately catalyzes the development of his dormant, inward madness and natural inclination for pretense and dissimulation. Within Hamlet there are two types of madness: the very apparent outer madness, and a hidden madness that isnt even realized by Hamlet. The inner madness is the result of the tragedies within this play; namely, the incestuous marriage of his widowed mother to his uncle and her brother-in-law which followed the tragic and sudden murder of his father.

It is this depression and anger that set the stage for the rest of the play. Afterall, had he not cared to avenge his fathers death, the words of the ghost would have been totally ignored and there would have been no reason to feign madness. But because he was hurt, depressed, and incensed, he channeled all his power and energy to gain revenge, successfully. The forged madness was a product of Hamlets attempt to confuse the people of the castle and divert any suspicion that may be targeted at him in his mission of vindication of his fathers death. But what exactly is madness? In Act I, Scene 5, Hamlet urges the ghost: “Haste me to knowt, that I with wings as swift as the meditation or the thoughts of love may sweep to my revenge.” (lns.

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33-35) Madness is condition that results from a persons obsession with his objective. This total preoccupation with a specific mission blurs the persons reality. Its as though the victim has become inhabited by himself and some other supernatural power that takes over his senses and narrows his field of vision, limiting it to his objective, mission, and purpose. All other aspects of his life degenerate into chess pieces in the greater game. His mission consumes him, devouring his life and leaving him an uncomplete person.

Rages, unwarranted erratic behavior, and evil-doing are symptomatic such a state of being. Much of Hamlets madness, when feigned, was due to necessity, however, he definitely had a natural inclination towards pretense and dissimulation. To limit the word natural to part of ones nature, meaning inherent and innate, is close-minded. With a broader meaning of the term, it becomes easier to explain Hamlet. By “natural,” I mean unfaked, sincere, genuine.

Therefore, a natural inclination is not necessarily congenital since it can be developed. Simulating madness, although it was for a good cause, ruined Hamlet. After acting deranged for an extensive period, he became mad. When acting mad for long enough, an inclination develops for dishonesty, dissimulation, and deception. In an ironic sense, Hamlet contaminated himself. He became plagued with his own illness- the illness he created.

Following that transitional evolution into a truly mad self, Hamlet begins to act in ways that do not call for his evil, pretentious behavior. First, Hamlet has Rosencrantz and Guildenstern killed, even though they were not aprt of his revenge-against-his-fathers-murder plan. He could have simply let them on their way since he was a free man anyway. Such harsh treatment was totally unnecessary in fulfilling his original objective. See, the only reason Hamlet feigned madness was to take revenge.

If one applies this logic, one must ask: Were the deaths of these two men “necessary” in taking revenge on the killer? Afterall, who is the killer? Clearly, his irrationality led him to kill two people whose deaths were unnecessary (though they may be justified, of course). He must have done them, therefore, irrespective of his revenge on Claudius and his motivations and one can conclude that it was his mental madness that seized his spirit. Further evidence of this inner madness is Hamlets encounter with his mother in Act III, Scene 4. It is in this scene that Hamlet attempts to play the moralist and forces his mother to see her wrongs. It is more than this which signifies Hamlet as mad. It is his obsession with purging his mother of her sins that shows his madness. He screams: “Nay, but to live in the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,/stewed in corruption, honeying and making love/ over the nasty sty-” (III.iv.92-95).

He has gone beyond moralist at this point. He is wildly attacking her in a fashion so symptomatic of a natural-born madman whose obsession leads to compulsion. Mixed with this wild attack of his mother, Hamlet also irrationally attacks and kills Polonius who was standing behind the curtain. His actions are much like a rabid dog attacking anything which would get in his way. From what Hamlet says after the slaying, he seems to think that it may have been Claudius (III.iv.27).

This is an irrational excuse, as Hamlet just left Claudius a scene before. Hamlet is indeed acting madly and without a reason. But the clearest proof of his madness is his obsession with death. As the horrors mount up, it becomes blindingly clear that Hamlet descends from pretending madness to really being mad. After the killing of Polonius, Hamlet is questioned about the death and whereabouts of the body and his answer reveals a man who is in a morbid state of mind.

