Ankita Mitra 8A #12
March 20, 2014
A Method to Madness
Polonius's words, "Th8ough this be madness, yet there is method in't." (1) clearly show the reader that Hamlet simply feigned his insanity. William Shakespeare's parents gave birth to him in Stratford-upon-Avon in the sixteenth century. His son, Hamnet, died at the tender age of eleven years. This influenced the writing of Hamlet - one of the greatest revenge tragedies in literature. Insanity is a non-medical term referring to mental illness. Psychology Today defines insanity as "a state in which one cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior."(2) This means that an insane person does not have mental stability. However, Hamlet was
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. II. ii. 195
insane only in the presence of certain people, which proves that he was only pretending to be insane. His declaration to Horatio, his controlled madness, and the deep meanings to his words all prove this.
Hamlet always remained a man of exceptional intellectual power. There are lots of instances in the play that Hamlet deliberately feigned fits of madness in order to confuse the king and his attendants. His declaration to Horatio to act "strange or odd" and to "put an antic disposition on" (3) clearly proves this. It foreshadows his madness and tells the audience that he had feigned the insanity shown. When talking to Guildenstern, he says that "his uncle-father and aunt-mother are deceived," and that he is only "mad north-north-west." (4).This shows that he chose madness only at certain times. His 'mad' words always have meaning to them, and even Polonius and Claudius see this when they say, "Though this be madness, yet there is method in't."(5), "Get from him why he puts on this confusion. What he spoke…was not like madness."(6). This tells us that Hamlet actually wishes to convey
(3) Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. I. v. 170-172
(4) Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. II. ii. 360
(5) Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. II. ii. 195
(6) Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. II. i. 2
something deep whenever he behaves in a 'mad' way. He uses this 'insanity' to his advantage.
However, there are several instances which clearly indicate that Hamlet suffered from symptoms of insanity like melancholy and depression. The first sign of his depression is evident in all of...