Jan 201990
 

Over the years, many critics and scholars have written their opinions of Prince Hamlet’s “problem” in the Shakespearian tragedy The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Some of these people hold the belief that Hamlet is insane and that he delays in enacting his revenge upon Claudius for murdering his father and committing incest with his mother. Actually, the truth of the matter is that Hamlet is quite sane and he, in fact, goes about his revenge as efficiently as circumstances permit.

To begin with, it is important that Hamlet’s sanity be well established, as this is important in proving that he acted as quickly as possible in accomplishing his revenge. After first speaking with the Ghost, Hamlet comes right out and states that he will “put an antic disposition on” and tells Horatio and Marcellus to play along with his charade of madness. (I,v,197) Later, when he says, “They fool me to the top of my bent,” he is again clearly stating that he is putting on an act. (III,iii,391) Lastly, when he confronts Gertrude in her chambers, he declare that he is “essentially… not in madness.” (III,iv,209) Hamlet thereby proves his sanity by frequently declaring that his madness is all an act. Also, he gets into a number of contests of wit and often speaks quite profoundly during the play. For example, a simple discussion with Guildenstern provokes Hamlet to say that “though/ [Guildenstern] can fret [him], [he] cannot play upon [him],” meaning that Hamlet is sane enough to be wary to Guildenstern’s attempts to manipulate him. (III,ii,378-9) As another example, when he begins the confrontation with his mother, he is speaking cleverly by twisting her words into accusations. As a last example, when he is speaking with Osric, Laertes’s courtier, he toys with words and gets into a lengthy contest of wit. Therefore, it is clear that Hamlet is very much in control of his mental faculties because he declares clearly and often that he is putting on an act, and because he subsequently makes shrewd observations and arguments which draw from his keen wit.

It is important that Hamlet’s total objective be understood. If he had wanted to simply kill Claudius, he could have done it in Act I, scene 5 and the play would have been over. This, however, is not the case. Hamlet’s total objective is not only to see that Claudius is killed for his crimes, but is also to see that he is sent to Hell. Therefore, Hamlet goes about his total goal with as much efficiency as possible. The foremost objective in his pursuit is establishing his “insanity” in Claudius’s mind. This is done to prevent Claudius from suspecting any ill motives on Hamlet’s part. After spending a sufficient amount of time setting this “insanity” up, Hamlet immediately sets his second action in motion: determining the validity of the Ghost’s accusations. He does this by staging a scene in a play depicting his uncle’s dispicable actions and watching to see if Claudius’s “occulted guilt/ [Does] not itself unkennel.” (III,ii,81-2) When, at last, he is sure that Claudius is relatively unsuspecting, and that the Ghost’s story is true, then he begins to pursue Claudius’s demise. Even though he’s had a lot with which to deal, he is able to persevere at an efficient rate towards Claudius’s death. He even is willing to risk joining in with pirates in order that he may return to Denmark to kill Claudius. Though he has the chance to kill Claudius when Claudius is praying, he gives it up to wait for “a more horrid heat” so that Claudius’s “soul may be as damned and black/ As hell, whereto it [will go].” (III,iv,91,97-8) When Hamlet finally does kill Claudius, he does so when Claudius is lying about Gertrude’s passing out from the poisoning; and, thus, Claudius is doomed to the Hell to which Hamlet had wanted him sent. Therefore, it is clear that Hamlet went about his revenge as swiftly as circumstances allowed him, always keeping his total objective in mind.

So, Hamlet is, in fact, not insane but is actually of sound mind and he goes about his total objective with as much haste as possible, given the circumstances of his plan. He feigns maddness as a minute part of his elaborate plan to not only kill Claudius, but to also assure Claudius’s damnation.

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