Hamlet’s so-called insanity has always been the discussion in Shakespeare’s Othello. However, Hamlet was not insane. His madness was just a representation of literary drama. In his own declaration, Hamlet claimed that his madness was only “mad north-north-west” (II. ii. 360 as cited by Crawford, 1996). That meant that his display of madness was just an intentional act for him to confuse and disconcert the king as well as his attendants. This kind of madness was portrayed by the character to attain his object and was described as a “crafty” one. His insanity is simply an interpretation of the people who surround him, who are not capable of judging his state of mind for they know nothing of the confusion that goes on inside Hamlet’s mind.
Shakespeare had possibly used Hamlet’s madness as a facilitator in the drama to express the tragedy in the play. Remember that Hamlet’s character is known to have “antic disposition” and in most of his plays, “antic” means mask. Hence, it only concealed the deception behind the real character of Hamlet. In its truest sense, insanity does not have anything to do with the rise and fall of Hamlet to characterize the moral lesson the audience can get out of life. It only emphasized the appreciation of the audience in keeping one’s mind in the state of sanity.
Considered as an ideal prince, though love had despised him, Hamlet’s character was an expression of Shakespeare’s profound ability to create such characters due to his superb dramatic skills as dictated by his abundant knowledge of his craft (Crawford, 1996). Indeed, the character of Hamlet had the intention of pretending to be foolish. Needless to say, he mentioned his motive to become “idle”.
Therefore, Hamlet was not mad in the literal context but rather “crafty mad” in the literary sense. It was part of characterization to attain the object of the character and displayed the message of another Shakespearean portrayal of tragedy. It was an expression of melancholy instead of madness and was another mere exhibition of the realization of a man’s spiritual life. Without the following elements, Hamlet would not have created an impact the way it brought confusion and deception to the king when in fact his words were an obvious act of noble madness to his friend and mother.
Crawford, Alexander W. Hamlet, an ideal prince, and other essays in Shakesperean
interpretation: Hamlet; Merchant of Venice; Othello; King Lear. Boston R.G. Badger,
1916. Shakespeare Online. 20 August 2009. Web. 6 December 2012.