Why the Antic-Disposition? Thoughts on Hamlet's Madness

1284 Words6 Pages
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? Two months pass and he accomplishes nothing, and when he finally does try to prove Claudius’ guilt, he makes it obvious that he knows of his uncle’s sins. The answer is much simpler. While Hamlet cries that he cannot “weep for [Hecuba]” (2.2.587) and how he cannot act or have the passion like the player, he has actually deceived himself, for he has played the part of the mad man so well, that he does not even recognize his own slip into madness. It immediately needs to be pointed out that Hamlet is a man of a very high education. His time at Wittenberg clearly has honed his wit and crafted him into a deeply philosophical young man. His mirror, in this regard, should be Horatio, a man who is not only his friend, but also school mate who has received almost the exact same education as Hamlet. But there are blaring discrepancies in their characters and actions throughout the play. Horatio is seen as the thoughtful and un-impetuous young scholar whom Hamlet admires for calm attitude. As P.J. Aldus points out, Hamlet’s manic depressiveness as induced a sort of paranoid schizophrenia, which causes Hamlet to ponder as to why people are afraid of what lies after death (3.1.64-98), and then feel disgusted over the death of a beloved childhood jester

More about Why the Antic-Disposition? Thoughts on Hamlet's Madness

Open Document