Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Throughout the play Hamlet, Hamlet claims to be feigning madness. Do you think this is true, or is Hamlet actually insane?

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Hamlet himself often feigns madness in order to help carry out his plot for revenge. In act 3, he tells his mother he is not mad "But mad in craft," and after learning of his father's murder, tells Horatio he will put on an "antic disposition" every now and then. Hamlet is not mad in every sense of the word, however he is certainly full of grief and self-doubt.

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Hamlet isn't really mad at all; he's simply putting on what Polonius describes as his "antic disposition." In other words, he's faking it. Though Hamlet is a most unusual young man, with more than a few psychological hang-ups, he's not actually insane. Nonetheless, his fraught psychological condition in the wake of his father's death does allow him to make his mad act convincing, so much so that Claudius, Gertrude, and Polonius are all worried about what it might mean.

Hamlet's feigned madness comes about as a direct result of his notorious procrastination. Despite having vowed revenge for the murder of his father, Hamlet has actually done nothing about it, which pains him deeply. Lacking the necessary resolve to destroy Claudius, he settles for unsettling him instead. Rather than just run Claudius through with a sword, Hamlet's going to make his wicked uncle feel uneasy about the stability of the throne he so treacherously usurped from his brother, old King Hamlet. Hence the mad act.

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