Is Hamlet's Madness Truly Feigned or Does He Cross into True Insanity?

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1923 Words
Date:  2022-03-26


William Shakespeare is one of the noble play writers of all time; his work is still appreciated even today. One of the notable works done by Shakespeare is controversial, yet intellectually-stimulating play titled Hamlet. Through the play, Hamlet, Shakespeare identifies the concept of identifying the characters such as Hamlet by questioning the role they assume under some particular circumstances. Shakespeare present madness as an approach of disguise; however, like a madman, Hamlet can reveal the state's corruptness. Although, his apparent act-out behavior raises some questions as it becomes problematic since both the characters and the audience wonder whether the performance is purely feigned act or not. At the beginning of the play, Hamlet seems to be sane and behaving normally. There are clues of madness that make people get convinced people that Hamlet is "mad." On the other side, some might suggest that Hamlet is feigning his madness condition as an approach to chase his objective of revenge. His face of false madness is worn, clearly stressing and indicating the many deceptive faces that will arise in the play. This essay pursues to discuss the whether Hamlet's madness is truly feigned or does him cross into true insanity.

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There are some of the common instances where we can spot some acts of insanity by Hamlet. First, Hamlet sees the "ghost" who is his father, he is told about the person, who killed his father and married his mother, is this reality or a dream or? Secondly, Hamlet murders people to revenge his father's death are its intention or accident. Thirdly, due to depression, Hamlet opts to commit suicide.

In act I Scene 5, the ghost appears on three different occasions of the play. The first case, the ghost appears to Marcellus, Barnardos, and Horatio, and then disappeared at sunshine. In the midnight, the ghost appeared again to Hamlet, and identified himself as his father and informed him that Claudius, his brother, is the one who is responsible for his death. Hamlet is then asked by his father to avenge his death. "But know, thou Nobel youth, the serpent that did sting thy Father's life, now wears the crown" (Shakespeare, Hamlet 1029). The words made Hamlet upset and inform Marcellus and Horatio to promise that they did not see anything and that he will act "mad" to avenge his father's death as assigned by the ghost. When Hamlet is asked by the ghost regarding the revenge, Hamlet replied as he says, "I purchase here after shall think meet to put an antic disposition on (1, 5, 191-192)." Hamlet's intention to pretend being mad and finally kill Claudius. No one is aware of whether the madness is fake, though that is what he assured to Horatio. It will be easy for Hamlet to seek revenge while he pretends being mad. In Act 2 Scene 2 "The spirit that I have seen maybe a devil and the devil hath power assume a pleasing shape..."(Shakespeare, 1049). It shows that Hamlet is not certain on whether it was the dream or a ghost.

In Act 1, Scene V is the instance where Hamlets confirms being sane. After hearing the ghost's desire for avenge, Hamlet declares prior to his action that he will consciously fake his madness as he seeks revenge against Claudius. At this point, it is not clear to conclude that he accidentally became mad after making such a promise. Hamlet's self-made madness becomes his strategy of getting close and interacting with other characters all though the play, besides being the main device used by Shakespeare to develop his character.

The third instance where the ghost appears is in the Queen's closet. The queen hears Hamlet, her son, having a conversation with someone, though the person is not visible, she concludes that her son is "mad" by talking to himself (Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 3 Scene 4 page 1070). Hamlet confronts her mother and informs her that he is just pretending being "mad". The act of Hamlet talking to a ghost fills him of guiltiness that he failed to perform the duty that he was assigned by the ghost. "Mood disorder: although Hamlet worries a lot, he doesn't avoid situations that cause him to worry. He confronts the ghost of his father as it appears before him. Also, he presents two symptoms namely restlessness or feeling on the edge and irability" (Character Analysis of Hamlet, Psychological Disorders, Sept. 22, 2012).

Additionally, Hamlet's sharp and clear observation gives him confidence to feign his madness. He declared "I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw" (II.ii.361-362); to mean that he is only mad when he is focused in a particular manner, though he is well spoken in the rest of the time. However, Hamlet's the state of confusion signifies into a very extreme state of mind that can be considered to be madness.

Moreover, there is another instance where Hamlet's finged madness appears once again in the Act II, Scene II while speaking to Polonius. While having a Chat, Hamlet calls the old man a "fishmonger" and then illogically retorts to his question. Yet, Hamlet's outrageous comments masks pointed observation regarding the Polonius's old age and significance. Actually, Polonius affirmed by himself that since Hamlet is not fully sane, the words he speaks are in most cases "pregnant" with meaning (II.ii.206).

