In Hamlet, why does Hamlet pretend he is mad? And is it really essential for his schemes?

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Why does Hamlet pretend he is mad? And is it really essential for his schemes?

After seeing the ghost of his father in Act I, scene v, Hamlet plans to revenge his father’s murder by Claudius. Hamlet asks Horatio not to let on he knows anything when, “As I...

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Why does Hamlet pretend he is mad? And is it really essential for his schemes?

After seeing the ghost of his father in Act I, scene v, Hamlet plans to revenge his father’s murder by Claudius. Hamlet asks Horatio not to let on he knows anything when, “As I perchance hereafter shall think meet/ To put an antic disposition on” (191-2). So regardless of any interpretation by the actor, Hamlet tells us he plans on acting crazy.

“Is it really essential for his schemes?” This is subjective, of course. There is arguable evidence that Hamlet truly descends into madness. Most point to his behavior during the staged play, “The Mousetrap,” and afterward in the closet scene where Hamlet confronts Gertrude. Any argument that Hamlet is truly mad can never be thoroughly proven, however, as Hamlet had already given the disclaimer for his “antics” in Act I. 

I am of the opinion that Hamlet’s antics were not really “essential” as, in the end, though he revealed Claudius’s guilt to everyone, he lost his mother and his own life. It was a Pyrrhic victory.  Hamlet had the opportunity, for example, to take Claudius’s life while he was seemingly praying in the chapel, but he hesitated and dragged his revenge through another two acts, resulting in the deaths of most of the cast. 

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