What purpose is served when Hamlet decides to feign madness?

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Immediately after his first meeting with the Ghost, Hamlet swears Marcellus and Horatio to secrecy and indicates that he is thinking of pretending to be mad. Throughout the play his mental condition is a matter of increasing concern, mystery, speculation, discussion, and debate.

Hamlet knows that the King is a murderer and a usurper. He intends to assassinate the King. He knows his father’s ghost is haunting the castle. His mother may have been involved in her husband’s murder. Any of these secrets could cost him his life. His facial expressions, body language, and possible slips of the tongue might give him away. Claudius will continue to pry into his mind and his very soul. His encounter with the Ghost has changed him into a different person, and this is sure to be noticed by the King.

Hamlet’s foresight proves correct. Claudius uses his cunning mind to try to understand his stepson. Like many villains, today as well as in yesteryears, he is parasitical: he specializes in analyzing...

(The entire section contains 9 answers and 1741 words.)

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