Making things worse, Claudius is now married to Hamlet’s mother. Trying to figure out whether the ghost is telling the truth or is instead a manipulation of the devil, Hamlet pretends to be insane in order to discover the truth, but there have been numerous critics who have claimed Hamlet is actually crazy. In fact, a ‘mock’ court case held to determine the answer to whether Hamlet was sane or insane resulted in a deadlocked jury (Vicini, 2007). While there are several good arguments that there is a definite method behind Hamlet’s madness, there are several ways in which Shakespeare leaves the question open. One of the areas of doubt is whether the ghost that Hamlet sees is real or if it is only a figment of his imagination.
The state of Hamlet’s mind is thrown into doubt from the very beginning of the play, thereby opening up the question of whether the ghost is real or imaginary. Even this early in the play, Hamlet is seen to be a man divided. The first thing he says is not to anyone in particular but instead muttered under his breath to himself, “a little more than kin, and less than kind!” (I, ii, 65). These words indicate the level of disgust he has toward the actions of his mother and uncle, but has been used to indicate his insanity because he’s talking to himself. When he tells his uncle he is “too much in the sun” (I, ii, 67), he illustrates that he has a strong tendency to turn phrases so that they mean something other than what was intended. His tendency to always find a double meaning in things can be seen again when he responds to his uncle’s question about why he’s still wearing black. Instead of answering the question directly, he indicates his uncle is watching him too closely already and that he does not appreciate being considered his uncle’s son. This ability to always find a double meaning in what is being said is itself a sign of insanity.