In Hamlet, when does Hamlet decided to "fake madness" and what does he say?  

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hamlet hatches the actual plan to fake madness in Act I scene 5 after his conversation with the Ghost. As he swears Marcellus and Horatio to a vow of secrecy he tells them that he is planning to feign madness in the near future:

As I perchance hereafter shall think meet

To put an antic disposition on...

It is this "antic disposition" that leads to the huge dilemma surrounding Hamlet's character, which is whether he is actually mad or not. We find out about his first appearance in his disguise (or otherwise) of being mad in Act II scene 1, when Ophelia relates to her father how he appeared in her bedchamber. He didn't actually "say" anything on this occasion, but his actions clearly indicate his supposed madness:

He took me by the wrist, and held me hard;

Then goes he to the length of his arm;

And with his other hand thus o'er his brow,

He falls to such persual of my face

As he would draw it. Long stay'd he so;

At last, a little shaking of mine arm:

And thrice his head thus waving up and down;

He rais'd a sigh, so piteous and profound,

As it did seem to shatter all his bulk,

And end his being.

Quite clearly, although he utters nothing except a deep sigh, Hamlet does a very convincing job of passing himself off as mad to Ophelia, as the rather concerned and frightened way she relates this experience to her father indicates.

janihash24 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We first hear about Hamlet's intent in Act I, Scene 5 when he tells Horatio and the others who have been watching for the apparition with him: 

"But come,
Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,
How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself
(As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on)..."
 
At this point, it's clear that Hamlet is, in fact, planning to fake his madness, since "put on" has the same meaning to us as it did to the Elizabethans. What becomes more interesting in the play is whether his pretense continues or whether he actually slides over the edge into psychosis. In modern times, actors have played it both ways. Certainly there is reason to suspect that his ongoing conflicts over his father's death (which he now believes is murder), his mother's "common" behavior, his inability to ever welcome the love of Ophelia (and her betrayal of him), cause erratic actions to say the least.
 
Yet to Hamlet, it's his world that is truly mad. "The time is out of joint," he says, and nothing makes sense to him anymore. Only at the very end of the play, as he is dying, does he seem to find some resolution.
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Hamlet

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