Homework Help

Why did Hamlet pretend to be crazy?

user profile pic

soska | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 16, 2007 at 6:28 PM via web

dislike 0 like

Why did Hamlet pretend to be crazy?

2 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 17, 2007 at 12:16 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

Hamlet pretended to be crazy for several closely related reasons. He pretended to be crazy to have freedom to examine Claudius's guilt, to find a way to do what the Ghost asked, to make people think he was no threat, to distract attention from his investigation into his father's death, and so he could say outlandish things without striking a nerve.

HAMLET   
    How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself,
    As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
    To put an antic disposition on,
    That you, at such times seeing me, never shall,
    ...
    ... by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
    As 'Well, well, we know,' ...
    ...
    Or such ambiguous giving out, to note
    That you know aught of me: this not to do,
    So grace and mercy at your most need help you, Swear. (I.v)

Sources:

user profile pic

lrad18 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted November 19, 2009 at 6:49 AM (Answer #2)

dislike 0 like

Initially, Hamlet feigns his insanity to distract Getrude and Claudius from his true intentions of exposing his uncle for the murder of his father. We know his is pretending to be crazy because he mentions it several times to Horatio.

"I am but mad north-north-west, when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw"(Act 2 Scene 2 Lines 378-379).

Many people question whether his seeing his father's ghost was real or not and so that also factors in if he was pretending to be crazy or maybe he was crazy all along and his uncle never murdered his father. However, we know this is not true because Hamlet was not the only to see his fathers ghost.

Personally, I believe that Hamlet was genuinely pretending to be insane at the beginning. But after he contemplates suicide and the scene with Ophelia saying he loved her once, he drove himself to insanity. For example, when he saw his father's ghost in his mothers bedroom, Gertrude did not see him. I believe that to be a sign that Hamlet drove himself to insanity which ultimately leads to his downfall. 

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes