Hamlet: Fun with Insanity

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Hamlet: Fun with Insanity The true nature of one’s insanity is a difficult concept to quantify and for that matter qualify. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the protagonist, Hamlet, is given the task by his dead father to avenge his (the ghost’s) murder committed by Hamlet’s uncle and current King Claudius. In order to follow the orders of his father, Hamlet masquerades as an insane person in an attempt to discover whether the ghost is noble and speaks the truth. The madness that overcomes Hamlet seems to be an equivocal insanity, in which he might actually be insane or just pretending. To Hamlet, insanity is the manner in which he speaks and acts. However, I am led to believe that the insanity might or might not be real. Did Hamlet become truly insane, or was it just an act. What was Shakespeare’s purpose in making Hamlet crazy? Throughout the play, Hamlet makes a multitude of snide remarks to Polonius. For example, Hamlet calls the advisor a “fishmonger” (one who sells fish) which is surprisingly similar to fleshmonger (a male prostitute), (Hamlet 2.2.175). While Polonius misses this insult, he does seem to believe that Hamlet is crazy. One of Hamlet’s wittiest and most meaningful comments is that Polonius would “be as old as [Hamlet is], if like a crab/ [Polonius] could go backwards” (2.2.202). This phrase implies that the elder Polonius could grow younger if he could travel back in time just as a crab crawls backward. This seems like a crazy remark made by an insane man, but is nothing more than an insult to Polonius’s age. Polonius does recognize a “method” to the “madness” after many insults have passes by (2.2.204). However, Polonius never takes thought to the point where he believes that Hamlet is sane actually sane. For the first, Shakespeare allows

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