Was Hamlet Insane?
One of the most asked questions concerning Hamlet, is whether or not during the play he was actually insane or merely acting. This issue is confusing because Hamlet states that he will act insane to exact revenge upon Claudius after he has met his father’s supposed ghost. However, there are many times during the play where it seems Hamlet could not possibly be acting. But while it is possible to be sane and act insane, by definition it is impossible to be insane and act sane because an insane person lacks the ability to reason and tell the difference between right and wrong. Since Hamlet exhibited both these characteristics throughout the play, it is obvious that he was sane.
Hamlet displays the ability to reason on several occasions. The first display occurs in the beginning, when Hamlet expresses his doubts about whether the ghost he saw was really his father: "The spirit that I have seen / May be the devil, and the devil hath power / T' assume a pleasing shape," (2.2.627-629), and whether the supposed ghost was merely telling him what he wanted to hear: "Yea, and perhaps, / out of my weakness and my melancholy, / … / Abuses me to damn me," (2.2.629-632). Hamlet has the sense to question the iden
"He that hath killed my king and whored my mother,Popped in between the election and my hopes,Thrown out his angle for my proper life,and with such cozenage," (5. He realizes although it does look like his father, appearance isn"tmt everything, and it might have been a demon trying to trick him into committing a deadly sin, namely, killing Claudius. Hamlet again questions the lawfulness of killing, when he has the chance to kill Claudius after Guildenstern and Rosencrantz leave, but doesn"tmt because Claudius is praying, and killing him would send his soul to heaven: "A villain kills my father, and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send To heaven," (3. This shows Hamlet still has regard for what is right and honorable, and he is not just a son driven insane by the need to avenge his father"tms death. Hamlet is talking about death with Horatio and about his eminent fight with Laertes:" There is (a) specialprovidence in the fall of a sparrow. Hamlet states that death will occur when it wants to and there is nothing you can do about it. If it be now, 'tisnot to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if itbe not now, yet it will come. An insane man would have such sharp sense of the secret plans everywhere. Hamlet also gives proof that he understands the difference between right and wrong, another important characteristic of sanity, throughout the play. Hamlet first reveals this knowledge when he plans the "Mousetrap" to try to determine Claudius"tm guilt by judging his reaction to the play: "There is a play to-night before the king;One scene of it comes near the circumstanceWhich I have told thee of my father's death:I prithee, when thou seest that act afoot,Even with the very comment of thy soulObserve mine uncle: if his occulted guiltDo not itself unkennel in one speech,It is a damned ghost that we have seen,"(3. Many people have questioned whether Hamlet was actually insane or merely acting that way during the play.