Why the Antic-Disposition? Hamlet’s path to revenge is filled with deceit, intrigue, and murder, but one must ask, why the “antic-disposition” (1.5.192)? As a plot device, its only purpose is to provide comic relief for the groundlings by having Prince Hamlet insult Polonius, Guildenstern, Rosencrantz, and King Claudius in witty and humorous ways, such as calling Polonius a fish-monger, or describing Claudius as his mother because “man and wife is one flesh” (4.4.61). Nobody, not even Claudius, has an inkling that Hamlet knows that his father was murdered, so why the deception? To throw them off as he performs his own inquiry?
INTO THE MOUTH OF MADNESS: ANALYSIS OF HAMLET AND INSANITY “To be, or not to be: that is the question:” or is it really? Perhaps the more pressing issue is rather these immortal lines where uttered by the lips of a madman in the grips of insanity. Madness has major importance in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and certain questions beg to be answered. Is Hamlet truly insane? Or is he merely angry?
Shakespeare’s Hamlet has and intricate plot formed by the characters and themes throughout it. One major idea is Hamlet’s changing sanity, which fluctuates through the play as a performance and as a true madness. The other main theme which develops the play is the act of vengeance, with the delay and doubt that accompanies it. These themes, along with dramatic devices and the characters in the plot, add to the textual integrity of the play. There is a duality to the character of Hamlet, as his madness changes from a performance to true insanity throughout the play.
“To be or not to be, that is the question; whether’ tis nobler in the mind to suffer...” (Shakespeare Act 3, Scene 1). This quotation proves Hamlet becomes inferior to others and the environment through his madness, causing him to express himself explicitly towards others. Hamlet’s madness not only causes his loved ones lives but it allows his “end” to come because he accepts every challenge from his opponent. Hamlet’s madness not only affects him but Ophelia, who is mentally torn apart by Hamlet. Ophelia was once flawless, but since her encounter with Hamlet she has fallen into the same madness and wants to kill herself.
The personality traits of insanity and intellectuality also contribute greatly to the death of Hamlet. Hamlet’s tragic flaw is his procrastination. Without a doubt, Hamlet portrays procrastination and indecisiveness multiple times in the play. The ghost of Hamlet’s father visits him in the beginning of the play informing Hamlet that he was murdered by his own brother, Claudius: “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life/ Now wears the crown”(I.v.44,45). Furthermore, Shakespeare exhibits how Hamlet chose to devise a plan of acting mad, rather than avenging his father’s death immediately, progressing to his demise.
Hamlet was trying to be clever with Polonius as he kept asking him questions that he already knew the answers to such as “…have you a daughter” pretending that he does not know that Ophelia is his daughter. Hamlet was trying to confuse Polonius, making him think he was mad and trying to make Polonius look like a fool in front of the audience. Polonius then asks “…what do you read my lord?” and Hamlets response was “words, words, words.” Then he completes later on saying “Slanders sir, for the satirical rogue says here that old men have grey beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes purging think amber and plum-tree gum, and that they have a plentiful lack of wit…for yourself sir should be old as I am, if like a crab you could go backward”, here we see Hamlets cleverness in insulting Polonius as he calls him old and he has a lack of understanding. Hamlet seems to be scaring the Polonius as Polonius starts stepping back as Hamlets steps near him. Then at the end, Hamlets says “These tedious old fools” which is calling Polonius directly an old fool without trying to hide it as he did before.
The reason for this is simple, Hamlet is not mad but rather he just pretends to be mad in order express his feelings and think of ways to gain information about Cladius and the murder of his father.. In which Claudius poisoned his father to become king. Hamlet is sane from the moment the play begins to the moment he dies. He just wants people to think he has gone mad so they dont find his behavior suspicious, but there are instances when he goes over board. At the beginning of Hamlet, before Hamlet is told by the ghost that Claudius killed his father, Hamlet is broken up over his father’s death, and the marriage of his mother and Claudius his uncle.. “The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.” At this time he doesn’t show any signs of madness, only sorrow.
Madness in Hamlet and King Lear The subject of madness is a major theme in two of Shakespeare’s most well-known tragedies, “Hamlet” and “King Lear”. In both of these plays, a character feigns insanity to carry out a motive - Hamlet and Edgar respectively. However, while it is made quite clear to the audience that Edgar is only pretending to be a mad beggar (“Whiles I may escape I will preserve myself, and am bethought to take the basest and most poorest shape that ever penury, in contempt of man brought near to beast”), it is somewhat less clear whether Hamlet has crossed the line and lost control of his “antic disposition”. Shakespeare gives evidence which suggests that Hamlet is sane by having three other men also witness the manifestation of the ghost of Hamlet’s father. If Hamlet were to have seen his father’s ghost by himself, there would be a greater argument for him being insane from the outset of the play.
Hamlet is a moral and intelligent man, he is aware of what is right and wrong and it is due to this morality that he delays the murder of Claudius and ended the cycle of revenge. After conversing with the ghost of his own father, Hamlet already devises a plan to kill Claudius in order to fulfill the ghost’s wishes to get revenge. However, much time passes throughout the play when Hamlet could have taken his revenge but he has yet to complete the deed. He admits he may have been deceived by the ghost when he says, "The spirit that I have seen / May be a devil, and the devil hath power / T' assume a pleasing shape (II:ii, 627-629). Hamlet delays the murder of his uncle due to the doubt he has in the validity of the information provided by the ghost.