Hamlet - Was He Mad?

Essay by Mike KeelanHigh School, 10th gradeA, December 1996

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For centuries, scholars have been debating the issue on whether Hamlet - the prince of William Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet - was mad. This question is not as easy as it sounds to answer; this is due to the fact that there are numerous arguments to support both sides of the issue. For many reasons, it is easy to believe that Hamlet was indeed mad. After all, Hamlet's behavior throughout most of the play is extremely erratic and violent. However, there is another way to look at his actions; there are indications within the play that there was actually a method in his madness, suggesting that he was not mad at all.

One of the major arguments that Hamlet was mad, was his erratic and violent behavior in many parts of the play. His erratic behavior is especially evident in his conversation with Ophelia:

Hamlet: ...I could accuse me of such things that it were better

my mother had not borne me: I am very proud,

revengeful, ambitious, with more offenses at my beck

than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to

give them shape, or time to act them in.

What should

such fellows as I do crawling between heaven and

earth! We are arrant knaves, all; believe none of us...

* Act 3 Scene 1

One minute Hamlet tells Ophelia that "I did love you once."1 Then in his next line he says "I loved you not."2 This quick change in moods suggests that he was mad.

Hamlet: Nay, but to live

In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,

Stew'd in corruption, honeying and making love

Over the nasty sty-

1 - Act 3, Scene 1

2 - Act 3, Scene 1

Queen: O, speak to me no more;

These words like daggers enter in my...