How has Hamlet lived up to his reputation of being a madman in Shakespeare's Hamlet?
It has always been debated as to whether Hamlet is acting mad or has actually “gone mad.” Either way, you are right that he has inflicted this reputation on himself. Yes, Hamlet lives up to this reputation quite nicely in his treatment of Ophelia, his treatment of his “friends,” his words spoken to others, and his ultimate act of revenge.
Let us take a look at Hamlet’s madness through his action. Hamlet treats Ophelia quite roughly after she agrees to spy on him for Claudius. Hamlet appears with his “knees knocking each other” and his clothes all undone. He then speaks in opposites saying “I loved you once” and then “I loved you not!” This treatment is the undoing of Ophelia as she loses all mental capacity and then kills herself. Hamlet also shows up at Ophelia’s funeral and disrupts the proceedings with his own exclamations. Next, Hamlet orders the death of his “friends,” Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet is also heard saying things like “the King is a thing.” When asked where Polonius is, Hamlet replies “at supper” in regards to the “worms” that are “eating at him.” Of course, perhaps the most violent act of madness Hamlet can be accused of is the violent act of revenge against Claudius. Hamlet finally kills Claudius by the poisoned rapier and the poisoned cup calling him a “cursed, damned Dane.” In these ways, Hamlet lives up to his reputation of insanity.
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