When a reader goes through the play Hamlet by Shakespeare, Hamlet can be perceived to exhibit two personalities. The first type of Hamlet is quite ferocious who treats people around him with cruelty. Good examples include; extermination Polonius and telling how he would pull his guts and place them in another room; treating Ophelia with malice and killing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern without exhibiting any form of sympathy. The second type of Hamlet illustrates an intellectual and educated man who has dedicated his life to the truth and used poetry to express himself. Also, Hamlet might be perceived to be a tragic hero who is driven by the revenge of killing Claudius but finds it difficult to do it immediately because of some barriers. The difference personalities exhibited by Hamlet makes one question whether Hamlet was mad or was pretending to be mad in regards to the committed drive to revenge his father’s death (Shakespeare, Mowat and Werstine 6). From the play, it is evident that Hamlet pretended to be mad for the purpose of bringing confusion to Claudius and his followers.
Hamlet makes it clear to Guildenstern, an old friend of his that he is faking his madness. He asserts, “I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw,” (Shakespeare II. ii. 360.). He asserts that after Guildenstern questions his allusion of “his uncle-father and Aunt-mother are deceived.” Nonetheless, Guildenstern does not understand or rather perceives the allusion to be meaningless as later in the play, in the presence of King Claudius, Queen Gertrude, Rosencrantz, Polonius and Ophelia, Guildenstern makes the assertion that Hamlet exhibits madness. When the king questions on Hamlet’s odd behavior, Rosencrantz states that Hamlet agrees to the fact that he is destructed but not revealing the cause of the destruction. Guildenstern supports the claim by stating that they don’t find him to be of sound mind but rather exhibiting “crafty madness” that makes him detached whenever he is questioned on his actual state of mind (Shakespeare III. i. 8.).
Hamlet’s madness is perceived to be feigned by the king and his attendants despite them being the ones that mostly view him to exhibit lunacy. Polonius is the first individual that proclaims that Hamlet is mad and perceives it to the reason why Ophelia resisted Hamlet’s affection. When meeting the king, Polonius states;
“I will be brief: your noble son is mad:
Mad call I it; for, to define true madness,
What isn’t but to be nothing else but mad?
But let that go” (Shakespeare II. ii. 92)
However, later in the play, Polonius begins doubting whether Hamlet is mad especially when he questions the actual state of mind of Hamlet when conversing with him (Shakespeare II. ii.203-4.) Nonetheless, the king remains in doubt after Polonius announcement of Hamlet. The king gives a directive to his henchmen to find the reason why Hamlet puts on the act of being mad. The directive clearly indicates that the king was aware of Hamlet’s pretense. The king later states that Hamlet’s behavior was rather melancholic and not madness. He asserts;
“What he spake, though it lacked form a little.
Was not like madness” (Shakespeare III. i. 163-4.)
As stated earlier, from the play, it is evident that Hamlet pretended to be mad for the purpose of bringing confusion to Claudius and his followers. Shakespeare gives Hamlet various personalities to Hamlet, possibly to bring about the tragedy that involved the death of various people in the play. Most individuals such as Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Polonius, Ophelia and Laertes become victims of circumstances as a result of Hamlet’s drive to kill Claudius. Hamlet himself points out that he is not mad but rather pretends to be mad. The king and his followers also doubt the trueness of Hamlet’s madness.