Is Hamlet Mad?


  • 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?

Hamlet acts insane on purpose. The first time he sees the ghost he confesses to Marcellus and Horatio “How strange or odd some’er I bear myself – As I perchance hereafter shall think meet To put an antic disposition on – ” (I.v.170-172). Here, it is evident that Hamlet’s madness is all an act. However, as the act continues, Hamlet begins to exaggerate his madness. He only acts insane around the people he is trying to fool, though. When Hamlet speaks with Horatio who is aware of the act, Hamlet’s tone changes completely and he speaks truthfully to him admitting “Horatio, thou art e’en as just a man As e’er my conversation coped withal” (III.ii.50-51). If Hamlet were truly mad his plan would not have any method but even Hamlet is aware of his mistakes when he admits “I took thee for thy better” (III.iv.32) when he “accidently” kills Polonius. Hamlet seems embarrassed for a moment which emphasizes his planning instead of a real problem.

Hamlet is playing the role of a villain and his insanity is an excuse to scare and control people. He is spoiled and is used to getting his way so he exaggerates his problems with this mindset; he has never been taught otherwise. An easy way to draw attention is through exaggeration. Hamlet seems to exaggerate his madness to the point that he lives his part just as actors do but Polonius detects “Though this be madness, yet there is method in ’t” (II.ii.202-203). Even Claudius confesses “Nor what he spake, though it lacked form a little, Was not like madness. There’s something in his soul –”(III.i.162-163). Hamlet may be so good at playing a part that it seems he is mad himself; indeed, his talent of memorizing lines and acting fictional roles was discovered when he first met the First Player and gave a speech. Hamlet is obviously not new at pretending to be someone else or knowing how to get what he wants. His madness is merely another one of his spoiled acts. Truly insane people don’t know what they’re doing which is what makes them go crazy; Hamlet knows perfectly well what he is doing.




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