Distinguishing the Sane and Insane Sides of Hamlet

June 29, 2009

Distinguishing the Sane and Insane Sides of Hamlet

By Nora F. Al. Omairi

The character of Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play is one of the most analyzed characters in literary history because, even though he is difficult to comprehend, he is real. It explains that Hamlet is a complex man because his problem is initially psychological. In short, his psychological disorders are a direct result of what is in his mind. It shows how Hamlet moves through a series of drastic emotions in the play, beginning with depression, moving to madness and more stress. So Hamlet appears in two different states, as a sane person and actually acting as an insane person.

At the beginning of the play he seems as a philosopher, hero and poet that is very articulate in his way of speech and behavior in front of all characters around him like his uncle, mother, friends and his beloved Ophelia. Then he is forced to imitate madness in order to take his father’s revenge and to discover the loyalty of his friends.

Hamlet emerges as a brave character and there are several examples that provide this” fearless “attitude. The first example occurs when the ghost appears in the presence of Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus. Here Hamlet is “determined ” to meet the ghost ;(study world .com)

” If it assume my noble father’s person

I’ll speak to it ,though hell itself should gape

And bid me hold my peace” (I.iii.245-250)

Hamlet wants to speak to the ghost, even though it might be a bad spirit instead of his father. Another example of his bravery is when he actually sees the ghost:

” HAM; It will not speak. Then I will follow it

HOR; Do not my lord

HAM; Why, what should be the fear ?” (I.iiii.60-65).

There are more evidence that clarify the state of mind of Hamlet’s character. The most important event is when he arranges for the actors to perform The Murder of Gonzago to find out whether or not the king is “guilty” of his father’s murder. Hamlet’s plan is to write the fictional play with the same details of his father’s death in order to see his uncle’s reaction. If the king seems nervous he [Hamlet] will know his crime from there.(study world .com) This trap took careful consideration and planning in its execution.

Moreover, he delays in taking his revenge, although he has a chance to take it when he finds his uncle praying and asking God for forgiveness. He refuses mainly because should he [Claudius]die while praying, he will be purified from all his sins and he believes that after the purification, his soul will go to the heaven and Hamlet doesn’t want that because it is not what a murderer deserves.

All these events show us that Hamlet is a sane person, with a bright mind carrying a hidden agenda. But he is forced to act differently in order to take his revenge. The turning point of Hamlet’s attitude starts after a meeting between him and the ghost where he makes sure that his uncle is his father’s killer. Then, he starts his plan by acting mad and uses harsh words to speak with his mother and his beloved Ophelia as he expresses:

” …..You jig, You amble , and You lisp ; You nickname God’s

Creatures and make your wantonness your ignorance. Go to

I’ll no more not it hath made me mad.”(III.i.144-146)

Hamlet here feels upset with Ophelia and insults her by telling her she name things according to her own “fancy” that makes him angry. Another scene where he expresses his anger after killing Polonius and shouts at his mother(studyworld.com)

Here is Your husband, like a mildewed ear

Blasting his wholesome brother.

Have You eyes? Could You on this fair mountain leave to


And batten on his moor?

Ha’have You eyes (III.iiii.65-68)

He tells Gertrude that her new husband is nothing like Hamlet’s father and how she can live with the murder of her previous husband. Furthermore, Hamlet asks her to leave Claudius and help him to avenge his father’s death. Also, he treats all people around him madly and mysteriously. He expresses his feelings of anger and nothingness of his father’s illegible death and his mother’s quick marriage .He feels unsatisfied of his mother’s marriage and he expresses that by saying :

” …….Why she, even she – O,God

Abeast , that wants to discourse of the reason,

Would have mourn’d longer —married with my uncle,”(I.ii,149-152)

This soliloquy shows us Hamlet feelings after his mother got married to his uncle only two months of his father’s death. He feels disappointed of his mother and all women as he say:

Let me not think on’t —Farilty ,thy name is woman—“(I.ii.145)

Besides, he now hates women which makes him change his way of treating them like Ophelia when he refuses to marry her by saying:

If thou dost marry ,I’ll give thee this plague ——– if thou

Wilt needs marry ,marry afool ;for wise men know well enough what

Monsters you make of them”(III.i,135-137)

Because Hamlet shows Ophelia his madness that makes her lose hope of marrying the one she loves so much and later that leads her to the tragic death.

