Madness is a vital plot element in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Both young Hamlet and his love Ophelia appear mad throughout the play’s duration, but only Ophelia has a genuine affliction of insanity. Although stricken with grief by his father’s death and the clamorous events that follow, Hamlet does not become truly mad because he is still able to distinguish right form wrong and maneuver logically in his plan to avenge his murdered father. Shakespeare surreptitiously places revelations of Hamlet’s sanity throughout the play. Though his planned maneuver to murder his uncle Claudius, the contrast between his feigned madness and Ophelia’s true madness, and his ability change behavior around different characters that possess his trust, Hamlet’s true, rational condition emerges from beneath his veil of insanity.
What is the difference between Hamlet’s madness and Ophelia’s? Is there a marked difference in their behavior and speech? The theme of madness is one of the main themes in the tragedy Hamlet. Hamlet pretends to be mad and Ophelia is driven to actual madness and even suicide. Hamlet starts to act as a madman to avenge the death of his father by his uncle.
He then comes up with a plan to have the actors put on a play that is similar to the Murder of King Hamlet. Hamlet assumes that if Claudius has a reaction towards the play, he is guilty. This soliloquy is important because it reveals that Hamlet believes that he is dull spirited, it also points out that Hamlet is frustrated at himself for not having killed Claudius yet. All Hamlet is thinking about for the duration of this soliloquy is Claudius, and how he killed King Hamlet. Toward the end, Hamlet comes up with an idea to know if Claudius is guilty.
The death of one’s father and a ghostly visitation thereafter are events that would challenge the sanity of anyone. The circumstances of King Hamlet’s death render it especially traumatic. The late King seemed to be an idol to his son; Hamlet looked up to him and aspired to have the same qualities. Hamlet doesn't like King Claudius and sees him as a swindling usurper who has stolen not only the dead King’s throne, but Hamlet’s as well(2.4). Hamlet shows Gertrude that she has lowered her standards by marrying Claudius, When he refers to old Hamlet as, “A combination and a form indeed / Where every god did seem to set his seal” (3.4.55-61).
Hamlet’s uses antic disposition as a tactic to uncover the truth behind his father’s death which leads the reader into believing that Hamlet is truly insane. However, the truth of it all is that it is an act of foolishness to distract others into believing that he is mentally ill. Through the use of character Hamlet proves himself as a strategic thinker by congregating solid evidence that is pointing towards Claudius being guilty of performing an act of violence. Hamlet begins to question the presence of the ghost as he states, “The spirit that I have seen/ May be the devil: and the devil hath power/ To assume a pleasing shape” (II, ii, 596-597). The act of logical thinking demonstrates that Hamlet did not act hastily and commit a sin after witnessing his father’s spirit.
As we progress through his soliloquys in the play we see changes in Hamlet’s emotions and feelings towards what he eventually wants to do. By the third soliloquy we have found out about Hamlet’s fathers ghost and that Claudius was the one who killed him. Hamlet is angered by this and assures that he will only think of getting revenge on Claudius. Later he realizes that he should stop procrastinating and hurry up and avenge his father, but he doesn’t have the courage to do it. Hamlet also expresses the possibilities that the ghost could have been the devil.
Hamlet himself says, "That I essentially am not in madness, but mad in craft." He thought about everything he was doing, and everything he was going to do. Hamlet did in fact act like he was mad, just so he could follow through on his plan to avenge his father's death. Hamlet acted like he was mad because he did not want to outright kill Claudius, because he would probably go to heaven, and Hamlet wanted to make him suffer like Claudius had made his father suffer. Hamlet also knew that he could not go around telling people that Claudius killed his father just because a ghost told him so.
This presents the question “Does Hamlet ever truly go mad?” The leading events would certainly justify madness and his actions and conversations with other characters would indicate a true madman. This is exactly what he wants them to believe. He cunningly uses insanity as a provision in his quest to avenge his father’s death. It is during the conversation with his father’s ghost that Hamlet first admits his contrived madness when he says “How strange or odd some’er I bear myself- As perchance hereafter shall think meet To put an antic disposition on” (1.5; 179-181). He further elaborates exactly how he will convince people of his madness by saying “That you at such times seeing me, never shall, With arms encumbered thus, or this headshake, Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase” (1.5; 182-184).
In the soliloquy, Hamlet is at first upset with himself about finding ways to avoid avenging his Father’s murder, like his spirit in ghost form told him to. This complaining turns into self hatred and then Hamlet is insulting himself outright. The main reason for this is he has agreed to get revenge on Claudius so his father’s spirit can be at peace, but he hasn’t done it yet. The fact that the Player seems to be more able to get into the mindset of revenge than he can further discourages him. This on top of the fact that Hamlet’s dad is dead and his mother married that man he hates most in the world makes for a pretty melancholy fellow.
I will not say that Hamlet is totally not crazy in this play. After the death of Hamlet’s father, there are many occurrences that shaking Hamlet’s mentality. In the play, Hamlet is pretending to be crazy because he want to revenge his uncle, King Claudius. To show that my answer to this question is right, I will explain my reasons why I am really sure that Hamlet is not crazy and I will give the evidences to support my arguments. The first, someone will be called as crazy man if he has mental instability.