Is Hamlet Actually Mad

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In William Shakespeare’s classic play “Hamlet”, the protagonist Prince Hamlet is put in circumstances where he has to carry out fateful decisions that an ordinary person would prefer not to face. All his actions and behavior broadly have a certain purpose or some apparent reason. Considering this way, if insanity is understood as the inability to behave rationally, and Hamlet’s decisions are grounded and excusable, then he naturally does not satisfy the definition of a madman.

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Hamlet’s conscious awareness of his intentions

At the start of the play, Hamlet is mourning the death of his father. Without perceiving the root underlying cause of his death, furthermore, Hamlet was in a state of uncertainty. In addition, his mother had married his uncle, Claudius, less than two months after the king’s death, which made Hamlet wonder even more about the circumstances of his father’s murder, as both his mother and Claudius expressed little concern about the former king’s death. When the ghost of his father comes to Hamlet and reveals that Claudius killed him and the prince is looking for revenge, Hamlet informs Horatio that he intends to feign madness to carry out his father’s wishes: “As I perchance hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on” (Shakespeare I.v.179-180). By the mere point that the prince realizes that he is going to deliberately act against the rules to murder Claudius indicates that he is a stable person.

Hamlet’s detailed reflections on revenge

A mad man would most likely not ponder if he was requested to commit murder, even of someone as familiar as his uncle. Nevertheless, Hamlet was not morally ready for this. This is evidenced by how long he postpones the murder from the moment his father insisted that he murder Claudius. The prince continually rejects the murder from his thoughts and even doubts whether the meeting with the ghost was real: “The spirit that I have seen may be a devil and the devil hath power” (Shakespeare II.ii.585-586). If Hamlet was indeed insane, he would not speculate on the motives of the spirit. The prince demonstrates his rational thinking by wishing to receive evidence that Claudius undoubtedly slayed his father before taking revenge. Some may believe that he was influenced by the ghost to assassinate his father, as the ghost comes to him not once but twice to verify that he has completed his task, which is an argument in favor of Hamlet’s acquittal. In the past Hamlet was uncertain and distraught, but after encountering his father he gained a renewed sense of purpose. Even if he ultimately murders his uncle, the reason that he invested the time to critically reflect on his fateful plans, and tried to identify excuses for not doing so, reveals a compassionate and yet conscious side of Hamlet.

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If the murder of Claudius was reasonable and in a sense legitimate, the murder of Polonius was not, but it considered its motives. Evidently, Hamlet did not intend to kill Polonius; this death can be interpreted as an unfortunate coincidence. Hamlet was for the first time placed in such unusual cruel circumstances, so he clearly possessed no experience of deprivation of life. Hamlet’s negative emotions presumably prevailed when he stabbed Polonius and even the fact that he was concealed behind a curtain did not help when it occurred. Because of this, Hamlet’s ability to reach a decision was severely restricted, so he suggested that the advisor was Claudius, who was shadowing him.

The question of consciousness of people around Hamlet

When Ophelia learned that Hamlet, the beloved of her heart, had slain her father, instead of grieving as she should, she began to sing and dance. For that matter, based on the context of the plot, this should be regarded as madness, as these represent inadequate actions, and she, in the same consistent pace, committed suicide. “To be or not to be-that is the question” (Shakespeare III.i.56), this well-known statement can be understood as Hamlet pondering suicide. This reasoning is proof that he is a rational man who thinks before he acts, unlike a mad man who is directed by madness. He evaluates the choices: to stay alive or to complete it all and begin the underworld. But by remaining alive, he has more personal power over his present life and perspective.


Hamlet’s mother can also confirm that Hamlet remains an absolutely conscious individual: “I doubt it is no other but the main, His father’s death and o’er-hasty marriage.” (Shakespeare II.ii.56-57) “I essentially am not in madness, But mad in craft” (Shakespeare, III.iv.189-190), this statement of Hamlet is not deceitful because he is indeed a rational human being. The opposite of madness is sanity, which can be described as the capacity to reflect and react in a reasonable and rational manner. Hamlet feigns madness and even in cases where his actions seem doubtful, they are warranted and substantiated.

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