Free Essay Database Online


Shakespeare’s tragic hero, Hamlet, and his sanity can arguably be discussed.

Many aspects of the play support his loss of control in his actions, while other
parts uphold his ability of dramatic art. The issue can be discussed both ways
and altogether provide significant support to either theory. Throughout the
play, there are indications from Hamlet that question his mind’s well being.

Hamlet’s mood changes abruptly throughout the play. Hamlet appears to act mad
when he hears of his father’s murder. At the time he speaks “wild and
whirling” words when he says, “Why, right, you are in the right. And
so, without more circumstance at all, I hold it fit that we shake hands and
part…” (Act I, scene V, lines 132-139). It seems as if there are two
Hamlets in the play, one that is a “sensitive and ideal prince, and insane
madman, who from an outburst of passion and rage slays Polonius with no feeling
of remorse (Wallace). After Hamlet kills Polonius he will not tell anyone where
the body is. Instead, he assumes his ironic state, which others perceive as
madness. “Not where he eats, but where a is eaten. A certain convocation
of political worms a e’en at him.” (Act IV, scene III, lines 20-21)
Hamlet’s behavior throughout the play, especially towards Ophelia, is
inconsistent. He jumps into Ophelia’s grave, and fights with Laertes in her
grave. During the fight with Laertes in Ophelia’s grave, Hamlet professed how
much he loved her when he said, “Forty thousand brothers could not, with
all their quantity of love, make up my sum” Act V, scene I, lines 272-
274). However, Hamlet told her that he never loved her when she returned his
letters and gifts while she was still alive. Hamlet subtly hints his awareness
of his dissolving sanity as he tells Laertes that he killed Polonius in a fit of
rage. Hamlet had violent outbursts towards his mother. They seemed to be out of
jealousy as a result to the Oedipus complex. He alone saw his father’s ghost in
his mother’s chambers. Every other time the ghost appeared, someone else had
seen it. During this scene he finally shows his insanity when his mother does
not see the ghost. “On him, on him! Look you how pale he glares! his form
and cause conjoined, preaching to stones would make them capable” (Act III,
scene IV, lines 129-131). Throughout the play, there are also supporting factors
to argue Hamlet’s sanity. As these details compromise his madness, they in turn
balance out his mental state. Hamlet tells Horatio that he is going to assume
madness, and that if Horatio notices any strange behavior from Hamlet, it is
because he is putting on an act. Hamlet’s madness in no way reflects Ophelia’s
true madness. Instead, his actions contrast them. Hamlet’s madness is only
apparent when he is in the presence of certain characters. When Hamlet is around
Polonius, Claudius, Gertrude, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he behaves
unreasonably. When Hamlet is in the presence of Horatio, Bernado, Francisco, The
Players, and Grave diggers, his actions are sensible. Other characters confess
that Hamlet’s actions are still strange, and debate whether his insanity is
authentic or not. Claudius confesses that Hamlet’s actions, although out of
character, do not appear to stem from madness. “And I do doubt the hatch
and the disclose will be some danger; which for to prevent, I have in quick
determination” (Act III, scene I, lines 165-167). Polonius admits that
Hamlet’s actions and words have a method to them. They appear to have a reason
behind them and are logical in nature. “Though this be madness, yet there
is method in’t” (Act II, scene II, line 206). Hamlet tells his mother
“That I essentially am not in madness, but mad in craft” (Act III,
scene IV, lines 194-195). Hamlet believes in his sanity at all times. He never
doubts his control over his sanity. “Hamlet realizes his flaw as a man of
thoughts, rather than a man of actions. His cold act of Polonius’ murder is out
of rage and furious temper. He is sorry for it because he has no great
compassion towards Polonius, since he already has enough grief over his father’s
death” Hamlet, a tragic hero, did not meet his end because he was sane or
insane. He died because of his own tragic flaw of procrastination and grief.

Whether he was sane or just lost control of his actions, both theories have
sensible support. Hamlet, as seen from the beginning to the end, a prince that
was grieve stricken, until a prince of rage and passion, has developed through
the stages by his own sanity and madness. Whether or not Hamlet was sane, he
still portrayed the role of a mad man when he lost control of his actions.