Is Hamlet truly mad, or is he just pretending?

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Although Shakespeare's character of Hamlet successfully conveys the impression of insanity, it's also clear that there is method to his madness. Hamlet and the role of conscience in "The Tragedy of Hamlet"

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Hamlet's "madness" is one of the central concerns of the play. Hamlet says in asides throughout the play that he is not, in fact insane, but sometimes his performance is so convincing that it is difficult to tell. Indeed, Hamlet himself wonders if he is not mad, most notably when he sees his father's apparition in his mother's bedroom. 

While he seems to have convinced Polonius and Claudius, in particular, that he is insane, both men seem to suspect that there may be something lurking behind his madness. Polonius remarks that "though this be madness, yet there is method in't" when confronted with Hamlet's nonsequitors, and Claudius worries that "[m]adness in great ones must not unwatch'd go." 

Hamlet himself tells the audience that he will assume an "antic disposition" to bring about his revenge, and he assures Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that he is not actually mad, claiming "I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw." But at the same time he claims to be extremely depressed for reasons he does not know. So Hamlet's madness at times appears to be a ruse, which he says it is, and at times is very convincing. What seems certain, however, is that he is deeply unhappy and disillusioned with what has occurred within the royal family. 

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Is Hamlet really mad or is he pretending?

All of the evidence would seem to suggest that Hamlet is indeed pretending to be mad. But, as Polonius shrewdly acknowledges, there is method to his "madness." Hamlet conveys the impression of insanity the better to hide his true intentions regarding Claudius. If people think he's mad then they'll be more likely to underestimate him. Hamlet's constant vacillation in killing Claudius merely adds to the sense that this is not a particularly formidable character. 

At the same time, we must remember that Hamlet is a complex soul. Although he may not be mad, there seems little doubt that he's psychologically damaged to some extent. After all, his uncle murdered his beloved father and is now married to his mother. Hamlet's whole world has been turned upside-down by Claudius's wicked actions. There's often a fine line between the trauma that Hamlet has suffered and the madness which he so successfully feigns. Indeed, one could say that it's only because Hamlet has been so psychologically damaged by what Claudius has done that he's able to make his "antic disposition" look so incredibly convincing.

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Is Hamlet really mad or is he pretending?

The answer to this is a very mixed answer. The matter of the fact is that Hamlet does have a plan to "act mad" or crazy in front of everyone in order to hide his true intentions to avenge his father's death.

However, it can also be said that Hamlet is a little crazed by the notion that his uncle killed his father and his mother married his uncle, and also the fact that, despite what he has learned at Wittenberg university, the "warlike form" of his father (as Horatio calls the Ghost, I.i) has recently appeared to him and told him of how he died.

The realization of a ghost during the Elizabethan period was not a common aspect to life. Shakespeare wanted to show the distinction and confusion one goes through when they say they are going to act mad, then realize that they are a little mad to begin with.

So, to answer your question, he is a little of both: He is acting in order to get closer to Claudius, but he is crazed because of the circumstances surrounding the state of Denmark and what he needs to do. We can confirm this in V.ii when Hamlet excitedly tells Horatio of how he turned the tables on them and sent them to their deaths: he doesn't perceive the enormity of his murderous deed saying it was guided by a "divinity that shapes" the end results of our plans.

Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well,
When our deep plots do pall: and that should teach us
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will,--

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Is Hamlet really mad or is he pretending?

He's pretending. He is quite emotionally upset, and so that gives his act an edge that might make it feel real to those around him. After all, he has learned his father was killed and that his mother married the killer!

However, Hamlet stays too much in control to really be mad. (Look at Ophelia as a contrast.)

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Is Hamlet really mad or does he merely continue to feign madness to achieve an advantage over Claudius?

One could argue in favor of either position when answering this question. Certainly, Hamlet begins by pretending to be mad in order to obscure his suspicions about his uncle. He states his purpose to feign insanity when he says “As I perchance hereafter shall think meet / To put an antic disposition on” (1.5.191-92). This shows that Hamlet deliberately wants others to think he has gone mad.

However, in act 1, scene 2, Hamlet expresses suicidal ideation when he wishes his “flesh” would “melt.” Depending on one’s definition of madness, one could argue that Hamlet was verging on insane before deciding to masquerade as a crazy person. This interpretation of Hamlet’s madness contradicts his assertion that his public words and actions are nothing but artifice.

