Hello. I wrote this as an in-class essay.
I'm just wondering about what I did well and what I can improve on. Thanks.Hamlet's Sanity and Insanity in William Shakespeare's The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
In the Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
, by William Shakespeare, the sane Hamlet occasionally switches between the realms of sanity and insanity. When madness suits Hamlet's purpose, he puts on an "antic disposition" (I.V.173). On the other hand, when sanity proves worthy, Hamlet reverts back to being logical. Hamlet claims he is "mad north-north-west" (II.ii.376), meaning he is mad sometimes and sane other times. Therefore, to achieve his short-term goals, Hamlet shifts between sanity and insanity, which ironically, slows his overarching goal of revenge.
To begin, Hamlet shifts into the realm of insanity to achieve his short-term goals. Hamlet uses his insanity as a weapon, changing insanity into the form of words or action. Furthermore, Hamlet is only insane towards his enemies or his enemy's allies. For example, Hamlet attacks Ophelia, who has allied herself with Claudius, with words: "are you honest" (III.i.104), "are you fair" (III.i.106). Hamlet "speak daggers" (III.ii.387) to Gertrude, because she is an obstacle to Hamlet. Also, Hamlet slays Polonius so violently that Hamlet guarantees that Polonius is "dead, for a ducat, dead" (III.iv.25). Hamlet gravely harms both Ophelia and Gertrude with his words of insanity, while sending Polonius to the grave with his actions of insanity. All three people, Ophelia, Gertrude, and Polonius, are Claudius' allies, and by wounding Claudius' allies, Hamlet is indirectly wounding Claudius. This is Hamlet's short-term goal: to rid Claudius of allies. Besides using insanity to harm Claudius' allies, the mere presence of Hamlet's insanity troubles Claudius. Hamlet understands the potential of madness; madness blurs reality and shrouds truth, therefore, causing confusion. Claudius sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to find out what "unknown afflicts [Hamlet] thus" (II.ii.17). Polonius tries to "find / where truth is hid" (II.ii.155-156). Gradually, Claudius gets more furious with Hamlet and knows that "madness in great ones must not unwatch'd go" (III.i.90). Hamlet's insanity causes Claudius to send people to uncover the mysteries of his insanity. Hamlet's feigned madness causes Claudius to accumulate anger. Claudius' confusion is Hamlet's other short-term goal. In brief, Hamlet's insanity has helped him achieved his short-term goals of eradicating Claudius' allies and confusing Claudius.
On the other hand, Hamlet returns to sanity and uses it as a method of concentration. Whenever Hamlet is sane, he is focused on the current situation. When Hamlet encounters the ghost, he tells it to "speak", because he is "bound to hear" (I.v.7). While speaking with the ghost, Hamlet cries for his "prophetic soul" (I.v.42). Hamlet is also very focused when speaking and listening to Horatio. When Horatio tells Hamlet about the ghost of Hamlet's father, Hamlet asks Horatio to "let [him] hear" (I.ii.194). While sane, Hamlet's thoughts are clear and he is focused on the topic. When meeting his father's ghost, he pays full attention to it. When Hamlet speaks to Horatio about Hamlet's father's ghost, Hamlet listens and speaks with sanity. Hamlet also refers to his "prophetic soul" (I.v.42). Prophets are usually associated with clarity, thought, and knowledge. Since Hamlet describes himself to have a "prophetic soul" (I.v.42), it shows that his mind is very clear, unlike the mind of the insane. Hamlet's short-term goal is to concentrate when necessary. Furthermore, when Hamlet is alone, his thoughts are very thorough. For example, Hamlet's "to be or not to be" (III.i.57) speech is very clearly thought out. Hamlet's thoughts are much more sophisticated than those of the insane. Hamlet's second short-term goal is to philosophize. Through the return into sanity, Hamlet is able to accomplish both his short-term goals of concentration and philosophizing.
However, due to the constant reversal between sanity and insanity, Hamlet's revenge is slowed. Hamlet's mind becomes twisted due to constant changes in personality, between sanity and insanity. Early in the play, Hamlet says that he will put on an "antic disposition" (I.v.173). However, in the last scene of the play, Hamlet tells Horatio that "in my heart there was a kind of fighting" (V.ii.4). At one point he says that he will fake insanity, while later, he says that there is fighting in his heart, which hints insanity. Due to this, Hamlet becomes indecisive. Hamlet's inability to act causes his revenge to be slowed.
Hamlet switches between the realms of sanity and insanity to achieve his short-term goals. He uses insanity against enemies and sanity as a method of concentration. However, the constant switch of sanity and insanity brings about a slow revenge.