Insanity or Feigned Madness

Topics: Hamlet, Characters in Hamlet, Gertrude Pages: 4 (1351 words) Published: February 10, 2011
Insanity or Feigned Madness?
Throughout William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, the protagonist, Prince Hamlet, is faced with avenging the cruel murder of his Father. In attempts for vengeance, Hamlet feigns madness as a ploy to perform actions he would normally be prohibited from and as a way to prevent people from taking him seriously, thus allowing him to execute his plans unnoticed. He uses his ‘insanity’ as a way to vent his feelings and thoughts towards other characters as shown when he is speaking to Claudius, Gertrude and Ophelia. Hamlet blatantly states on various occasions that he in fact is not mad and even says that he will put on an “antic disposition”. He also only portrays his madness when necessary for his underlying goal, but when there is no need to deceive, Hamlet acts as a perfectly sane person would which is demonstrated when he speaks to Horatio as well as the actors. Finally in comparison to Ophelia, who is the portrait of madness and has undergone similar tragedies as Hamlet, he appears as normal as anyone else.

Hamlet appears to be mad as a way to vent his emotions and conceal any action he plans to take against Claudius to avenge his father. This is part of Hamlets initial plan when he tells Horatio and Marcellus that he will “put an antic disposition on”(I.v.173) and that they must swear not to speak a word of his feigned madness. This allows Hamlet to maintain his appearance of insanity thus allowing him to make his remarks of disgust towards Gertrude and Claudius without being punished or taken seriously as a sane prince would be. Through his act, Hamlet is able to vent his feelings towards Gertrude about how she married too soon after the death of his father and is even able to criticize her. Hamlet also uses his feigned madness as an excuse for his actions. This is shown when Hamlet apologizes to Laertes: Was’t Hamlet wrong’d Laertes? Never Hamlet:

If Hamlet from himself be ta’en away,
And when he’s not himself does wrong Laertes,...
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