Continuing in this argument, one might suggest that Hamlet’s exaggerated, feigned madness exacerbated his underlying depression, thereby driving him deeper into actual madness.

However, since Hamlet is able to carry out his revenge—albeit in a tragic, roundabout way—one could also argue that his madness was nothing but a ruse that bought him time as he agonized over what to do.

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

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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Hamlet appears to be insane. Is he insane or is he pretending?

This is an age-old debate.  See the link below to get good answers.

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Is Hamlet really insane or is he pretending to have gone mad?

This is one of the key issues of the play.  After seeing the Ghost in Act I, Hamlet has resolved to seek revenge against Claudius.  He swears his friends, who know only that he has spoken with the Ghost, to secrecy and then asks them to stay silent, no matter "how strange or odd some'er I bear myself (as I perchance hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on."  He warns them not to give away, by a knowing nod or a smile or a word, that he is implementing an unusual plan.

By Act II, Hamlet has been acting sufficiently "crazy" that others are questioning his sanity.  Hamlet reveals to his former friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that he is "but mad north-northwest; when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw." He's just told them he's not actually crazy, but they're too insensible to reason to recognize his revelation.

The next reference Hamlet makes to his feigned (or real) madness is is Act III when he has a confrontation with his mother.  He tells her he is "essentially...not in madness but mad in craft"--of course he has just had a murderous outburst in which he stabs the man behind the arras (Polonius),  Here, perhaps, we begin to wonder if he has somehow placed at least a toe across the line of sanity.

Immediately afterwards, in Act IV, Gertrude announces to Claudius that her son is "mad as the sea and the wind when both contend which is the mightier."  Is that because she believes he is insane or to keep the King guessing about Hamlet's mental state?  Probably the latter, as she immediately looks at the King with blame when she realizes she has been poisoned in Act V.  Possibly the former, as she does nothing to help Hamlet until she reasons that her husband is the crazier one for having plotted and schemed in such a way.

Act IV is where Hamlet may move from feigned insanity to the real thing in his grief for Ophelia.  He literally lashes out in his grief and even jumps into Ophelia's grave.  After that, his spirit seems to be resigned to his fate, as exhibited in his last major conversation with Horatio.  In any case, he is able to fight with Laertes and fulfill his promise to his father. 

A case can be made for both mad and mad in craft. though it's certain madness in craft was a plan from the beginning.

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In Shakespeare's play Hamlet, was Hamlet really mad?

In Shakespeare's play Hamlet, the hero may have be depressed, melancholy, frustrated, and confused, but there is not much evidence that he might be really mad. It would be highly unusual for an author to invent a character who was both pretending to be mad and mad in fact. Hamlet himself should be his own best witness. In Act I, Scene 5 he makes Horatio and Marcellus swear:

Here, as before: never, so help you mercy,
How strange or odd some'er I bear myself --
As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on,
That you, at such times seeing me, never shall,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . .
[hint] That you know aught of me--this do swear,
So grace and mercy at your most need help you.

This not only shows that Hamlet intends to pretend to be mad but that he has a very clear and intelligent mind. He can foresee that his astonishing new supernatural knowledge is bound to affect his behavior towards the King, who is already extremely suspicious of his intentions and keeping him a virtual prisoner at Elsinore, where he spies on him and encourages others to do so as well. By acting mad, Hamlet hopes to disguise his real thoughts, feelings, and intentions from a cunning adversary and friendly enemies such as Polonius and his two schoolfellows Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Further evidence from Hamlet himself that he is not mad comes in Act 3, Scene 4 when the Ghost appears once again to his son but cannot be seen or heard by Gertrude, who believes this is proof her son is mad.

GERTRUDE
This is the very coinage of your brain,
This bodiless creation ecstasy
Is very cunning in.

HAMLET
Ecstasy?
My pulse as yours doth temperately keep time,
And makes as healthful music. It is not madness
That I have uttered. Bring me to the test,
And I the matter will re-word, which madness
Would gambol from.

And a bit later in that same pivotal scene, he warns his mother not to let her husband King Claudius

Make you to ravel all this matter out,
That I essentially am not in madness,
But mad in craft.

