Shakespeare Resource Center - Speech Analysis: Hamlet

Madness is at the center of the conflicts and problems of the play and is conveyed through Shakespeare’s elaborate use of manipulation and parallels between Hamlet, Ophelia, and Laertes to contribute to Hamlet’s tragic character....

Hamlet tells Horatio, his friend that he is going to fake madness as he loses his determination....

There is another general way in which we could interpret this speech, however. If the choice is made instead to play Hamlet's madness as anything less than genuine, then there could be an entirely different element at work here. Keep in mind that the scene does not open with Hamlet's entrance; it begins with the plot of Claudius and Polonius to spy upon Hamlet's interaction with Ophelia. Claudius even says "we have closely sent for Hamlet hither." As a result, Hamlet should clearly be expecting to meet someone when he enters the scene. Perhaps he enters lost in thought; perhaps he enters with suspicion. However, if Hamlet enters the scene suspecting that he is being watched, it casts the entire scene in a different light.


No Fear Shakespeare: Shakespeare's plays plus a …

As with many elements of , much of the interpretation lies in the eye of the beholder and the choices made in the production. If Hamlet is portrayed as truly descending into madness, then one can take much of this soliloquy at face value. Hamlet really is depressed and thinking about killing himself as a means to end his "sea of troubles." Going by this interpretation, Hamlet is further waxing depressed with the reasoning that he's a coward for not killing either Claudius or himself. Surely, given Hamlet's first soliloquy in Act I, sc. ii ("O, that this too too solid flesh would melt"), Hamlet in his grief has mused upon the prospect of suicide.