Hamlets Antic Disposition

"Antic Disposition"
By: Kazy Brown

Visualize this: A man is trapped inside a world he never made. This world begins with the conventions of tragedy through fiction. By the end this masterpiece, the flashing, delving presence of his mind and sprit has been transformed. It becomes the real world. In the real world, appearance and reality is a hard thing to differentiate. Appearance "is" reality in William Shakespeare\'s Hamlet. Appearance (insanity) is used as a disguise, an excuse for his free will and a costume for Hamlet. This is proven by the nature of Hamlet\'s true thought process, why he feigns insanity, and, proof that Hamlet was not crazy.

A reporter asked John Wayne Gacy why he killed over five young boys, he kindly responded, "I forget my logic when I\'m asked this question… The only thing I can remember is… the overriding impulse" (Sheperdson 32). Hamlet always thought things through. He never acted on impulse. He never had time to use impulse, he was always thinking. Hurbage suggest that Hamlet suffer from "lymphatic temperament". Apparently this type of person lacks the "energizing temperament to act". It is easier to think then act. Thus the body clogs the aspirations of the mind. He is very intuitive throughout the play. He thinks logically. Witness this in act two with his "What a piece of work…"(Shakespeare 2.2. 327) and the play that he logically plans. Polonius even believes that Hamlet is sane in act two, "…there is method in \'t." (Shakespeare 2.2. 223-24). Hamlet treats Polonius like the fool that he is. Never does Hamlet\'s impulse to kill Polonius come up. He logically plays mind games with Polonius instead. In the famous closet scene with Gertrude, Hamlet asks his mother to keep his act of lunacy a secret. He tells her he is only putting on an "antic disposition" (Shakespeare 3.4. 64-104). She truly believes that he is sane because she decides not to sleep with Claudius. If she had really believed Hamlet was insane she would have thought nothing of Claudius\'s guilt and slept with him. Lastly, when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive to greet Hamlet (Act 2.2) he is totally normal. But, once he finds out they\'ve come to spy on him he puts on his disguise of "antic disposition" so he won\'t give himself away. "I am but mad, north, north-west. When the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw" (Shakespeare 2.2. 402-403), Which mean I\'m not as mad as you think I am. But, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz are not all that bright so they end up having no idea what Hamlet has truly said to them. Hamlet is already distraught, and in times of emotional distress, we do wrong things without thinking. Afterwards, Hamlet (who is "indifferent honest"), blames his "madness" for the killing of Polonius. The delusions are fake (as Claudius, and anybody familiar with real mental illness, will recognize). The irrational striking-out in a moment of emotional turmoil is very real and sane.

Hamlet feigns insanity because it allows him to do several things that he otherwise would be unable to do: With respect to Ophelia, Hamlet would like to express his intense, irrepressible anger towards her without arising suspicion in her or in others that he is in a hostile rational mental state. This would help prevent others in the royal household from speculating that Hamlet was rationally planning hostile actions such as killing Claudius. With Gertrude, Hamlet would also like to express his anger towards her, as well as possibly kill her or make her go insane, without arising suspicion in others that he possesses a hostile rational mental state. In addition, he would like to confront Gertrude with the premises of Claudius\' crime, without her thinking that he actually believes in them, so that she might somehow think about them and realize that Claudius is guilty. Thus, she will no longer love Claudius (providing Hamlet with the psychological freedom he needs to kill him) and she will not believe that Hamlet believes that Claudius is guilty. If she believes this, she might purposely or inadvertently pass on this fact to others, leading to Hamlet\'s demise. Also, however, Hamlet does not want to confront Gertrude with the crime in a rational way, he wants to