Hamlet: In His Right Mind's Eye
Crazy, or not crazy- That is the question. The matter of Hamlet's so called madness, has been an item of debate since the first performance, and will probably be a continuing argument well into the future. I believe Hamlet was not crazy, because he proves to be in complete control of his psyche in several parts of the play. These three reasons are the main points of argument for Hamlet's sanity. His behaviors is only erratic in front of certain people, he shows logic and reasoning in his plotting, and finally, actually admits to several people to be only "acting" mad. These are hardly the actions of a madman.
First of all, the fact that Hamlet's irrational behavior emerges only in front of certain individuals shows he was only acting. He acts insane in front of Polonius, Claudius, Gertrude and Ophelia, while remaining perfectly normal in front of Horatio, Marcellus, the players and the gravedigger. Hamlet convinces Ophelia of his madness by going into her room "with a look so piteous in purport as if he had been loosed out of hell to speak of horrors,"(2.1.92)and grabbed her and examined her face. Then he let out "a sigh so piteous and profound as it did seem to shatter all his bulk and end his being."(2.1.106) After that incident, Polonius believes, that Hamlet's madness "is the very ecstasy of love."(2.1.115) Claudius is convinced, however, that that is not the case. He believes that something else is troubling Hamlet. "Love? His affections do not that way tend; Nor what he spake, though it lacked form a little, was not like madness. there's something in his soul o'er which his melancholy sits on brood" (3.1.176) After Hamlet kills Polonius, Gertrude becomes completely convinced that Hamlet is "Mad as the sea and the wind when both contend which is mightier."(4.1.7) With these characters convinced of his madness, Hamlet is able to carry out several plans to avenge his father's death.
The logic he uses in his plots is proof of a sane mind. He successfully uses the players to reveal Claudius is the murderer by changing the play they perform to reenact the murder of Hamlet's father. "Let the galled jade wince; our withers are unwrung." . When the murder scene is enacted, Claudius calls for lights and storms out of the room. Claudius, knowing Hamlet is a threat, has him sent to England along with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. the two bear a letter that was to have Hamlet executed upon arrival in England. But Hamlet takes the letter while they slept an changed it "I sat me down, devised new comission, wrote it fair." Hamlet escaped on a pirate ship, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern did not know about the change of letters until they were the ones that were killed. These actions required cold calculation and execution, two things not found in madmen.
Finally, the most important fact showing that Hamlet was indeed not crazy is that Hamlet admits to being sane several times. When speaking to the befuddled Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, he cryptically reveals "I am but mad north by north west. When the wind is southerly, I know a Hawk from a Handsaw." (2.2.400) Although the two do not understand Hamlet's quote, he's actually admitting he can distinguish between things that are different, and thus perfectly sane. Hamlet admits his sanity more clearly in a Conversation with Horatio and Marcellus. After the three receive a visit from the ghost, Hamlet asks the other two to swear never to admit they know anything about Hamlet's condition "never so help you mercy, how strange or odd some'er I bear myself (As I perchance hereafter shall think meet to put an antic of disposition)"(1.5.190)
In other words, no matter how crazy he acts, Horatio and Marcellus should not let on to know he is only acting. Finally, the most prominent confession of sanity is that of Hamlet's to Queen Gertrude. "..I essentially am not in madness, but mad in craft." Thus he admits once and for all, to be merely acting crazy.
In conclusion, the possibility that Hamlet may have been mad is only supported by his inability to act swiftly. Other than that, it is almost indisputable that Hamlet's madness was nothing more than an act, devised to provide a facade for his plan to avenge his father's death.
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