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Hamlet's Psychological Sanity

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on 4 February 2015

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Transcript of Hamlet's Psychological Sanity

Andrea Chang and Chloe Chang
Hamlet's Psychological State
“A little more than kin, and less than kind” (1.2.68-69)!
“‘Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,
To give these mourning duties to your father.
But you must know your father lost a father”(1.2.90-96)...
“How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable seems to me all the
uses of the world” (1.2.138)!
"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark" (1.4.100).
Mildly Sane


Hamlet refers to the closer relationship that Claudius has with him, now that he is his stepfather. Despite this new relationship, however, Hamlet remains distanced and wary of him because of his hasty marriage with his mother. At this point, Hamlet has not begun to show signs of insanity, but is simply distressed and bitter towards those around him.
After the ghost reveals to Prince Hamlet that Claudius killed King Hamlet, Prince Hamlet immediately feigns an insanity complex to confuse his family and advisors into excusing his suspicious actions of revenge of his father's death as innocence in mental instability. Prince Hamlet initially succeeds in tricking others, but exhibits small seeds of real insanity along the way caused by his false attempts and lead to his decline to genuine insanity. King Claudius' death and the sight of Yorick's skull in the end abruptly ends Hamlet's insane episodes and returns him to his old sensible self.
Claudius basically tells Hamlet to get over his father's death and attend to his other responsibilities. Hamlet is still shocked from the news, and Claudius only makes his grief worse. His anger toward Claudius escalates, and he begins to exhibit signs of depression and emotional instability.
After Claudius tells Hamlet to stay in Denmark instead of returning to school, he depression, which are worsened by the disgust he has toward his mother in marrying Claudius. His family has either been killed or has abandoned him, leaving Hamlet to deal with the grief of his father’s death on his own. Here is depression seems warranted and is not really very surprising, given the circumstances.
Marcellus senses that there is something wrong with both Claudius and Hamlet. Hamlet is showing sign of insanity, to the point where others can sense that something is wrong. His mental state appears to get increasingly troublesome here.
“How strange or odd so’er I bear myself (as I perchance hereafter shall think need to put an antic disposition on)” (1.5.196).
Hamlet recognizes the need for him to fake being insane so that he can carry out his plan of revenge on Claudius. He begins his feigning of insanity here, but as his depression (from King Hamlet’s death) and anger (toward his mother) increase, his ploy of madness begins to become more and more real.
“for there is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so” (2.2.265-266).
After comparing Denmark to a prison, Hamlet states that he is also a prisoner of his own mind. He’s frustrated about his immoral uncle and mother and wishes for the ignorance that would get rid of his angst. Hamlet is also condemns the ignorance of his spying friends, that they might interpret his thoughts as genuine insanity when he is exhibiting sane behavior.
When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw” (2.2.388-389).
“the devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape” (2.2.607-8).
Hamlet is talking to Rosencratz and Guildenstern, warning the two of his feigned madness. He is not as crazy as he pretends to be, but still manages to scare them with this ambiguous message. He’s not totally insane yet because a sane person would be able to tell the difference between insanity and reality, of which he is still able to do so. However, Hamlet is only insane when he wants to be. Rosencratz and Guildenstern have no real way of distinguishing when he is faking his madness or is genuinely crazy.

Hamlet is referring to the ghost and trusts only his own conscience. The devil explicitly refers to the ghost, but Shakespeare implies that the devil/evil might also be in Claudius’ intentions and past; Claudius is the devil here. Hamlet is increasingly wary of other people and retracts within himself because of this realization, using his own mind to incubate both genuine and pretended insanity and justify it with this observation. This act alone, derived form Hamlet's insecurity and guilt in his revenge plot, is enough to reveal that Hamlet is sinking further into his own plan's unforeseen consequences.
“It out-Herods Herod” (3.2.13).
King Herod killed boys in biblical times to preserve his status as king. Even though Hamlet is addressing the actors, he is actually talking about Claudius. Hamlet is plotting revenge, letting the thought of his dead uncle get to his head and fuel his anger and hatred for him. He is almost excited about guilt-tripping Claudius, as if he is finally getting the upper hand in the impact of his actions, which would be as equally evil as Claudius’.
“Get thee to a nunnery...We are arrant knaves all; believe none of us“ (3.1.131-138)

