There is a duality to the character of Hamlet, as his madness changes from a performance to true insanity throughout the play. Initially, in Act 1 Scene 5, Hamlet is coerced by the ghost and decides that he will “put an antic disposition on”. This is the main use of dramatic irony in the play, as the audience knows Hamlet’s madness is performed. However as the play develops and changes, so too does Hamlet’s madness. Act 3 Scene 4 is the main turning point for Hamlet’s madness. The scene begins with a confrontation between Gertrude and Hamlet. Gertrude: “Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended”
Hamlet: “Mother, you have my father much offended”
The use of stichomythia in this conversation creates a sense of violence between the characters. It also confirms to the audience that Hamlet’s madness is still a performance, because he can respond quickly and with wit. When this is juxtaposed with Ophelia’s legitimate insanity, it becomes clear that Hamlet is still performing. Ophelia speaks cryptically in Act 4, using metaphors and imagery of nature. Her use of rhyme and poetry also adds to the audiences understanding of true madness.
Hamlet’s performance turns to reality directly after he murders Polonius in cold-blood. If Hamlet were sane he would have shown an emotional reaction. However he reveals nothing, - “Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell”. The powerful and hurtful words used in this sentence clearly show that his performed madness has amplified to a true insanity. From this point until the final...