Merely Bad Dreams: Sanity In Hamlet

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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. Hamlet is not truly mad because he is merely using the guise if madness as part of his plan to murder Claudius. After the ghost of old King Hamlet relates the dreadful story of his demise to the young prince Hamlet realizes that his abhorrence of his uncle Claudius is wholly justified. To avenge his father’s murder, Hamlet valiantly uses his keen mind to devise a plan that will confuse Claudius and lure his uncle into a false sense of security. Hamlet decides the best method of deception to trick Claudius is to pretend that he suddenly becomes a raving lunatic. He reveals his plan of action to Horatio, a longtime friend that Hamlet trusts intensely, warning Horatio not to divulge the truth of his sanity. How strange or odd some’er I bear myself (As perchance hereafter shall think meet To put an antic disposition on) That you, at such times seeing me, never shall, With arms encumbered thus, or this headshake, Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase (I.v.190) Hamlet then proceeds to carry out his plan, but does not entirely pull off his act of

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