Insanity in Shakespeare’s Rendition of Hamlet

Hamlet’s “Insanity” Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines insanity as “a deranged state of mind, commonly exhibiting behavior considered abnormal in society,” and depression “a psychoneurosis or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies. “1 Although Shakespearean character Hamlet shows classic signs of depression, this does not necessarily mean that he has gone insane. Many signs show that he acts insane intentionally.

Despite the fact that depression can lead to insanity, it does not mean every person experiencing depression also goes through insanity as well. Sources from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, www. WebMD. Com, and even the play Hamlet itself prove that Hamlet does exhibit signs of depression, but not necessarily insanity. Depression often stems from a traumatic conflict in the past (in Hamlet’s case, the death of his father). He obviously shows his depression, expressing his contempt for his father’s successor Claudia, as well as his mother for marrying Claudia shortly after the late King Hamlet’s death.

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Depression also links to suicidal thoughts, of which Hamlet also suffers, as seen from his first soliloquy- “To be or not to be: that is the question” Despite suffering from depression, Hamlet clearly proves he has full sanity. For example, he talks to Horopito in a sane manner when he discusses his plans for revenge with him. His only acts of “insanity” occur when around nobles or figures of high authority, such as Claudia or Polonium. The acts of insanity have a deep underlying motive- to fool the entire court of Denmark into thinking he has gone mad. He does so in order to convince Claudia that he serves no threat to the inn’s throne.

The seemingly insane behavior also cloaks his plans for revenge and prevent him from looking suspicious to Claudia. These sources prove that Hamlet has indeed not gone insane. Therefore, his eccentricity serves as a part of his plan for revenge. Proponents supporting the belief that Hamlet has gone insane argue that Hamlet’s act of killing Polonium proves he has gone insane.

However, Hamlet did the act in a fit of rage due to mistaking Polonium for Claudia, differing from an act done in insanity. He had reason as he suspected someone hiding behind the curtain, and he attacked Polonium, a common reaction done by depression victims out of anxiety and fear. “Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and often leads to reckless decisions that are not well thought through. However, one’s natural self defense instincts can lead to this”. Proponents also argue that Hamlet acts unusually around Aphelia. This argument seems invalid, as he used it to feign insanity, a part of his plan for revenge. The plan worked, as Hamlet successfully fooled Polonium into believing Aphelion’s ejection of Hamlet’s love caused his “insanity”.

People also argue that Hamlet’s contemplation of suicide shows he has gone mad, but this does not necessarily prove mallet’s Insanity Although Hamlet may nave spoken out AT oppression, ten play implies that he knew Polonium and Claudia spied on him. The soliloquy only proves his intelligence and skill at acting insane while plotting Classis’s death. Most arguments tat Hamlet went insane prove wrong, as Hamlet faked his insanity to look harmless which at the same time planning to avenge his father’s death by killing Claudia.

Arguments and evidence prove that Hamlet has indeed kept his sanity. His actions of insanity all had a purpose. Furthermore, he exhibits clear sanity when thanking people he trusts. However, Hamlet does suffer mild depression. The depression only lasts temporarily and does not go to the point of insanity. In the end, Hamlet gives clear signs that he has not gone mad. He behaves insane in front of people off high authority, possibly to spread word that has has gone mad. Hamlet does act sane not only towards people he trusts, but also to people he does not see as a threat.

For example, he acts with sanity when with Horopito, whom he trusts to confide his plan to kill Claudia, and also ISRC, whom he openly insults due to Curio’s lack of intelligence and self thinking (as Horopito says, “His [Curio’s] purse is empty already; all’s golden words are spent” (V:ii:143-144), meaning that ISRC is too much of a fool to notice Hamlet’s feigned insanity.

To conclude, Hamlet does not suffer from insanity, even though he exhibits symptoms of mild depression. Although people cannot easily identify insanity, they often mistake other things for insanity. Hamlet shows no insanity, and only suffers minor depression. However, with this controversial issue, one can also question the sanity of other characters as well, such as the depraved Claudia and the corrupted society of Denmark. One can also wonder what would have happened if Hamlet had not died in his duel. If he did, would he have gone insane?

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Insanity in Shakespeare’s Rendition of Hamlet. (2017, Sep 04). Retrieved from