View Full Version : CAN I CONVINCE SOMEONE THAT HAMLET WAS MAD? please read further

03-17-2006, 11:17 AM
[COLOR=Royal Blue]Hey Guys...A few quick things-I'm new to this forum, I'm from Queensland Australia, I'm open-minded and I enjoy critically analysing shakespeare's work (especially 'Hamlet').
And I, like alot of the other people asking questions on this forum are studying Hamlet at school (yr 12), and I'm in the process of writing up an adaptation to Hamlet (That's how I came across the interesting forum)! (4th Dec 06-update-have finished school and Hamlet adaptation...but still fill free to read)

...This particular thread that I've been following, which talks about the subject of 'madness' and how well it correlates to Hamlet himself, has sparked my interest quite abit. I agree to the notion that Hamlet was not mad although he portrays being it brilliantly. I believe that he still has his wits about him, and I further believe that Hamlet himself takes a very critical eye to the world around him...which I find really cool.

So, MY question is...'Is it possible to position an audience to believe that Hamlet WAS actually mad?' This would be a hard thing to do I believe, but anyone who know's alot about 'Hamlet' and is able to deconstruct it, should be able to have the creative ability to argue that Hamlet WAS infact mad...mad as in 'lost in his own world', 'lost ability to reason', and in a more accurate case, perhaps 'paranoia' through thinking that the people around him are part of a filthy conspiracy.

To cut right to the chase though, I'm after someone who can willingly offer me some insite of what quotes, lines, or inferences I could perhaps use from Hamlet, to support IN FAVOUR of the idea that HAMLET IS MAD...

Can anyone help me? I'm very eager to hear any feedback.



P.s pronounced 'Sigh-hack'...as in the 'periodic table of elements Si H and Ac'...lol....their atomic numbers' are 14 01 89..as in 14th Jan 89-my birthday!!

03-17-2006, 11:20 AM
well, i'm sorry, but i've never actually read Hamlet . . . but hi anyways. cool name!

03-18-2006, 05:18 AM
well, i'm sorry, but i've never actually read Hamlet . . . but hi anyways. cool name!


Ha...yeah I thought it was a pretty neat 'call-sign'.

No problem, but thanks anyways.


03-18-2006, 05:26 AM
No less than you can convince me that he was sane.

Sorry.. I cannot offer up anything more than the parallels with modern life are abundant.

03-21-2006, 12:34 AM
Wish I could help...but it's been a while since I've read/studied Hamlet. (I'm in year twelve now and we did it in year ten >.<) Good luck, your question definitely intrigued me! I actually went to see an adaptation of Hamlet in which there were only three people performing, it was really interesting to see how they melded characters together and so on. (that was random, I just felt like mentioning it) Rosencrantz/Guildenstern were played particularly well...all slimy and twitchy. Awesome. IMO.

03-21-2006, 06:16 AM

I've seen one adaptation of about five shakespearean plays all put into one play! It was pretty cool seeing the player switch back and forth...again there was only three people in it. It focused on 'shakesperean love'. But I'm veering away from the topic here. Yeah I think Hamlet is an interesting character with heaps to share. I believe there was a lot more to how Hamlet truly felt if you look beyond the language of shakesepeare..but yeah...I'm a pretty random person to!

Thanks for your reply Aurelian.

03-25-2006, 08:54 AM
Wow, that sounds interesting...I'm intrigued! *raises eyebrow* Yay for randomness *high five*

Charles Darnay
03-25-2006, 10:19 AM
First, you really have to have a clear definition of "mad". You have to be able to get into some of the characters' heads - when Polonius and Gertrude say that Hamlet is mad, what does this really mean. Then you could tranfers these projections of Hamlet over to the character himself.

I once tried to support the "Hamlet is mad theory" in grade 8 - naturally, becase it was grade 8, an abridged version and I didnt really have any analytical skills - it fell through.

HOwever, and I'm sorry I don't have any specific lines (although I can say stay away from "To Be or Not to Be" it won't help), look at the parts where Hamlet is "feigning madness" to notice how he acts, and then look at the parts where he is talking with Rosencrants and Guildenstern - he appears to be in a different state of mind, but if you truly go Freud on him - you might find that he has tried so hard to convey this madness to his mother and the king that it has become him.

04-04-2006, 05:54 AM
Well, like Aurelian I studied Hamlet in year 10 and now I'm in year 12 (we're actually buddies...). I honestly think that I was the only one in my class that actually intrepreted the text as Hamlet being mad.