The theme of relation is the most important theme of the play because it shows us the reality of the all characters. This theme is very clear in the play through many scenes. The first one is the relation between Hamlet and Ophelia at the beginning he loves her so much that is obvious in (II.ii,121) in Hamlet’s letter to her. He writes that “I love thee best”. This is the first time Hamlet admits his feelings for Ophelia, yet after he becomes mad , his speech and actions lead to Ophelia’s madness and pitiful death near the end of the play. In the play the relation between Hamlet and Ophelia is pathetic. After Hamlet cruelly kill[S] Ophelia’s father she becomes mad and suicidal because of her father’s sudden death and Hamlet subsequent exile. The second side of relations is in the relation between Hamlet and his friends. In this side, there is comparison between the relationship between Hamlet and Horatio and that of Hamlet with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. First, the relation between Hamlet and Horatio begins after Hamlet’s depression over his father’s death and his mother’s incestuous marriage with his father’s brother. This causes Hamlet to seek counsel in his friendship with Horatio because of his loyalty and good qualities. That’s clear in many events throughout the play. The scene where Hamlet chases after the ghost of his father, Horatio does not wish that Hamlet’s interest in the ghost that will cause him any harm by supernatural elements. It is evident that the friendship between the two characters is well established. In addition, Horatio’s resolute swearing of silence about the matter of King Hamlet’s ghost is an indication that he is a close friend to Hamlet. In contrast, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern change their loyal to Claudius to seek prestige, demonstrating that they are not true friends to Hamlet. As a result, Hamlet shows his respect for their loyalty when he changes the letter they carry ordering his death to order the death of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern themselves. Hamlet values Horatio and considers him as a friend that he can trusted and someone to confide in. The third side of relation in this play is the strange relation between Hamlet and his mother. It is a complicated one and is somewhat open to interpretation. In act 1, sc,2 Hamlet and his mother are close enough that he can insinuate insult her whereas in act 2,sc,2 Gertrude says that she feels the reason for Hamlet’s recent odd behavior is her hasty marriage to Claudius, indicating that due to the closeness of the relationship she had with Hamlet, she knows that the marriage upset Hamlet. Later, in act 3, sc.4 when Hamlet goes to see his mother after the play and Claudius’s guilty reaction to it, the words exchange between the two of them further suggest that there is a close relationship between Gertrude and Hamlet. That’s leads to the end of this scene and the two are reconciled and Gertrude asks Hamlet for an advice as to what action she should take in order to help Hamlet to take his revenge. The final side of relation in the play is the relationship between Hamlet and The King. It is a very ambiguous relation because both of them want to kill each other. The king wants to kill Hamlet indirectly by sending him to England and he orders the King of England to kill him immediately. Whereas Hamlet waits the perfect chance to kill his uncle and fulfill his task, the revenge.

All these events show us how the relation between Hamlet and other characters help him to discover the reality of each character.

Many critics frequently argue the madness of Hamlet. It’s difficult to label Hamlet as either sane or insane, especially when he implies to Horatio that he would only act mad. However, there many reasons that can lead him to a mental breakdown, including betrayal , deceit and murder. Much of Hamlet’s madness come from the fact that his father is murdered by his uncle ,who then takes his queen and crown. Another reason why many believe he is sane is displayed in the opening acts where Hamlet is not the only character who can see the ghost. Also at the end of the play Hamlet orders Horatio to stay alive to tell his story to others. To say that he is a sane person who wants to avenge his father’s murder. On the other hand, the death of his father is a complete setback to his nobility. That alone can cause a person to go insane, and that is why so many critics believe he is insane.

I think that Hamlet is a sane person, because at the end of the play he wants to tell the whole world that betrayal does not come only from strangers it also comes from relatives.

Works Cited

Shakespear, William. Hamlet.York Press,Place Riad Solh,Beirut ,1992.

“Hamlet’s character Trails” Study World.


Shakespear%5C Hamlet’s _character_ Trails>[May2009]

“The sane Hamlet.” 123helpme. <http://www.123helpme.com/search,asp&gt; [Marsh 2009]

“A character analysis of Hamlet from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet”

Academon. http://www.academon.com/lib/paper/62355.html [

May 2009]

“Hamlet insane essays “Megaessays.


[Jun  2009]


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