Unveiling Motives Why Does Hamlet Pretend to Be Mad

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1083 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Jul 3, 2023

Words: 1083|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Jul 3, 2023

In William Shakespeare's timeless tragedy, 'Hamlet' the titular character embarks on a treacherous path of feigned madness. Hamlet's decision to adopt an appearance of lunacy throughout the play has captivated audiences and scholars for centuries, leaving them questioning his motives and intentions. By delving into the complexities of his character, we can unravel the underlying reasons why does Hamlet pretend to be mad.

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The characters in Hamlet, display the longing need of concealing their true identities and motives to mask their acts. This is depicted when the Ghost of Hamlet’s father appears before Hamlet as an apparition to reveal how King Claudius is the murderer and how he must avenge for his foul death. Hamlet pretends to act mad in front of everyone to hide what he knows as a way to get away with killing King Claudius. After seeing the ghost and learning of his father’s murder, he tells his good friend, Horatio that he intends to act crazy purposely: “I perchance hereafter shall think meet. To put an antic disposition on”. This proves how Hamlet appears to act mad because he does not want his uncle, Claudius to know that Hamlet suspects him of murder. This allows him to buy some time to find out whether or not his uncle, Claudius is actually guilty of this crime, which in fact he is. The Ghost symbolizes the rising action that leads Hamlet to adopt a disguise of madness.

Reasons Behind Why Does Hamlet Pretend to Be Mad

Hamlet demonstrates the theme of illusion as his self-portrayal is false. By feigning his madness, he attempts to conceal what he knows: Claudius murdered his father for the throne by pouring poison into his ear while he slept in his orchid. The Ghost’s revelation causes Hamlet into keeping up false pretences, and therefore symbolizes the difference between Hamlet’s appearance of feigning madness and reality of his intentions. Hamlet maintains an illusionary exterior appearance of a mad man to keep others from knowing what he is really planning: the murder of Claudius. The Ghost generates Hamlet impulses and desires to avenge his father’s death because he wants to prove himself as a prestigious son. Moreover, he uses his girlfriend, Ophelia by acting threatening and insane towards her. He does this because he knows that Ophelia will tell her father, Polonius about Hamlet’s demeanor and the word will eventually reach Claudius. This way, Claudius will not suspect that Hamlet knows about the treason he has committed. Hamlet keeps a facade to hide his true motives by instilling different personas to keep up with his false pretences.

Next, Claudius tries to conceal the treasurous murder of late King Hamlet by maintaing a fabricated appearance. This is present when Hamlet asks the actors to perform, The Murder of Gonzago, with revisions in hopes of catching the conscience of Claudius. When Claudius arrives and asks Hamlet about the play’s name, he answers: “The Mousetrap. Marry, how? Tropically. This play is the image of a murder done in Vienna. Gonzago is the duke’s name, his wife Baptista. You shall see anon… Your majesty and we that have free souls, it touches us not. Let the galled jade wince, our withers are unwrung”. The Murder of Gonzago, also know as The Mousetrap, is a play that mirrors the events that have taken place in Denmark, for example Claudius’ murder of King Hamlet. The play centres around a king that is poisoned by another man, depicting Hamlet’s father’s death. The play reveals Claudius’ guilt in the death of his father as he reacts in a way that makes him appear culpable. The Mousetrap is a symbol for illusion that is directed towards Claudius as it reveals his reality, which exposes his appearance. He constantly acts as though he feels sympathy and sorrow for the death of his brother. But in actuality he has no remorse as he fakes it to gain compassion and support from the people of Denmark. His desire for the throne causes him to make delinquent decisions which leads him to put on a mask to hide his vile actions.

Claudius pretends to be a kind and trustworthy person, but in reality he is in fact a malicious villain. Claudius keeping a false facade creates an illusional realm because he masks his true manifest. His false appearance create chaos and destruction in Denmark as its citizens are manipulated into believing that he is a noble king. The Mousetrap is a metaphoric symbol because Claudius represents the mouse that eventually becomes trapped as his true actions and motives are revealed. Similarly, Blanche attempts to hold on to her distorted dispositions, just like how Hamlet and Claudius tries to maintain an illusionary exterior appearance to conceal their true motives. Blanche continues to maintain superficial acts to hide her intentions for coming to New Orleans. She tries to manipulate Mitch into thinking that she is a pure and innocent woman who is oblivious to the world beyond her, but in reality she is a promiscuous woman with a dishonorable past. On the other hand, Hamlet keeps up a false act by feigning his madness to conceal his knowledge of the murder and his intentions of seeking revenge. Like Blanche, Hamlet manipulates his love interest, Ophelia into thinking that he is mad so she can tell let the people in the court about his attitude so suspect Hamlet of anything. Claudius also manipulates the people of Denmark by making them think he is an honest and noble king, but in reality is is a treasurous villain who commited murder to obtain a higher status.

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Blanche, Hamlet, and Caudius put on masks to conceal their actions and intentions for their own personal gain ignited by desire. George K. Simon, an American author of In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative people, states that “psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the perception or behavior of others through underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive tactics”. He also talks about how manipulating techniques include lying to hide one’s identity and feigning innocence. This is seen when Blanche attempts to uphold a Southern Belle act to mask her intentions and desires, appearing to be innocent. Hamlet also is deceptive when he takes on a dual persona to conceal his identity and tries to feign his innocence by acting mad. Claudius also is shown to cover up his actions by simulating a false demeanor. Thus, the characters try to keep up with a false images to conceal their true identity. 

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Unveiling Motives Why Does Hamlet Pretend to Be Mad. (2023, July 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 24, 2024, from
“Unveiling Motives Why Does Hamlet Pretend to Be Mad.” GradesFixer, 03 Jul. 2023,
Unveiling Motives Why Does Hamlet Pretend to Be Mad. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 Feb. 2024].
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