Is Hamlet really mad or is he pretending?

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All of the evidence would seem to suggest that Hamlet is indeed pretending to be mad. But, as Polonius shrewdly acknowledges, there is method to his "madness." Hamlet conveys the impression of insanity the better to hide his true intentions regarding Claudius. If people think he's mad then they'll be more likely to underestimate him. Hamlet's constant vacillation in killing Claudius merely adds to the sense that this is not a particularly formidable character. 

At the same time, we must remember that Hamlet is a complex soul. Although he may not be mad, there seems little doubt that he's psychologically damaged to some extent. After all, his uncle murdered his beloved father and is now married to his mother. Hamlet's whole world has been turned upside-down by Claudius's wicked actions. There's often a fine line between the trauma that Hamlet has suffered and the madness which he so successfully feigns. Indeed, one could say that it's...

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