Many of the characters in the play are led to believe that Hamlet is insane, but this proves nothing. Hamlet wants them to think he is insane. The "antic disposition" he assumes to play mind games with the King and his courtiers is sometimes so convincing that the audience is also deceived.

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Was Hamlet actually going mad in the play? Or was it just an act?

Centuries of critical ink has been spilled trying to answer this question: Is Hamlet mad? Is he a sane man feigning madness? Or a lunatic who does a really good impression of a man with all his marbles?

He claims to be putting an "antic disposition" on, claims to be not truly mad but "mad in craft", and some think that settles the question: Hamlet's putting on an act.

That answer doesn't satisfy everyone though: isn't it common for people in the grip of madness to believe, and in fact swear to everyone around them, that they are actually not crazy? Might Hamlet's insistence on his own sanity in fact be proof that he is actually mad? After all, mad people don't realize their own madness - that's part of what makes them mad.

So which is it?

The answer is both frustrating and exciting: we simply don't know. Shakespeare leaves the question of what, exactly, Hamlet's mental state is unanswered. There is evidence in the text that he is sane. There is evidence that he is anything but. The play will not give you a satisfactory answer.

The only place where this question gets an answer is in the theater, when you see the play performed. Actors and directors have to make decisions about Hamlet's behavior, and need to act on certain possibilities in the text and therefore exclude others. Some Hamlets are calculating, throwing everyone off by pretending to be crazy while he plots revenge. Others are crazed, unstable, and dangerous. Both are possible, but the question remains unsettled until a performance makes clear choices. That choice only settles it for that performance though - if you go see "Hamlet" in a different production with different actors, they may reach completely different conclusions...

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Is/was Hamlet mad?

I agree with Jamie in saying that Hamlet is definitely NOT mad. And, yes, much scholarship has been spent on arguing the contrary. And certainly he has good reason to go mad. But he doesn't. He tells us early on that madness is the ruse he will use to get to his ends met and, though his patience and sanity is stretched in unimaginable ways, he maintains his persona even though it costs him the life of his former love, Ophelia.

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Is/was Hamlet mad?

Scholars have debated this question for hundreds of years, but the general consensus seems to be that Hamlet is not mad, but terribly conflicted. This confliction often looks like madness, as when he verbally abuses Ophelia, or has a meaningful conversation with Yorick's skull. And, of course, speaking to the Ghost of his father.

Hamlet's conflicts are understandable. His father has been murdered by his uncle, his mother betrays his father's memory by marrying the evil Claudius; Hamlet's friends turn out to be "sponges" for the false king, and he accidentally kills his girlfriend's father. Despite all this evidence, Hamlet has to bring himself to act out the revenge he knows is necessary, not an easy thing to do.

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Is Hamlet mad or sane?

Here, you will have to give in your own personal imput as this question can be argued and defended either way. Consider the following aspects, then formulate your opinon accordingly.

Yes, he is mad:

He broods or ruminates without coming to any constructive decision.

He behaves irrationally, acts impulsively, and has mood swings - all symptoms of a bipolar personality disorder.

He is also neurotic, dealing with unresolved guilt not only for himself but for his family members as well, expecially his mother. He displays an almost Oedipal rage upon Claudius' substitution in the role of his father (especially as the sexual companion of Gertrude.

He wonders if he is not a bit schizophrenic and cannot rely on his senses to be "telling" him the truth. Is he hallucinating or is his deceased father really appearing to him to get a message across?

No, he is rather quite sane:

He has a sense of fairness and justice: He does not want to avenge his father's death until his has absolute proof that Claudius really did kill him. He would show clemence to his mother, overcome in her weakness.

He distrusts his own subjectivity and seeks other reference points other than his own thoughts and feelings (related to the above).

He is methodical in procedure and if he does not act, at least he stays focused on his goal.

His visions of his father's ghost are shown to NOT be simple hallucinations but indeed is his spirit in unrest. (Supernatural elements and not his own imagination).

So, is Hamlet mad or not? Take your position and look for other supporting evidence to back up your statement. Better yet, divide your class into two groups and have your students engage in a lively debate.

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Is Hamlet truly mad, or merely mad in fashion?

