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Sanity and Insanity in “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

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    In the Tragic History of Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, , the sane Hamlet occasionally switches between sanity and insanity. When madness orders Hamlet’s purpose, he puts on an “antic disposition” (I. V. 463). On the other hand, when sanity proves worthy, Hamlet continues back to being logical. Hamlet claims he is “mad north-north-west (II. ii), meaning he is mad sometimes and sane other times. To achieve his goals, Hamlet continues back and forth between sanity and insanity, which ironically, shows his goal of revenge.

    To begin, Hamlet starts of insanity to try and achieve his goals. Hamlet uses is insanity as a weapon, changing insanity into the form of words or action. Hamlet is only insane towards his enemies or his enemies allies. For example, Hamlet attacks Ophelia, who has allied herself with Claudius with words “are you honest” (III. i) “are you fair” (III. i). Hamlet “speaks daggers” (III. ii) to Gertrude, because she is an interference to Hamlet. Also, Hamlet destroys Polonius so violently that Hamlet guarantees that Polonius is “dead, for a ducat, dead” (III. iv).

    Hamlet deeply harms both Ophelia and Gertrude with his words of insanity, while sending Polonius to the grace with his actions of insanity. All three people, Ophelia, Gertrude and Polonius, are Claudius’ allies, and by hurting Claudius’ allies, Hamlet is indirectly wounding Claudius. This is Hamlet’s short term goal: to get rid Claudius of allies. Besides using insanity to harm Claudius’ allies, the little presence of Hamlet’s insanity troubles Claudius. Gradually, Claudius gets more furious with Hamlet and knows that “madness in great ones must not unwatch’d go” (III. i. . Hamlet’s insanity causes Claudius to send people to uncover the mysteries of his insanity.

    Hamlet’s fake madness causes Claudius to increase anger. Claudius’ confusion is Hamlet’s other short-term goal. In brief, Hamlet’s insanity has helped him achieve his short-term goals of eradicating Claudius’ allies and confusing Claudius. On the other hand, Hamlet returns to sanity and uses it as a method of concentration. Whenever Hamlet is sane, he is focused on the current situation. When Hamlet encounters the ghost, he tells it to “speak”, because he is “bound to hear” (I. . ).

    While speaking with the ghost, Hamlet cries for his “prophetic soul” (I. v. ). Hamlet is also very focused when speaking and listening to Horatio. When Horatio tells Hamlet about the ghost of Hamlet’s father, Hamlet asks Horatio to “let him hear” (I. ii. ). While sane, Hamlet’s thoughts are clear and he is focused on the topic. When meeting his father’s ghost, he pays full attention to it. When Hamlet speaks to Horatio about Hamlet’s father’s ghost, Hamlet listens and speaks with sanity. Hamlet also refers to his “prophetic soul” (I. v. ).

    Since Hamlet describes himself to have a “prophetic soul” (I. v. ), it shows that his mind is very clear, unlike the mind of the insane. Hamlet’s short-term goal is to concentrate when necessary. When Hamlet is alone, his thoughts are very thorough. For example, Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” (III. i. ) speech is very clearly thought out. Hamlet’s thoughts are much more mature than those of the insane. Hamlet’s second short-term goal is to philosophize. Through the return into sanity, Hamlet is able to accomplish both his short-term goals of concentration and philosophizing.

    However, due to the constant reversal between sanity and insanity, Hamlet’s revenge is slowed down. Hamlet’s mind becomes tangled due to constant changes in personality, between sanity and insanity. Early in the play, Hamlet says that he will put on an “antic disposition” (I. v. ). However, in the last scene of the play, Hamlet tells Horatio that “in my heart there was a kind of fighting” (V. ii. ). At one point he says that he will fake insanity, while later, he says that there is fighting in his heart, which hints insanity. Due to this, Hamlet becomes indecisive. Hamlet’s inability to act causes his revenge to be slowed.

    In the end, it is believed that Hamlet is very sane. His act of insanity is to mess with the others heads. He knows that Claudius has sent Rosencrantz and guildenstern to spy on him. He doesn’t want them to know that what he is planning is to unveil the truth, and that Claudius murdered King Hamlet. He does not want Claudius to know that he knows the truth. Hamlet switches between sanity and insanity to achieve his short-term goals. He uses insanity against enemies and sanity as a method of concentration. However, the constant switch of sanity and insanity brings him a slow revenge.

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