Hamlet: "Madness, or Is it?"

Essay by juxelHigh School, 12th gradeA+, May 2003

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William Shakespeare could have started an endless debate between psychologists in his play Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Hamlet does such a good job feigning madness there are times that it is almost believable. The reader is frequently reminded that the apparent madness is just an act, which is obvious because no mad person could carry out a plan for revenge so precisely. Hamlet?s word were constructed so cleverly that nobody else in the story can tell that he is not truly mad, but some people have suspicions that he isn?t mad.

After Hamlet speaks to the ghost of his father, he immediately forms a plan to get revenge. The details are very sketchy, but he tells Horatio that he is going to feign madness in an attempt to get his revenge. Hamlet tells Horatio not to worry about him and ?How strange or odd soe?er I bear myself/(As I perchance hereafter shall think meet/To put an antic disposition on),/That you, at such times seeing me, never shall,/With arms encumb?red thus, or this head-shake,/ Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,/ As ?Well, well we know,? or ?We could, an if we/ would,?/Or ?If we list to speak,? or ?There be, an if they might,?/Or such ambiguous giving out, to note/That you know aught of me ? this not to do,/ So grace and mercy at your most need help you,/Swear.?

(1. 5. 195-207). Hamlet says that he is going to act mad, but that?s all it will be, an act. Only a sane person could devise a plan to convince other people he or she is mad when he or she is actually in total control of his or her mind.

Only in the presence of certain characters does Hamlet take up his act of madness. When Hamlet is...