Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Why did Hamlet pretend to be crazy?

Hamlet's main reason for feigning insanity is that he wants to investigate the suspicious nature of his father's death without Claudius suspecting that he knows the truth. 

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It's important to note that some literary analysts don't think Hamlet's madness is an act but that he is literally driven crazy by his life which is spinning out of control on all fronts. Still, others do believe it's an act.

Hamlet is visited early in the play by his father's ghost, who asks Hamlet to avenge his murder by killing his brother and Hamlet's uncle, Claudius. Hamlet really doesn't know whether to believe the ghost for a while, and he stalls for time. In the meantime, Ophelia, whom he seems to have been genuinely close to prior to the play's opening, reports all Hamlet's "strange" actions to her father and Claudius. Additionally, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, former friends of Hamlet, are employed by Claudius and Polonius to watch over Hamlet and report back to them. His mother has hastily married this same murderous uncle and goes so far as to tell Hamlet that he has "insulted [his] father" (III.iv.10).

Hamlet doesn't know whom he can trust besides Horatio . His world is full of...

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zumba96 | Student

Hamlet pretends to be mad so he can uncover the truth about his father's death and what happened. However, in the process, he himself turns mad as his inward struggle of himself and trying to fit into societal norms drives him insane. His mother questions if he is sane when he is talking to the ghost in her room with her. He is ultimately the cause of his own downfall. 

lrad18 | Student

Initially, Hamlet feigns his insanity to distract Getrude and Claudius from his true intentions of exposing his uncle for the murder of his father. We know his is pretending to be crazy because he mentions it several times to Horatio.

"I am but mad north-north-west, when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw"(Act 2 Scene 2 Lines 378-379).

Many people question whether his seeing his father's ghost was real or not and so that also factors in if he was pretending to be crazy or maybe he was crazy all along and his uncle never murdered his father. However, we know this is not true because Hamlet was not the only to see his fathers ghost.

Personally, I believe that Hamlet was genuinely pretending to be insane at the beginning. But after he contemplates suicide and the scene with Ophelia saying he loved her once, he drove himself to insanity. For example, when he saw his father's ghost in his mothers bedroom, Gertrude did not see him. I believe that to be a sign that Hamlet drove himself to insanity which ultimately leads to his downfall.