Hamlet’s Insanity;#8230;is it real?
In William Shakespeare’s Play Hamlet, many issues have been raised about Hamlet’s over all sanity. He has experienced many things that might make one think he has gone crazy, for example, his father’s murder, killing Polonius accidentally, and his mother’s abrupt remarriage. Hamlet begins to act shady towards the middle to the end of the play while talking to others. In several scenes it appears that Hamlet has gone crazy. Many critics have varying opinions of this issue. Joshua Wells wrote an article that comparing Hamlet’s sanity and insanity. Another critic, that did not mention his name, thinks that Hamlet is sane. Hamlet was not actually insane, it was simply a ploy to seek revenge for his father’s murder.
Wells, in his article ‘Was Hamlet Mentally Disturbed?’; stated that Hamlet is truly insane. In the first act Hamlet appears to be crazy when he hears of his father’s murder. He speaks irrationally to Horatio, who comments that Hamlet is speaking ‘ wild and whirling words’;(I.v.149). Also, Hamlet plays with Horatio and will not tell him what the ghost told him. Horatio asks Hamlet about the news he heard and Hamlet replies ‘O, wonderful!’;(I.v.130). The news is actually not good news at all. Hamlet then sees the ghost in his mother’s chambers, but she can not see it. This is strange because earlier in the play Horatio and the other watchmen could see the ghost. When Hamlet starts a conversation with the ghost, his mother says, ‘Alas, he’s mad!’; (III.iv.122).
Hamlet does some other actions throughout the play that give the impression that he has gone crazy. One is that his moods change abruptly for no reason. While he is talking to his mother in her chambers, they are speaking calming to each other and then Hamlet starts acting violently towards her. He also jumps on a pirate ship without a second thought or anyone to protect him. At the same time, he has Rosencrantz and Guildenstern killed, even though it was not part of his revenge plan. Finally, Hamlet hides Polonius’ body and will not tell anyone where it is. He tells Laertes that he killed Polonius in a fit of madness (Wells).
There are many good reasons to believe that Hamlet is truly crazy. He acted rashly and many of his thoughts were random. He did not act as though he had just lost a loved one; he acted like the world had come to an end. Therefore, the people around him thought he had lost his mind.
The flip side to this argument is that Hamlet was putting on an act. Some critics say that his actions were thought out and he acted insane as part of his revenge plot. One critic, that remained nameless, says that Hamlet remained ‘sharp and credible’; and Wells says that his madness only manifested itself while he was around certain characters such as Polonius, Claudius, Gertrude, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern. However, when he was around Horatio, Bernardo, Francisco, the Players and the gravediggers, he acted rationally.
Hamlet makes several comments that appear random and to have no meaning, but in all actually, they make perfect sense. Hamlet makes a smart comment to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern comparing them to sponges. He says, ‘When he (Claudius) needs what you have gleaned, it is but squeezing you and, sponge, you shall be dry again.’;(IV.ii.19-20). They do not understand what Hamlet has said, but Hamlet is saying that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern soak up all the King’s favors and become dry again when they have to clean up his mess. In the same act, Hamlet makes a rude comment to Claudius by commenting on how lowly a king can be. Hamlet says, ‘A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm’;(IV.iii.30-31). This comment is not random because Claudius is asking where Polonius is and Hamlet immediately says he is at supper. Hamlet means that the worms are eating him for supper. This proves that Hamlet had planned for this(‘Hamlet’s Sanity’;).
Wells notes that characters in the play suspect that Hamlet is not crazy. Claudius notes that Hamlet ‘was not like madness. There’s something in his soul, /O’er which his melancholy sits on brood, /And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose/Will be some danger…’;(III.i.175-178). Claudius does not think that Hamlet is crazy, he thinks there is something inside of Hamlet that is bothering him. Polonius says that Hamlet’s actions have ‘method’; to them, there appears to be a reason to his actions and his actions are logical in nature (II.ii.226-227). Then Hamlet, himself, says two times that he is not crazy. He tells Horatio in Act one, scene five, that he is going to fake madness and that if Horatio notices any strange behavior, it is because he is putting on an act. Later in the play, in Act three, Hamlet tells his mother that his is not mad, but only in craft (Wells).
The points made suggesting that Hamlet is not insane are justified just as well as the points made suggesting that Hamlet is crazy. He seems to be aware of the things that that he says and the things that he does. He simply acts crazy to fool the people around him to take his revenge for the wrongful death of his father. If Hamlet was crazy then why did he wait to kill Claudius and why does doubt what the ghost has told him? Hamlet wanted to know the truth before he avenged his father’s death. If Hamlet had acted rashly and killed Claudius immediately, Claudius might not have been the real murderer and Hamlet would be the one in prison. Hamlet creates an intricate plan to catch Claudius. He could not have done this if he was insane. Several critics agree with what is written above. The points are valid and make sense. A man that did what Hamlet did to seek revenge could not have done it if he was not mentally healthy.