Unfortunately, as it was a while ago, I can't remember specific quotes from the play to help you with what you're doing, but what about his obsession with things - death, his mother and his uncle and madness itself? Doesn't Hamlet go through a state of self-alienation and, in a way, see himself as the only sane person in the rotten state of Denmark? Doesn't he see himself to think with more clarity than he had ever done before? Now, I don't know much about sanity versus insanity, but from what I've heard, when people are losing their sanity and falling into insanity, they feel that they are beginning to understand things more clearer than other people, but in fact it is that person who is the insane one. Do you get what I'm saying? I probably didn't make myself clearer - sorry 'bout that. A year and a quarter of stinking Senior English can do that to you...

Other than that, there are probably some essays on the net about this kind of stuff.

rabid reader
04-04-2006, 09:37 AM
I don't think you can say Hamlet is mad. He has very lecid moments, he is just very dramatic. He has had a boring life in the castle, and then you hit him upsdie the head with a dead father huanting you, a uncle you have to kill, a mother you just found out never really loved your father that much, and a girl friend who openly tries use her charm to manipulate you... Thats pretty over welming and probably hard to deal with, yet his mind is still sharp and his ability to make descissions (although painfully slow) are still made. Hamlet was no more mad then you or I would have been in his postition and if I may say so... I'm not that mad.

04-11-2006, 05:15 AM
A thanks to everyone who has offered their opinion in this thread. I've taken special thought to each and every one. Keep the wisdom coming!


10-11-2006, 04:00 PM
Try this link.
shakespeare.wikia.com/wiki/The_Tragedy_of_Hamlet%2C_Prince_of_Denmark_You_Dec ide_Page#Mental_Illness_in_Hamlet:_Is_Hamlet_Truly _Insane.3F
Now, all you have to do is get an idea of the symptoms of depression, alcoholism, delusionary behavior, etc, and then teach your actor to express these.

Sounds dangerous.

Good luck, A Yank

10-16-2006, 05:19 AM

Thanks for the link:) , I'll check it out...


10-17-2006, 03:22 PM

Depending on how much wiggle room you have with the play, there is a lot of potential to make Hamlet seem mad to an audience. After all, that was a hot topic of criticism of Hamlet for quite some time. One of the ways that I think Hamlet borders on insanity is in the way that his conflicting senses of duty to father and morality mess with his head. I mean, imagine yourself in his place - having to kill someone to avenge a father who may simply be vindictive, in which case murdering Claudius achieves nothing good or beneficial.

Also, there is plenty of doubt both in Hamlet and the audience about whether or not the ghost is even his father, so maybe this uncertainty creates some odd behavior and internal struggle as well. I think if you take those instances that are traditionally considered evidence of Hamlet's madness and exaggerate or rework them slightly, you will be very successful. I'm going to try and find some titles of critical works that may help.

lit dork

10-17-2006, 03:34 PM
Youngson, Robert. "The Madness of Prince Hamlet," 1999.

This is one book that will at least give you some quotes and reference points. Hopefully you can get your hands on it; I borrowed it from my university's library some time ago.

10-23-2006, 03:01 AM
Lit dork,

Thanks for the reference, it should be a lot of help to me (I'll start raiding the local libraries). Thanks again for those earlier key points that you posted too and I appreciate that you took the time to search and compose some suggestions for me. :)


11-26-2006, 03:42 PM
You say you have seen only one version of Hamlet played on stage or film. It would be beneficial to you to see several. Recommended would be the films: Jacobi's Hamlet (BBC), Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, Olivier's Hamlet and maybe Mel Gibson's Hamlet (last two plays are abreviated versions, so the first two would be my choice for you - stick to full text versions. It is good to see the actors and the directors interpret the text differently....and perhaps most importantly, the idea of Hamlet being mad...or not....

11-27-2006, 04:34 AM
G'day Janine

Yeah i've seen Mel Gibson's version and bits of Branagh's, but as you said, it's probably worth me borrowing out Jacobi's and Branagh's versions' and watching them through to gain a more indepth understanding.



Jolly McJollyso
11-30-2006, 05:09 PM
Well, let's see, a Prince, who's father has just died (was murdered, in fact), has been usurped by his uncle who, in turn, married the dead King's wife (his own sister-in-law).

As far as I can tell, Hamlet is not insane to become depressed or to seek vengeance; he's human. Besides, Hamlet shows, in many ways, a rationality not attributable to the psychotic/suicidal. In the "to be or not to be" speech he REASONS not to commit suicide, analyzing why one might fear death more than the "slings and arrows" found in life. I find Hamlet to be a little too justified in his thoughts. Obviously he's wrong about Ophelia, but when someone so close as an uncle has betrayed him, naturally he would distrust those close to him.

