In Act 2 Scene 1 of Hamlet, why was Hamlet acting mad?In Act 2 Scene 1, he frightens Ophelia by entering her room and doing unusal things. I think...

In Act 2 Scene 1 of Hamlet, why was Hamlet acting mad?

In Act 2 Scene 1, he frightens Ophelia by entering her room and doing unusal things.

I think it is a good place to start since it doesn’t relate to Claudius and Gertrude. I think it is pretty clever, because he can slowly build it from here. He can get more mad and more mad, so it would be more convincing. But I also think he did this because it somehow expresses how he feel towards Ophelia. Since he doesn’t know what to do with their relationship. So this will also relate to the theme of uncertaintiy? Right? Thats why I don’t think he is mad... but his mind is very clear because he is able to plot his plan?

But what else from this scene that tell us that Hamlet was only pretending to be mad?

Expert Answers
lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Are you referring to Act III, Scene 1?

You have great ideas!

Ophelia's character is a foil to Gertrude - she is all that Gertrude is not, at least in Hamlet's mind, so he is conflicted over his feelings to her, as you have figured out! He knows she is good and pure, but he fears because she is a woman, she can't help but make him miserable in the end.

I think there is some evidence here that Hamlet is not really mad. First of all, in his famous soliloquy “to be, or not to be” – Hamlet engages in some pretty sane introspection in which he ponders whether or not he should kill himself. He comes across as depressed, but not mad. Right after he finishes this speech, he sees Ophelia and he recognizes her, so he can’t be insane. He also acknowledges that she is beautiful, something that a mad person probably would not necessarily notice. Ophelia asks him if beauty is better than sincerity, and his reply, although bitter, makes perfect sense in light of what is troubling him – he worries that being a woman, Ophelia is insincere, just like his mother Gertrude. He tells Ophelia that “I did love you once” so he remembers that he loved her, and probably still does. When Ophelia tells him he made her believe that he did love her, he very quickly jumps into his mad persona, pretending that he didn’t love her. He then tells her to go to a convent so that she won’t give birth to sinners such as him, wicked men. Plus, he remembers that she has a father because he asks her, “Where’s your father?”

You can read the modern translation here on eNotes.