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The theme of Hamlet’s craziness or his image of a mad man has been a key point of contention among readers of Hamlet for many centuries. However, no one ever thinks about how adequate the secondary characters are in certain situations and moments of the plot. As far as we know Claudius concludes that Hamlet is insane, while his murder of his own brother and marriage to his sister-in-law show a distinct absence of common sense and morality. Moreover, if Hamlet is crazy, how healthy is Gertrude, who marries almost instantly, and to her gone husband’s brother? And what about the Danish courtyard? The image of apathy and giving permission to such an incestuous act should guarantee this society the common sense and confidence to call someone insane, surely. If Hamlet is sick with madness, it is the madness of his insight. As Clemens had stated, Hamlet has “greater powers of observation … and a keener eye of penetrating” than the others. It is Hamlet’s skill to grasp the essence of life in his time and his people that enables those who are not so reasonable and insightful, and therefore intolerant of his apparently “crazy” or drastic ideas, to identify him as a madman.
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Discussion on Hamlet’s “craziness” and why he was perceived as such
Obviously, Hamlet’s path as a groundbreaking thinker and philosopher of his time is the reason for his well-known craziness. The prince is able to determine the future and be critical of the faults and weaknesses of the Danish mentality. Due to such innovative, perhaps even premature attitudes, as his discussion of “a custom (drinking) more honored in the breach than the observance… this… makes us traduced and taxed of other nations… they clepe us drunkards and with swinish phrase Soil our addition” (“Hamlet”, Act 1. Sc. 4), other characters who are consistent with the values and practices of his time, Hamlet is considered by others to be a threatening individual with “crazy” thoughts. Possibly even more evident in Hamlet’s uniqueness through his undeniable intellect is his one-man protest against marriage. In his monologue where he criticizes his mother’s impetuous marriage, “why she (O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason would have mourned longer) married with my uncle, my father’s brother, but no more like father than I to Hercules. Within a month… she remarried… with such dexterity to incestuous sheets” (“Hamlet”, Act 1. Sc 2), Hamlet expresses tremendous disappointment because it seems that he is the only one who sees the lack of morality and sanity in this marriage. Hamlet’s precise and nontraditional conviction in the preservation of marital faithfulness even after the death of his spouse proves his character as a “talented” and ahead of his time mind.
Undoubtedly, the most striking moment of Hamlet’s outstanding mindset is his prominent monologue about life and death. As others unwisely succumb to the ambition of bruised pride, for example, sacrificing 20,000 fighters for a meaningless piece of Polish territory, Hamlet reflects “to be or not to be” (“Hamlet”, Act 3. Sc. 1) His mind clarifies the miseries and hardships of life, and the “sleep” that everyone craves, because it brings an end to these misfortunes, but is repelled by the fear of the uncertain. If Hamlet were clueless, the meeting with the Ghost would already prompt him to undertake swift actions, in consequence of Claudius’ death. But even when the ghost of his slain father himself calls Hamlet to revenge, he reflects and deliberates. It is only the death of both of his parents that moves him to make a decision and breaks through his complicated mind.
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In addition, Hamlet’s persona is the personification of intelligence and observability. His thoughtful insights and convictions separate him from others, therefore generating an atmosphere of “craziness” that surrounds his personality. This is where Shakespeare draws on history, as Galileo, Martin Luther and other groundbreaking intellectuals of their time evoke a well-known image of people who are distinct from others. Just like Galileo and other visionary leaders, Hamlet is socially oppressed for his cleverness and unconventional mindset. His only craziness was his reasonable understanding of morals, which did not coincide with the values of the Danish court. If insanity is described as the vision of what is not there, then Hamlet is as crazy as insanity permits, for he does observe and perceive what no one else can: the morality or lack of it, of the two cheats’ incestuous marriage.
Summing up all the facts and reflections, we can undoubtedly consider the genius character of Hamlet absolutely conscious and, moreover, smarter than his surroundings. He skillfully manipulates the image of a mad man to achieve his goals. Hamlet is the only one who considered his mother’s new marriage as a betrayal and tragedy. Furthermore, the prince spends a lot of time on knowing himself and his sincere desires and ambitions. The environment ordinarily does not recognize his extravagant actions and condemns him, humiliating him to the role of a madman. In fact, Hamlet represents a rational and deep nature.