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Is Hamlet's madness real or insane?  Give details.pls make it very much broad

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hooker | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 20, 2009 at 2:56 PM via web

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Is Hamlet's madness real or insane?  Give details.

pls make it very much broad

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 20, 2009 at 7:52 PM (Answer #1)

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Hamlet's supposed madness is due to several things that occur all at once to the tragic character.  First, when he return to Denmark with the death of his father and he is confronted with the hasty marriage of his mother to his uncle, he is shocked with both grief and disgust.  So both these life changing events push Hamlet into both a cycle of grief over his father's death and a deep sense of anger at his mother for her dismissal of her King, Hamlet's father, dead for just two months, and she already married to his father's brother.

The level of his anger rises as he internally contemplates how this makes him feel.  So if you are assessing Hamlet's "madness" it is likely that he has every right to feel like the world has gone mad.  The reality or truth that he knew is gone, altered, changed permanently and he cannot accept it, everyone else seems fine with it.

Second, the fact that the ghost of his father beings haunting him, pleading with him to avenge his death, informing him that he was in fact murdered by the man that he detests, his uncle, only adds to Hamlet's sense of urgency, his reaction to this heightens his anger, his emotions, he appears consumed with a smoldering hatred, can't get past it, to others he appears insane, but the reader knows what is bothering him.

Shakespeare gives Hamlet a chance to internally process everything that happens to him, he is not hasty in his actions to either take revenge against his uncle or announce that he knows that the King was murdered by his brother.  Instead, he chooses to be discreet, trying to trick the new King into reacting to a play that will prove the ghost's assertion that he was murdered.

"Unlike many other Elizabethan revenge tragedy heroes, Hamlet is given to philosophy and abstraction. At times, it seems that the play is less about Hamlet taking action in the external world, than it is about his grappling with the key existential problems of human existence."

So, considering what Hamlet is dealing with, the cirsumstances suggest that he is just in a state of emotional upheaval, not actually insane or mad, but feeling like he is going crazy because he is troubled by so many life changing events all at once.

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tempcr | Honors

Posted July 20, 2009 at 10:45 PM (Answer #2)

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Hamlet is an old story and all older versions have Hamlet pretending to be mad to protect himself from Claudius by appearing harmless. Shakespeare’s play begins the same way.

.  After seeing the ghost, Hamlet warns his friend, Horatio, not to worry if Hamlet starts to behave oddly. In the closet scene, Hamlet tells his mother not to let Claudius know that he is only pretending to be mad.

. Hamlet fools around with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern after realizing that Claudius had sent them to spy on him. He talks wildly with Polonius, making a fool of the old man, who is also spying for Claudius. Then after accidentally killing Polonius, Hamlet jokes about it to Claudius and acts the lunatic.

What Shakespeare does differently is leave us unsure whether this feigned madness does not hide a deeper disturbance, either insanity or immaturity.

. After wasting several opportunities to kill Claudius, Hamlet recklessly stabs through the screen in his mother’s bedroom and accidentally kills Polonius.

. After discovering that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are carrying a sealed letter from Claudius to the King of England asking him to kill Hamlet, Hamlet changes it to an order to kill his old friends, who were only carrying out Claudius’ orders.

Before the aborted voyage to England, it is unclear whether Hamlet’s crazy behavior is all feigned or whether some is real. After the voyage, Hamlet is both sane and mature. You can read the odd arithmetic in the graveyard scene to mean that he has literally aged ten years. He is a different man and there is nothing at all insane in his final acts.

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brandih | eNotes Employee

Posted July 21, 2009 at 1:57 AM (Answer #3)

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This question has been previously asked and answered multiple times.  Please see the links below, and thank you for using eNotes.


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jagtig | Salutatorian

Posted July 22, 2009 at 2:26 AM (Answer #4)

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It's real. Polonius instructs Ophelia to rebuff Hamlet after Laertes tenders similar cautions.



It could also have been the appearance of his father's ghost that caused his bizarre appearance.

In this selection Claudius and Polonius conspire to trap or find out what is troubling Hamlet.


and here it is shown that she has been instructed to return his love letters.


Hamlet professes true love for her in love letters. See


Hamlet goes off the deep end scolding her severely. http://www.tailsntales.com/eng/sha/ham/tex/sel_5.html#anchor262713

After soliciting Ophelia's favors http://www.tailsntales.com/eng/sha/ham/tex/sel_6.html#anchor195342He murders Polonius, who was hiding in his mother's room when she met with him to discover why he was acting so erratically as per the plotting of Claudius and Polonius.

Another contributing factor is his father's murder, coupled with the fact that his uncle, the self-professed murderer, then married his mother. This brother-wife relationship was considered incest.

Hamlet lost respect for his mother, then saved face by scolding Ophelia. Then, it appears he advanced on Ophelia in a way that was not in good faith during the play, and this along with the murder of her father drove her mad and then to suicide. He professed love for her after that, but Laertes had sworn revenge, and Claudius was in league with him.

Of course their revenge went awry, and all the major characters perished.

It is my opinion that he doesn't feign madness and here are a number of quotes that support that viewpoint. LINK:3F

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