12-04-2006, 04:08 AM

Thanks for your post. It was insightful and very true. It seems that there is a very strong argument to support Hamlet's sanity, despite the ingredients having been there to make him head towards insanity.

Thanks again for your reply.


12-04-2006, 04:17 AM
I think to a degree we need to take hamlets "madness" in stride. Compared to everyday life now sure he was wako. But this is not everyday life, and if you donīt bealieve in the supernatural itīs not even reagular old reality. You have ghosts and takeing ghosts as a reality for the sake of the play, it makes sense he acted the way he did. He found a delima, honor was a little more important back then, and he couldnīt just call the police and say my dead fathers ghost told me my uncle killed him by pouring poisin into his ear. He had to act but killing never rests well with sane men, the fact that he didnīt just stab the guy and take the rap kinda proves to me heīs not mad. he was merley stressed out.

12-04-2006, 01:28 PM
It's difficult to see someone as mad who tells his friends (and the audience in 1.5) in very convoluted syntax that (paraphrased) "if you see me acting strangely (the "antic disposition") pay it no mind and do not indicate to anybody that my condition is not legitimate." Crazy people, by their very definition, cannot identify themselves as crazy. Hamlet chooses the guise of insanity to make himself appear "harmless" to Claudius (but that choice is a mistake because it focuses Claudius' attention on him - but SS decided to stick close to his original source for the story).

As well, if you examine Hamlet's dialogue in Act 2, you will see that his "insanity" level fluctuates depending upon to whom he is speaking. To Polonius he is nearly incomprehensible; to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern he actually holds a quasi-philosophical discussion; with the players he is lucid and engaged - fully in control. (It is of note that Hamlet - in his first meeting with Ophelia after his decision fo feign madness, says nothing at all). Hamlet also has a number of (unidentified in the stage directions) asides that clearly indicate that he is playing a role. Plus - a comparison to a certifiably insane character (read: Ophelia) clearly shows the lucidity of Hamlet's character.

In terms of his "insanity" as a result of the "stresses" in his life - well, he may have emotional outbursts and moments of intense self-loathing, but insanity? Nah. He is too methodical in his investigation to qualify as insane - and there is no way to read his final conversation with Horatio prior to the fencing scene without seeing the great change that has come over Hamlet. Like Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi, Hamlet is now the calm, accepting Jedi Master of his own fate. Crazy people aren't even in control of their own senses, let alone their fate. "Let be."

05-15-2007, 05:06 AM
In general, I don't believe that Hamlet is mad, although he is rather neurotic and morbid at times, however, the part where I began to harbour suspicions about Hamlet's feigned madness is when he is dragging Polonius' dead body to be hidden. I'm not sure what scene it was in, perhaps Act 4, Scene 3 or 4, but he says, "Safely stowed. Here they come. Who calls on Hamlet?", and if this is spoken in the right tone, he sounds as if he has lost his mind, especially if you imagine him 'stowing' a dead body in a lobby. Also the way he refers to himself in third person seems to suggest that he is no longer possesses his wits.

all about me
09-26-2007, 02:50 PM
for me I don't see that hamlet is mad but you could think of the way he kills polonius without even knowing who he was or at least being sure. and if anyone thinks that hamlet was mad then it's because of what happened to his father and that also means his NOT mad.
srry but i don't think that hamlet is mad and i don't think that anyone could help you because he truly is NOT MAD.

10-05-2007, 10:06 PM
I believe Hamlet was pretty crazy, but I think there are alot crazier people alive today that are considered sane- (Bush, Cheney, Condoleezza Rice?)

10-05-2007, 10:09 PM
I believe Hamlet was pretty crazy, but I think there are alot crazier people alive today that are considered sane- (Bush, Cheney, Condoleezza Rice?)

Like you as well, I do not mean to insult but have you actually read and deeply analyzed the book? Or just conformed to society's views and internet summaries?

Mrs. Dalloway
10-06-2007, 05:49 PM
sorry but why do you think he is mad?

11-02-2007, 01:50 PM
Well, I know it's been one whole year since anyone wrote in this thread, but the topic is interesting. I may have had to write an essay on this very subject when I was at school, although I can't really remember.

A great point to make is that no-one except Hamlet EVER hears the ghost speak. Gertrude can't see or here it when it visits Hamlet in Act 3 Scene 4. The ghost is sometimes interpreted as an extension of Hamlet's own mind - his sense of duty, perhaps. It would be difficult to argue that this is the ONLY thing the ghost represents, of course. But it is a good way to rationalise its presence away from the purely supernatural.