The Sanity of Hamlet Essay example

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The Sanity of Hamlet

One of the most controversial questions surrounding William Shakespeare's tragedy, Hamlet, is whether or not the title character was insane or merely acting. By examining Hamlet and his actions throughout the play against the characteristics of sanity, such as the ability to reason and knowledge of the difference between right and wrong, it will be shown that Hamlet was in fact sane.

Many have tried to determine sanity by proving him insane. However, this is difficult because Hamlet states he will act insane to exact revenge upon Claudius (1.5.180-181). Therefore, the reader is unsure whether Hamlet is acting or not when he appears to be insane. While it is possible to be sane and act insane, by
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Hamlet also rewrites a bit of the play to make it more similar to the ghost's account of how his father died (2.2.537-543). Hamlet reasons on two separate occasions that if the ghost is telling the truth than Claudius will give away his guilt through his facial expressions when he sees the play. "I'll have these players / Play something like the murder of my father / Before mine uncle. I'll observe his looks," (2.2.595-598). "There is a play tonight before the King. / One scene of it comes near the circumstance / . . . of my father's death / . . . / If his occulted guilt / Do not itself unkennel in one speech, / It is an accursed ghost we have seen," (3.2.74-81).

Hamlet again displays the ability to reason in act 3 scene 4. Hamlet reveals to his mother that he is aware of Claudius's attempt to send him to his death in England (3.4.207-212). This shows that Hamlet is aware of what is occurring around him and he possesses the ability to reason the actions of others and discover the secret plots laid against him.

Hamlet's final display of his ability to reason occurs in the final scene. Hamlet is talking about death with Horatio and the coming fight between Laertes and himself. "There is a special / providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis / not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it / be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all.

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