Hamlet’s Sanity within Shakespeare’s Hamlet As a tragic play Hamlet begins with the topic of the haunting of a ghost, something believed in and feared in the Elizabethan Age. As the play continues, the story only manages to progress in bleakness, with Hamlet being the darkest character of them all. The mourning of his father’s death and mother’s remarriage is rational in the beginning but with each visitation of the ghost, Hamlet’s sanity lessens. Furthermore, as Hamlet’s rationality is questioned, the existence of the spirit itself is also debated by the reader. Hamlet’s relationship with the women in his life also leads the audience to second guess Hamlet’s levelheadedness. The claims of love and hate for Ophelia ultimately lead to her possible suicide. And Hamlet’s concern for his mother’s actions, Gertrude, raises inquiries concerning the relationship this mother and child hold. Hamlet’s claims of purely being an exquisite actor and his possible ability to feign madness only manage to confuse the reader even more. Is one’s sanity knowledgeable to the insane? If Hamlet is merely pretending to be mad to confuse Claudius, his murderous step father/uncle, then why does he delay the act of revenge for so long? At the opening of the play Hamlet is portrayed as a stable individual. He expresses disappointment in his mother for her seeming disregard for his father’s death. His feelings are justified and his actions are rational and at this point, he describes himself as being genuine. As this opening scene progresses it is revealed that Hamlet views himself as weak: “My father’s brother, but no more like my father / Than I to Hercules” (1.2.152-153). Hamlet’s father was a king and as a proper king, through the chain of command, he was more of a man than his uncle or Hamlet? But through this comparison, Hamlet has revealed that he does not see himself as a hero. This lack of confidence could possibly play a role in leading to his madness. Throughout this soliloquy, he is concerned about the speed with which his mother remarried more than anything else. Towards the end of this speech, Hamlet states “She married. O’ most wicked speed, to post / With such dexterity to incestuous sheets! (1.2.156-157). Hamlet is disgusted and appalled by the idea of Gertrude sleeping with someone else to begin with. Gertrude marrying Hamlet’s uncle within a month of King Hamlet’s death is overwhelming to Hamlet. When the ghost first appears in front of Hamlet, Hamlet is with Horatio and Marcellus who also admit to being able to see the ghost. This ghost is not a product of Hamlet’s mind, which becomes possible later as the story progresses. As soon as Hamlet claims that he will speak to the spirit alone Horatio expresses concern by saying, What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord, Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff… And there assume some other, horrible form, Which might deprive you of your sovereignty of reason And draw you into Madness? (1.4.69-70, 72-74).
Here Horatio is foreshadowing the future for Hamlet without realizing it. Hamlet’s response to this plea from his friend is only that “my fate cries out” (1.4.82) and he continues to follow the spirit despite Horatio’s requests. The ghost does not have to lead Hamlet to a cliff or to water to drop him into madness though. And it may be possible that Hamlet knows he does not have another choice but to speak to the ghost as his fate is to lose his sanity. As soon as the ghost claims to be King Hamlet and speaks of murder Hamlet begins to show his irrationality when he declares, “Haste me to know’t, that I , with wings as swift / As meditation or the thoughts of love, / May sweep to my revenge” (1.5.29-31). Hamlet is pleading with the ghost of his father to reveal the murderer without a second thought although he does not know what the revenge could entail. Hamlet then responds with the agreement to murder someone else without a