In the Act 3 scene 1, Hamlet contemplates thoroughly and agonizingly to himself on whether he should commit suicide to finish the pain he is experiencing: "To be, or not to be: that is the question" (III.i.58). Hamlets affirm that life miseries are such that no one would voluntarily bear them, apart from the fact that they are afraid of "something after death" (III.i.80). Because we are not sure of what to expect in the afterlife we rather "bear those ills we have," Hamlet says, "than fly to others that we know not of" (III.i.83-84). Hamlets act to desire committing suicide can be considered as insanity, since it is clear that, soon after the ghost appeared before him and revealed what he did not know, Hamlet becomes frustrated and depressed and feeling like taking his life away. Will we consider this as feigned madness, yet he was alone and not before people who he could express his feigned madness? Though in this case, it can be ascertained that Hamlet, through his personal agenda, together with the use of action, he is in a position to maintiain his conscience and not harm himself. But, it can be seen that he is definitely depressed, and he does not let it get the best out of him.

Later in Act III, Scene I, Hamlet sees Ophelia coming to him, Polonius and Claudius spy on the conversation that Hamlet is having with Ophelia in order to determine whether Hamlet's madness arise from the lovesickness she is having over Ophelia. But, before we see the encounter, we assume that understand the situation more than Claudius does, such that we believe that Hamlet is not acting crazing, instead he is pretending to conceal his agenda of studying and conspiring against his uncle. After getting orders from his father Polonius, Ophelia tells Hamlet that she wishes to return the tokens of love he got from him. Aggressively, Hamlet refutes having given Ophelia anything; instead he laments the dishonesty of her beauty, and states that he once loved Ophelia and never to love her at all. Hamlet bitterly commented on the misery of humankind, he advices Ophelia to join nunnery instead of being a "breeder of sinners" (III.i.122-123). Hamlet condemns women for their intention to lure men to behave like monster and lead into the world's dishonesty by beautifying their faces to appear opposite of what they are.

In that case, the manner at which Hamlet behave towards Ophelia, with bitterness and cruelty, shows that it is not true that Hamlet is behaving mad because of the love he has for Ophelia. Working into a range, Hamlet criticizes Ophelia, woman and the general humankind, stating that he would like to end the marriage. When he storms out, Ophelia laments "noble mind" that has now become apparent madness (III.i.149). We cannot understand whether Hamlet is sure of what he is saying to Ophelia.

Considering various scenes seen in the play, only ins some isolated position especially in the presence of particular characters, Hamlet acts with madness. In the presence of Claudius, Polonius, Ophelia, Gertrude, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, Hamlet turns on the madness act to flawlessness. While when he is around Marcellus, Horatio, Bernardo, and the gravediggers, Hamlet is completely sane. When speaking to the gravedigger, Hamlet state of insanity is all gone and speaks sense.

Hamlet explains to Horatio that he might behave like he is insane, but he does not want him to stop him, since it his orchestrated madness to avenge his father's death by killing the murder, Claudius. Hamlet's statement makes the reader to be aware of how he intends to accomplish his well created plan. Rather than immediately retaliating with retribution and murdering Claudius. The action that Hamlet takes satisfied both his ambitions and principles.

Additionally, in scene II act 2 Hamlet uses his cleverness before Guildenstern one of the king's moronic spies. Once after conspiring against the king, Hamlet raises the veil for the reader in the words: "I am but mad north-north-west/When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw" (402-403). Hamlet makes the Guildenstern to understand that he is insane at some conditions that he can differentiate between things that do not look similar to one another

In the act III scene 4, Hamlets enters Queen Gertrude room without knowing that Polonius is hiding in the curtains. Hamlet confronts his mother by challenging her, "Now, Mother, what's the matter?" Gertrude replied that he has offended his father, referring to Claudius; Hamlet argues that she is the one who has offended his father that is King Hamlet. Hamlet threatens Gertrude, making her pleading for help saying that he wants to murder her. Polonius intervene from behind the curtains as he shouts for help. Hamlet took his sword ant stabbed Polonius. Hamlet had thought that he had killed King Claudius, but he discovers that he has killed Polonius after lifting the wall hanging. Hamlet howls at his mother that he did not kill Polonius intentionally. Hamlets became more confusing when he argues with the mother since it is only the man mad who is capable of acting like that to the mother. The actions by Hamlet might be considered to be an irrational behavior makes us to percept that he is being unforgiving and impulsive.


A matter of fact, Hamlets state of madness is feigned and not true insanity. Considering the reasons stated above, the play begins while Hamlet is in full state of mind and conscience acting in an upright manner. He fakes his state of mind after his father appeared before him as ghost, prompting him to act as if he is insane in order to archive revenge of Claudius for killing his father, taking the throne and marrying his mother. Hamlet behave normal in some cases, Instances such as, speaking to her mother privately and talking to his friends as well as the Guildenstern, Hamlet affirms that he is in deep full state of mind and reason for his behaviour is to gain revenge over his father murderer. Therefore, we end agreeing that Hamlet madness was feigned and not a true one.

Work Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Krill Press via PublishDrive, 2015.

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Is Hamlet's Madness Truly Feigned or Does He Cross into True Insanity?. (2022, Mar 26). Retrieved from

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