Questioning the Sanity of Hamlet in Shakespeare's Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

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In William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, we, as readers, increasingly question the sanity of the protagonist, Hamlet, as the play continues. His seemingly psychotic banter with the other characters of the play begins to convince us that Hamlet is, indeed, insane. Hamlet, however, states, “How strange or odd soe’er I bear myself, as I perchance hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on” (1.5.171). He specifically tells Horatio and Marcellus that he will be acting mad, as a front. Hamlet has an exceptional grasp on mental philosophy and the uses and effects of logic, more so than the other characters of the play. Because of this, Hamlet appears insane to others, but in fact remains true to his …show more content…

When Horatio and Hamlet see each other for the first time in a long while, they immediately are excited. Hamlet, with his sometimes-sinister blunt remarks, goes on to tell of how close the wedding and funeral are to each other. “Thrift, thrift, Horatio. The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables” (1.2.179). However, on the opposite end of the spectrum of Hamlet’s commentary, his conversations with Polonius are rude and often pointed. In act 2 scene 2, Hamlet makes fun of Polonius for being old and for his long-winded speeches, but does so with such intelligence and awareness that Polonius fails to understand what Hamlet is saying at all, thereby thinking Hamlet is simply mad. This differentiation between playful banter and slanderous remarks show that Hamlet was incredibly mentally alert. More than just being aware of the logic in a situation, Hamlet is mentally present enough to question even his own thought processes. Hamlet is “in the position of the professional philosopher who criticizes his thoughts while he is thinking them” (Davis 631). In Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy (3.1.58), he is questioning his own thinking by debating with himself about whether or not people dream after death. It takes a sane mind to be able to equally weigh the consequences of something as dark and intense as suicide.

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