It seems much too complicated and puzzling to believe that Hamlet is sometimes sane, sometimes pretending to be mad, and sometimes actually mad. In Act 1, Scene 5, he tells Horatio and Marcellus that he may “put an antic disposition on.” No doubt he has decided to pretend to be mad but is only suggesting that he “might” do it. He has at least two good reasons for pretending to be insane. One is that Claudius is keeping a close watch on him, trying to guess what he is thinking, suspecting that he is plotting against him. As Claudius says to Polonius in one of Shakespeare’s most striking metaphors:

There’s something in his soul,
O’er which his melancholy sits on brood,
And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose
Will be some danger…     (Act 3, Scene 1)

Hamlet knows that it will be impossible to behave in the same way he did before he was traumatized by the meeting with his father’s ghost, by the revelation that his uncle was a murderer and usurper, and by the possibility that his own mother was an accomplice. Claudius is too clever, too watchful, too suspicious to be easily deceived. And he has others spying on Hamlet as well. By acting insane, Hamlet hopes to be able to hide his true thoughts and feelings from the prying of Claudius, Polonius, Gertrude, Ophelia, and others, who will come to include Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

A second reason for pretending to be insane is that Hamlet is obviously terribly concerned about Claudius learning anything at all about a “ghost” haunting Elsinore, especially a ghost who resembles the former king and who may have been in contact with his son. What Hamlet has in mind is that if there is any hint of his seeing and talking to his father, Claudius will believe this to be nothing but an insane delusion. If Hamlet has really been in contact with his father’s ghost, then he would surely know everything about the murder Claudius committed, and Claudius might decide to kill Hamlet or have him killed. On the other hand, if Hamlet has only imagined conversing with his father’s ghost, then he could not have learned anything he didn’t already know.

Hamlet may have had a third reason for pretending to be mad. He knows he is going to have to kill Claudius, and the simplest course of action might be to pretend to be doing it in a fit of madness—as he pretended when he killed Polonius and when he was apprehended and brought before the King. The problem here is that it would be nearly impossible for Hamlet to succeed Claudius if everybody thought Hamlet was insane.

Throughout the remainder of the play Hamlet is either mad or mad in fashion, but there is no sufficient reason to believe he is ever temporarily mad.

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Is Hamlet really mad?

Clearly Hamlet is not.  He admits to putting on a "antic disposition" so it'll throw off Claudius.  It gives him time to plan, and as we watch throughout the play, sort out his feelings.  Taking a stand against Claudius at the outset would have gotten him killed instantly.

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Is Hamlet really mad?

I don't actually think so. There are of course parts of the text that critics who believe Hamlet is mad point towards, such as his behaviour in Ophelia's chamber. However, we need to remember that he reveals to Horatio and Marcellus that he intends to put on an "antic disposition" after talking with the Ghost and finding out the supposed truth of what happened to his father. Certainly he is under lots of pressure, but there is enough evidence to make me doubt that Hamlet is mad.

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Is Hamlet really mad?

I agree also that Hamlet is not crazy. He is disturbed. He is disturbed because he has to choose between his mother and his father. This is the crux of his dilemma.

If he honors his father by revenging his father's death, he will be killing his mother's husband and destroying her happiness. If he chooses to honor his mother's happiness, he will be letting his father's death go unpunished.

There is a great weight in his decision.

I don't think we can look at the ghost scenes as being evidence of Hamlet's madness. We have to look at them instead as narratively essential moments, without which Hamlet's decision would be much less clear and therefore less dramatic.

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Is Hamlet really mad?

Hamlet suffers from depression. He has reason to! Although it might seem like he is seeing things, like his father's ghost, you must understand that he was experiencing grief. Also, who's to say the ghost isn't real? It's fiction, after all. There are plenty of supernatural elements in Shakespeare.
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Is Hamlet really mad?

I'll agree.  I don't think he really is crazy (although it's pretty hard to define that term, right?).  I think that he is too aware of what he is doing and too able to make plans at pretty much every point in the play for him to truly be insane.

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Is Hamlet really mad?

There are places in the play where he shows extreme melancholy over all of the troubles of his life, but I would argue that he is not actually mad. The most obvious place to start with this question is the fact that he tells Horatio and the others that he is going to "put an antic disposition on." He directly says he is going to act mad and even goes on to demonstrate the kinds of things he is going to say and do in his pretend madness. In the subsequent scenes, he acts oddly and alarms everyone at court, but he is clearly in command of his senses. He makes pointed jokes; he plays off peoples expectations of him; and he continues to logically plot against Claudius.

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