lets Mental AmbivalThroughout the Shakespearian play, Hamlet, the main character is given the overwhelming responsibility of avenging his fathers “foul and most unnatural murder” (I.iv.36). Such a burden can slowly drive a man off the deep end psychologically. Because of this, Hamlets disposition is extremely inconsistent and erratic throughout the plot. At times he shows signs of uncontrollable insanity. Whenever he interacts with the characters he is wild, crazy, and plays a fool. At other times, he exemplifies intelligence and method in his madness. In instances when he is alone or with Horatio, he is civilized and sane. Hamlet goes through different stages of insanity throughout the story, but his neurotic and skeptical personality amplifies his persona of seeming insane to the other characters in the book. Hamlet comes up with the idea to fake madness in the beginning of the play in order to confuse his enemies. However, for Hamlet to fulfill his duty of getting revenge, he must be totally sane. Hamlets intellectual brilliance make it seem too impossible for him to actually be mad, for to be insane means that one is irrational and without any sense. When one is irrational, one is not governed by or according to reason. So, Hamlet is only acting mad in order to plan his revenge on Claudius.
In order for Hamlet to carry out his goal of revenge, he had to be totally sane. In Act I, he is warned by the ghost not to go mad and not to harm his mother. If Hamlet were truly mad, he would have done many unorthodox acts, which would only wreck his plan of getting revenge. There can be no such thing as restrained insanity. Hamlets sanity is displayed when he does not harm his mother. Gertrude has hurt Hamlet. She betrayed his father by having an affair with Claudius and eventually marrying him. Since Hamlet does not kill her, it shows he is in full control of his mental state and that he is not controlled by his feelings like most mad people.
Another reason why Hamlet is not mad is in the way he escaped his awaited execution in England. Hamlet knew that he was to be sent to England to be killed on the orders of Claudius. But once he saw a chance of escape on the pirate ship, he took this opportunity to board the ship, which made him escape death, thus prolonging his life a little longer. If Hamlet were actually mad, it would be doubtful that he would know of Claudius plans, and he most likely would have been executed. By not becoming insane, Hamlets intellectual sharpness was able to prevent him from making regretful mistake and also saving his life.
Hamlet is far too on top of things to be mad. Hamlets intellectual brilliance is first brought out in Act I, scene V when he plans on acting mad to confuse his enemies. Hamlet is also quick to figure out who his enemies and who are his real friends. I know the good King and Queen have sent for you (I.iv.37). Hamlet instantly knows that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not paying a social visit to Hamlet, but were in fact sent as spies for the former King of Denmark to find out the cause of his sudden madness. Hamlet immediately knows that he cannot trust his former school friends, and that he must take caution in what he says when is around the both of them. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern talk with Hamlet, but “with a crafty madness Hamlet keeps aloof” (I.iv.37), and they are unable to find the cause for his odd behavior. Hamlets true intellect is brought out in Act III, scene II when he plans on putting on a play. “If his occulted guilt do not itself unkennel in one speech, / it is a damned ghost that we have seen, and my /imaginations are as foul as Vulcans stithy” (III.ii.84). When Hamlet comes up with a brilliant plan to put on a play about someone killing a King, he determines whether or not Claudius is guilty of murder, or if the ghost is really his dead father or an evil spirit whose setting him up to kill an innocent man. Hamlet coming up with a successful plan to prove Claudius guilt shows that he in full control of his mental state, and that he is far too intelligent to be mad.
The relationship that Ophelia and Hamlet had in the play could be construed as insane behavior or the main character. Hamlet goes from treating Ophelia with great tenderness, to telling her she is a whore, and he does not love her. Hamlet’s treatment of Ophelia can definitely be considered irrational, and without logic. In a letter to Ophelia, Hamlet declares his love by saying “doubt thou the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move, doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love” (II.ii.46). These words sound like those of a romantic and dedicated lover, and yet, Hamlet turns around and acts with complete coldness at their next meeting. Only a few days later, Hamlet denounces his love, and accuses Ophelia of being dishonest, saying, “I did love you once…I love you not…if thou dost marry, I’ll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery mockingly meaning a brothel, farewell. Or if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them. To a nunnery, go, and quickly too” (III.i.79). This is quite a contrast from Hamlet’s request for Ophelia to “never doubt he loves” (II.ii.46). When asked by her father Polonius whether she thinks Hamlet is “mad for thy love?”, Ophelia answered, “I truly do fear it.” (III.ii.81) By any measure, Hamlet’s treatment of his love Ophelia defies logic, and thus can be considered quite irrational.
But love is a pursuit that is neither rational nor logical. Love is governed by the heart, and thus is difficult to explain. Hamlet’s treatment of Ophelia is irrational, and illogical, but this does not make Hamlet insane. Hamlet is confused, and angry over his father’s death, and in addition, Polonius tells his daughter not to speak to Hamlet. All these factors together help explain why Hamlet treats Ophelia as he does.
In fact, Ophelia is model is a good foundation from which to define insanity. There is no question that Ophelia goes insane after her father is killed, and Hamlet leaves. After going mad, Ophelia no longer speaks in regular sentences but sings in verse that has coherent no meaning. She does not even recognize or acknowledge her own brother when he comes to her, instead she walks around giving people flowers, and not making any sense whatsoever. In comparison, Hamlet speaks in regular sentences, and is able to converse normally with those around him. With much thought, and careful planning, Hamlet searches for evidence to determine the truth about his father’s murder. And with this in hand, he departs on a path to avenge his father that is both reasonable and rational. While Hamlet might not carry the best of luck with him throughout the play, he certainly holds onto his mental integrity and ability to reason through challenges.
Hamlet feigns madness so that he will be able to successfully get revenge on Claudius. In order for his plan not to be discovered, he has to fake madness in order to throw off his enemies. For his revenge plan to be a success, Hamlet will have to be perfectly sane so that he wont sabotage his plan in anyway, and to keep himself alive long enough to carry it out. Hamlets plan on proving Claudius guilt and whether or not the ghost is his dead father shows that Hamlet is too intelligent to be mad. If Hamlet were indeed mad, he would be too dim-witted to come up with such a clever plan.