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at I essentially am not in madness, But mad in Craft"

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"That I essentially am not in madness, But mad in Craft" Consider the importance of pretence and acting in Hamlet. Do you entirely agree with Hamlet's claim? The idea of a character feigning madness is commonplace in great literary works; many authors use it to show the sanity of a character. Shakespeare has used this idea throughout the play, Hamlet. In this masterpiece, there is much debate around the protagonist, Hamlet, and whether his madness was real or feigned: literary scholars have debated this for more than four hundred years. Shakespeare uses a theme of madness in this play to illustrate how one must use deception in order to deceive others to reach the truth. Thus, in this play, the tragic hero contemplates his own moral judgements and in the process is considered mad. Hamlet claims to feign his madness, as he says to Horatio and Marcellus in Act 1 Scene 5, "How strange or odd some'er I bear myself- As I perchance hereafter shall think meet To Put an antic disposition on." This quote illustrates how Hamlet intends to pretend to be mad in order to reach the truth within this court, which Hamlet describes as, "out of joint," which once again highlights the disordered state of affairs. ...read more.


However, it could also be the ramblings of a lost and confused man, caught up in a spiral of emotions. The use of the word "craft" implies Hamlet's cunningness in his approach to revenge. He appears to think he has manipulated himself so that he retains the upper hand: this can be reinforced by Shakespeare's use of a play within a play in Act 3 Scene 2. The concept of a play within a play reinforces the idea of pretence and seeming. Hamlet's directions to the players serve to illustrate the subtle balance acting and being. Hamlet feels that the "purpose of playing" is "to hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature." Therefore, acting in Hamlet's eyes would be replicating emotions exactly, as though they were real. This is where Shakespeare manipulates the audience because Hamlet's definition of successful playing may, also, therefore, be reflected in his pretence of madness. In order to feign madness, he must reflect nature exactly and it is here where the distinction becomes blurred because Hamlet himself is treading a fine line, as he attempts to sustain a pretence and thus, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine whether or not he is in fact still pretending as the play progresses. ...read more.


It is an insight in a mind filled with a whirlwind of emotions and Hamlet's use of a play would appear to simply reflect his preference to use words rather than actions, as can be seen my many of the play on words he uses in his speech. Hamlet himself says that acting must be an accurate reflection of nature and therefore, Ophelia's insanity may have provided inspiration, rather than sending him even further into his own madness. The most influential aspect of the play that has lead to this personal response is the contrast between Hamlet and Ophelia's madness. Throughout the play he maintains a high level of thought and emotional complexity and responds to all the actions of those around him, which would suggest that he is not in a world of his own created by insanity. Instead he is continually able to refute allegations of insanity when he wants be listened and adhered to, "My pulse as yours doth temperately keep time, And makes as healthful music. It is not madness That I have utter'd." Thus, it is difficult to reach a resounding decision on his "antic disposition" due to Shakespeare's accurate portrayal of a complex web of emotions; however, ultimately, it would seem he desired to reflect the potential for confusion of emotions whilst maintaining the coherency of his tragic hero. ...read more.

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