Hamlet's State of Mind


Throughout Shakespeare's play Hamlet , the main character, Hamlet, appears insane. It is easily debatable whether or not this diagnosis is accurate.

At the beginning of the play, Hamlet is deeply disturbed by his father's death and his mother's hasty marriage to his father's brother. While Hamelet is quite obviously greif-stricken, he remains coherent and reasonable.

When Barnardo, Horatio, and Marcellus take Hamlet to see his father's ghost, and Hamlet learned his father was actually murdered by his brother, he becomes very confused, unsure of what to do or how to avenge his father.

When Horatio and Marcellus find him, Hamlet still has the presence of mind to swear them to silence. The news from his father had not driven him crazy. However, when he returns to the castle, he does talk like a madman, calling Polonius a fishmonger instead of recognizing him as Claudius's advisor (Act 2, Scene 2, Line 190). He also goes on to say, "for if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a good kissing carrion -- have you a daughter? (Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 197-199)" This not only shows once again that Hamlet does not recognize Polonius as well as not making much sense, but it also shows disorganized thinking patterns in his leap from 'kissing carrion' to 'have you a daughter.'

Despite his apparent insanity, Hamlet still has the presence of mind to be concerned about his immortal soul. He wonder if the ghost he saw was really his deceased father, or if it was Satan trying to trick him. It also would take clear thinking to devise the plan Hamlet devises to bare the conscience of Claudius as he describes it to Horatio:

"There is a play tonight before the King. One scene of it comes near the circumstance, which I have told thee of my father's death. I prithee, when thou seest that act afoot even with the very comment of they soul observe my uncle. If his occulted guilt do not itself unkennel in one speech, it is a damned ghost we have seen, and my imaginations are foul as Vulcan's stithy. Give him a heedful note for mine eyes will rivet to his face and, after, we will both our judgements join in censure of his seeming (Act 3, Scene 2, Lines 80-92)."

These examples have clearly expressed that Hamlet is not insane, but simply putting on a mask of madness to hid his knowledge.