Hamlet - Was He Mad

English 30 Shakespeare

For centuries, scholars have been debating the issue on whether Hamlet - the prince of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet - was mad. This question is not as easy as it sounds to answer; this is due to the fact that there are numerous arguments to support both sides of the issue. For many reasons, it is easy to believe that Hamlet was indeed mad. After all, Hamlet’s behavior throughout most of the play is extremely erratic and violent. However, there is another way to look at his actions; there are indications within the play that there was actually a method in his madness, suggesting that he was not mad at all.
One of the major arguments that Hamlet was mad, was his erratic and violent behavior in many parts of the play. His erratic behavior is especially evident in his conversation with Ophelia:
Hamlet: ...I could accuse me of such things that it were better
my mother had not borne me: I am very proud,
revengeful, ambitious, with more offenses at my beck
than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to
give them shape, or time to act them in. What should
such fellows as I do crawling between heaven and
earth! We are arrant knaves, all; believe none of us...
* Act 3 Scene 1
One minute Hamlet tells Ophelia that “I did love you once.”1 Then in his next line he says “I loved you not.”2 This quick change in moods suggests that he was mad.
Hamlet: Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,
Stew’d in corruption, honeying and making love
Over the nasty sty-

1 - Act 3, Scene 1
2 - Act 3, Scene 1
Queen: O, speak to me no more;
These words like daggers enter in my ears.
No more, sweet Hamlet.
*Act 3 Scene 4
This excerpt is from Hamlet’s conversation with his mother after he lays his trap down on Claudius. He speaks with such anger and wrath that his own mother fears him and screams for help. Consequently, Polonius who is hiding behind the curtains screams for help, and Hamlet stabs him thinking that he had caught Claudius spying on him.
Hamlet: Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!
I took thee for thy better, take thy fortune:
Thou find’st to be too busy is some danger...
*Act 3 Scene 4
Throughout this whole scene Hamlet seems mad: the rage he expresses towards his mother, he killed Polonius in a ‘fit of madness’, and also when Hamlet seniors ghost appears to him. This is the point in the play when Hamlet seems the most mad. In all of the other instances, everyone was able to see the ghost; but in this scene the ghost can only be seen by Hamlet. When Hamlet starts speaking to the ghost even his mother thinks that he is mad: “This is the very coinage of your brain: This bodiless creation ecstasy is very cunning in.”1 When the queen reports this deed to Claudius, she sates the he was: “Mad as the sea and wind....”2
When Hamlet goes before Claudius to confess for the murder of Polonius, he refuses to tell where the body went, and seems to make a joke out of the whole thing.
Claudius: Now, Hamlet, where’s Polonius?
Hamlet: At supper.
Claudius:At supper! Where?
Hamlet: Not where he eats, but where he is eaten: a certain
convocation of politic worms are e’en at him...
Hamlet: A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a
king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.
*Act 4 Scene 3
1 - Act 3 Scene 4 2 - Act 4 Scene 1
Even when telling Claudius where the body was, he seemed to take the whole incident as a joke. “...You shall nose him as you go up the stairs into the lobby.”1 “He will stay till you come.”1
Hamlet’s madness is not only evident in his actions and words, but sometimes in his thoughts. During Hamlet’s first soliloquy, he expresses deep anger and resentment against his father’s death and his mother’s hasty remarriage to his uncle.
Hamlet:O, that this too too-solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His cannon ‘gainst self-slaughter! God! O God!
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable profitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!...
*Act 1 Scene