Madly Hamlet: “We’re All Mad Here”

Hamlet tells his friends that he will pretend to be mad. His act is extremely convincing, though. Is it really an act, or does Hamlet slip into madness during the play?

I believe it is possible that a person acts mad, but has a sane mental state. In regard to Hamlet, it’s fairly difficult to be sure of Hamlet’s actual mental state. His feelings of anger and need for revenge were possibly what allowed him to act the way he did. Since it’s impossible to measure Hamlet’s sanity, a closer look at the way he acted throughout the entirety of the play is what allowed me to determine that Hamlet’s madness was just an act.

From the beginning, Hamlet makes the conscious decision to act mad. He even tells Horatio “how strange or odd soe’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” (I.V. 171-174). This initial scene was the basis of some of my analysis. Hamlet obviously makes a very intentional decision about becoming mad rather than just an accident of “slipping” into madness. In fact, he even makes his friend promise not to blow his cover. However, as the play progresses, it does become harder for the reader to differentiate whether his madness is still an act or if he just slips into it, but we can continue to see how Hamlet’s conscious decisions play out.

On several occasions, Hamlet would choose to no longer act mad. This indicates that he could gauge during which situations were dire for him to accomplish his end goal by being a sane person and when it was necessary to put on the mad act. In the end, we can blame Hamlet’s death on multiple things, but in my opinion, his demise relates most strongly to his tragic flaw (what you may deem that to be is another discussion). Since I cannot blame Hamlet’s death on account of him acting mad, I cannot fully suggest that he slipped into complete madness. Furthermore, comparing the extent of his madness to that of Ophelia, I believe her death is a direct result of her madness. Hamlet never reaches the same level of madness that Ophelia does.

Another point of discussion is how far did Hamlet go in terms of madness when he did act mad. In the same way that an actor or actress may immerse themselves into method acting where they completely become the character they are playing, Hamlet did the same thing in regards to his acting as a mad person. Only in that sense did Hamlet slip into madness. More accurately, he allowed himself to slip to that point, and not because Hamlet had actually become mad. In conclusion, during Hamlet’s acts of madness, he may have been able to slip into it so far that during that time we may not deem him sane, but since he chose at what times he wanted to act mad, we should give Hamlet more credit on account of that.


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