Hamlet exclaimedhow once the body dies it goes through a cycle where it is eaten by worms who devour the flesh for the purpose of getting food for another person. Therefore, people, he believes, digest corpses. “Not where he eats, but where he is eaten: a certain convocation of politic worms are een at him. Your worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service, two dishes, but one table: thats the end.” (IV.iii.20-26) Finally, the graveyard scene depicts Hamlets epiphanic moment, the moment when he contemplates the true meaning of life. “No faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with modesty enough and likelihood to lead it; as thus,: Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returned into dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make loam: and why of that loam, whereto he was converted, might they not stop at a beer-barrel?” (V.i.201-206) Upon completion of the play and thorough analysis of the facts, one comes to the realization that Hamlet was indeed a most insane, yet unfortunate, man. Destroyed by the pain of his family scandal, he fell into a manic depression and mental state of insanity which ultimately stirred anger within him. Within him lurked bubbled the desire to avenge his fathers death. Fabricating a madness proved to be counter-productive because Hamlet ended up suffering from a disease he created to help himself.

Shakespeares Hamlet is as much about normal, sane men as it is about Hamlet. It is true that Hamlet developed this natural inclination, however one must recognize that he caused his own insanity and pity the callow orphan for that.

Hamlet Madness

Hamlet is mad, feigns madness or his pretense turns into real madness. Outline
arguments for all three and discuss. 1.Hamlet begins with guards whose main
importance in the play is to give credibility to the ghost. If Hamlet were to
see his fathers ghost in private, the argument for his madness would greatly
improve. Yet, not one, but three men together witness the ghost before even
thinking to notify Hamlet. As Horatio says, being the only of the guards to play
a significant role in the rest of the play, “Before my God, I might not
this believe / Without the sensible and true avouch / Of mine own eyes.

(I.i.56-8)” Horatio, who appears frequently throughout the play, acts as an
unquestionably sane alibi to Hamlet again when framing the King with his
reaction to the play. That Hamlet speaks to the ghost alone detracts somewhat
from its credibility, but all the men are witness to the ghost demanding they
speak alone. Horatio offers an insightful warning: What if it tempts you toward
the flood, my lord, Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff That beetles oer
his base into the sea, And there assume some other horrible form Which might
deprive your sovereignty of reason, And draw you into madness? Think of it.

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(I.iv.69-74) Horatios comment may be where Hamlet gets the idea to use a plea
of insanity to work out his plan. The important fact is that the ghost does not
change form, but rather remains as the King and speaks to Hamlet rationally.

There is also good reason for the ghost not to want the guards to know what he
tells Hamlet, as the play could not proceed as it does if the guards were to
hear what Hamlet did. It is the ghost of Hamlets father who tells him,
“but howsomever thou pursues this act, / Taint not thy mind.

(I.v.84-5)” Later, when Hamlet sees the ghost again in his mothers room,
her amazement at his madness is quite convincing. Yet one must take into
consideration the careful planning of the ghosts credibility earlier in the
play. After his first meeting with the ghost, Hamlet greets his friends
cheerfully and acts as if the news is good rather than the devastation it really
is. Horatio: What news, my lord? Hamlet: O, wonderful! Horatio: Good my lord,
tell it. Hamlet: No, you will reveal it. (I.v.118-21) This is the first glimpse
of Hamlets ability and inclination to manipulate his behavior to achieve
effect. Clearly Hamlet is not feeling cheerful at this moment, but if he lets
the guards know the severity of the news, they might suspect its nature. Another
instance of Hamlets behavior manipulation is his meeting with Ophelia while
his uncle and Polonius are hiding behind a curtain. Hamlets affection for
Ophelia has already been established in I.iii., and his complete rejection of
her and what has transpired between them is clearly a hoax. Hamlet somehow
suspects the eavesdroppers, just as he guesses that Guildenstern and Rosencrantz
are sent by the King and Queen to question him and investigate the cause of his
supposed madness in II.ii. Hamlets actions in the play after meeting the
ghost lead everyone except Horatio to believe he is crazy, yet that madness is
continuously checked by an ever-present consciousness of action which never lets
him lose control. For example, Hamlet questions his conduct in his soliloquy at
the end of II.ii, but after careful consideration decides to go with his
instinct and prove to himself without a doubt the Kings guilt before
proceeding rashly. Even after the Kings guilt is proven with Horatio as
witness, Hamlet again reflects and uses his better judgement in the soliloquy at
the end of III.ii. before seeing his mother. He recognizes his passionate
feelings, but tells himself to “speak daggers to her, but use none,”
as his fathers ghost instructed. Again, when in the Kings chamber, Hamlet
could perform the murder, but decides not to in his better judgement to ensure
that he doesnt go to heaven by dying while praying. As Hamlet tells
Guildenstern in II.ii., “I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is
southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.” This statement reveals out-right
Hamlets intent to fool people with his odd behavior. This is after Polonius
enlightened comment earlier in the same scene, “though this be madness, yet
there is method int.”


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