Insane, or not Insane? That is the Question

Essay by megan89High School, 12th gradeA-, December 2007

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Megan Collins

Cordel Browne


October 19, 2007

Insane, or not Insane? That is the Question

The definition of mad is as follows: a deranged state of the mind or lack of understanding. Throughout Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, the main character, young Hamlet, is brought on to find out who killed his father. He decides to put on a façade of madness as part of his plan to gain the opportunity to kill his Uncle, and new father, Claudius. Throughout the play, Hamlets "madness" becomes quite believable, causing most of the characters to think he actually is a mad man. However, through his inner thoughts and the apparent reasons for his actions, it is clear that he is not really mad and is simply an actor simulating insanity in order to fulfill his duty to his dead father. Hamlet only claims madness because it allows him to say and perform actions he otherwise would be prohibited from.

Hamlet asks his friends Horatio and Marcellus not to mention anything about his "antic disposition" (1.5.173) and his erratic behaviour. Throughout the play, Hamlet speaks to many characters with disrespect, only being able to get away with it because he is believed as mad. He even goes as far as criticizing his love interest, Ophelia with sexual remarks "That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs (3.2.115)." Had Hamlet not been seen as insane, this type of behaviour towards his girlfriend likely wouldn't have passed. Again, Hamlet uses his madness merely as an excuse for killing Laertes father, Polonius. Hamlet's madness redirects attention away from what he is thinking about his father's death, and puts it on why he has gone insane. This allows only himself to know what he is truly thinking, does not require him to answer any...