"There's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow." (5.2.218)
Hamlet comes to terms with his fate and ends the ruse of his madness. He no longer attempts to delay his inevitable death by acting insane in front of Claudius, the Queen, and Laertes. He accepts the fact that the death of an innocent person is all a result of fate, and no longer desires for revenge for his father, whose death he accepts.
Hamlet is playing a game with Ophelia. He claims that all of his genuine love for Ophelia in the past is was false and is now repulsive. He cannot bear to see his polluted self to wrongly infect pure Ophelia, and therefore declares that she should be sent to a church to cleanse herself. However, this act of pretend insanity hides Hamlet’s real feelings of adoration for Ophelia. If Hamlet were sane, he would openly admit these feelings. If Hamlet actually does not love Ophelia, then the only reason causing this feeling would be his developing insanity.
“To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.” (3.1.64-68)
“A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of the worms” (4.3.29-30)
“O, from this time forth, my thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth” (4.4.67-68)!

Hamlet is resenting his father’s murder, his mother’s dishonest second marriage, and now the incompetent troops that are riding into imminent death. Hamlet uses his image of insanity to justify his “bloody” thoughts of revenge. He gives up on maintaining his false image and allows his thoughts to let go and freely sink into real insanity, since he cannot control his hopeless situation anyway.
Hamlet intends to say that both kings and beggars will succumb to life’s eventual fate, death, and there is nothing the egotistic Claudius can do to change this fact. Hamlet also excuses himself for his revenge, saying that if death is inevitable, then leading Claudius to his death will just be another part of the natural cycle of life. Hamlet does not see the immoral part of his actions and instead excuses his mad ideas as sane, natural concepts that should be commonplace instead of savage revenge.
“Alas, how is’t with you, that you bend your eye on vacancy, and with the incorporal air do discourse?” (3.4.133).

Gertrude questions the way Hamlet seems to be talking to the empty air, which further asks the question of whether Hamlet is imagining the ghost and if he was feigning insanity all along. He knows that he appears unstable at this point, putting his plan into action.
Hamlet’s soliloquy exposes his inner thoughts of suicide. He no longer wants to suffer through the burden of having to carry out plans of revenge against his own uncle, or continue to appear insane in front of the Queen. His thoughts, although extreme, seem rational given his situation. Hamlet is able to eloquently express these thoughts, getting rid of any doubt of his sanity.
"The body is with the King, but the King is not with the body" (4.2.27-8)
Hamlet talks to Rosencranctz and Guildenstern after killing Polonius. He toys with them and uses confusing wordplay to make fun of a grave situation, horrifying both of them. Hamlet appears to gain amusement from their reactions, only worsening his appearance of insanity.
“Mad as the sea and wind when both contend which is the mightier” (4.1.8-9).
Caught in his faked insanity episode, Hamlet accidentally kills Polonius, but then brushes the murder off in order to continue with his false insanity act. Here, Gertrude is describing to Claudius what she sees Hamlet as; unstable and crazy. Hamlet’s false insanity in killing Polonius actually grows his real insanity, forcing him to forget this trauma and making him go insane just because he has to keep up his false insanity mask to achieve his goals.

Who does it then? His madness. If’t be so, Hamlet is of the faction that is wronged; his madness is poor Hamlet’s enemy” (5.2.237-240).

“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him Horatio” (5.1.177-178).
Hamlet is mourning over the death of a beloved court jester, whose grotesque skull greatly contrasts with Hamlet’s image of him alive and well. Hamlet’s madness has evolved into this gross irony of death and he shows no remnants of insanity because he is so shaken by this image.

Act 1
Act 2
Act 3
Act 4
Act 5
Hamlet, before his fight with Laertes, admits that he killed Polonius as a result of his madness. Hamlet is sane enough to plead insanity, which doesn’t make his act of temporary insanity very convincing. He basically tells Laertes to forget about the murder of his father, and uses his insanity to escape from the consequences.
“Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting that would not let me sleep” (5.2.4-5)
While talking to Horatio, Hamlet opens up about the uneasiness that he felt toward Claudius. He is able to arrange coherent thoughts about his suspicions with Claudius’ intentions in sending him to England, forming a rational impression of his approaching death. It is much more obvious at this point that his insanity has been feigned all along.
Works Cited
Shakespeare, William, and David M. Bevington. Hamlet. Toronto: Bantam, 1988. Print.
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