Is Faking Insanity Possible?
Humanity has invented many different criteria to measure adequacy of people. One of the main characteristic is logic because when ones speech has no logical sense it looks suspicious. However, determining ones insanity can be very difficult task. Sometimes seemingly healthy people are diagnosed with mental illnesses. They can look and behave as normal people do, but under the surface something is wrong with them. On the other hand, people who seem awkward to society can be totally healthy and adequate. They may be eccentric, original, and live in their own world but they are mentally healthy. Hamlet, Shakespeare’s character is one of the examples of confusing insanity that literature offers. While other personages of tragedy consider him to be insane, the plot uncovers that Hamlet is healthy.
First point that proves that Hamlet is healthy is that he has not a distorted perception of reality like psychopaths do. Even if he sees the ghost of the father and hears his voice, other characters see it too. By the way, if Hamlet lived entirely on his own we would not be able to know whether his vision was true. Although, with no other people who could confirm sounds and images, he would not have guessed whether he sees the same things the others do or not. Therefore, Hamlet would not be able to know whether he is sane or insane. Nevertheless, the presence of other characters explains a lot. The whole story starts from Elsinore where the officers on guard see the ghost. Next, they tell Hamlet about what they have seen and he decides to meet the phantom himself. Accordingly, the ghost is not a figment of Hamlets imagination. It exists indeed. Furthermore, after meeting a phantom, the character receives a better understanding of things. He finds out who his uncle is; he discovers what kind of woman his mother is, he discloses his friends intentions, and he is able to distinguish truth from lie better. Therefore, having clear mind is the first reason Hamlet is not insane.
Second reason why Hamlet is obviously mentally healthy is because he gains profit from faking insanity. His first benefit is that he can finally tell Ophelia what he really thinks of her. If people think he is crazy then no one would question his words. No one would dare to scold him for not being nice with a lady. His second gain is that he can kill people with impunity. When one is insane he is not responsible for his actions. It means that any crime committed by the psychopath can be justified with his psychic condition. Nevertheless, being insane does not give one right to commit murders. When Hamlet chooses the strategy of insane behavior, he does it in purpose to avoid justice. Ophelia’s father becomes his first victim, and Hamlet remains unpunished. His third benefit is that he can rewrite the theater play in the offensive manner and no one can hinder it. Thus, Hamlet makes a lot of profit from his insanity and he does it consciously. That is one more confirmation that he is not mentally ill.
Third reason why Hamlet is not different from other people is that he chooses to be insane to throw the King off the track. He has to kill his uncle as he gave his fathers ghost a promise to do so. Naturally, Hamlet cannot trust his secret to anyone but his behavior changes. He seems to play up to the doubts of the King who first thinks that he became mad because of the love to Ophelia. As long as the King thinks Hamlet goes crazy for Ophelia he does not suspect he is in danger. Nevertheless, when Hamlet kills Polonius, the King recognizes that he is dangerous. The King does not relate Hamlets behavior with the intention of murder. Still, he is afraid and decides to kill Hamlet first. Hamlet Finally, he understands something is definitely wrong when he sees a play directed by Hamlet. Thus, by playing insane the prince throws the King off the track and wins the time to plan the murder well. He is definitely a man of sense, and his desire for revenge adds to his good memory and realistic worldview.
Another argument why the audience should guess that Hamlet is pretending is that he is insane is his own commentaries. After he receives a comprehensive narrative of his fathers murder from the ghost, he gives the following explanation to his friends Horatio and Marcellus, I perchance hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on (1.5.191-192). These words are the most reliable proof that Hamlet would fake his insanity. By such words he reveals his intention to behave like an insane person leaving the readers no chance to think otherwise. After finishing preparations for the play and right before the entrance, Hamlet declares, I must be idle (III. Ii.85.). That is one more confirmation that he acts like a fool deliberately. Besides, he explains his mother in the Closet Scene that he has to behave like that. In addition, Hamlet assures his mother that he wants to achieve something by putting on an antic disposition. As a result, the audience can easily grasp that the prince is faking insanity from his own words.
Finally, the feign insanity is seen in the contrast with Ophelia’s madness. She becomes insane when her father is dead. The chain of losses causes her so much pain she cannot bear it. First, Ophelia loses Hamlet, and then she loses her father. Luckily, she finds a solution as she chooses to escape to the imaginary world. She no longer recognizes people and time. Ophelia cannot tell the difference between her imagination and reality. She behaves inadequately and does not know when to stop. Her insanity is opposite to the one Hamlet displays. Ophelia has a distorted perception of reality and she does not admit she is mad. She has no profit from being insane apart from having emotional relief. Besides, she sees no sense in her life anymore. Comparing to that, Hamlet is aware of everything that happens to him. Apart from it, he has a purpose of killing the King. For that reason, comparison between Ophelia’s madness and the one of Hamlet reveals he is not insane for real.
To conclude, insanity implies meeting some criteria of inadequate behavior. Mentally ill people do not know that they are insane. Nevertheless, their surrounding sees it clearly. Insane people may have visual and audile hallucinations. They can live in their imaginary world and do not know the time and the place they live in. At the same time, such people cannot be responsible for their actions because they do a lot of things unconsciously and unintentionally. In terms of Shakespeare’s tragedy insane people remind Ophelia. Comparing to that, Hamlet puts on an antic disposition, which means that he behaves in a frivolous and foolish way. He has an adequate perception of reality, makes profit from his insanity, throws his victims off the track, and realizes he has to act like that for his purpose. While other characters of tragedy consider him to be insane, Hamlet is healthy what can be understood from the plot. Therefore, Hamlet is sane during the entire act of the play, and thus proves that faking insanity is possible.