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Was Hamlet Insane?

Maine farmer

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Hamlet’s a fictional character, so like Beowulf or Hannibal Lector, can’t be psychiatrically examined, and shouldn’t be taken as a realistic example of a real person.


However, within the fictional world of the play, I think the point is that Hamlet was sane, happy, and virtuous, until driven mad by his uncle Caludius’ murder of his father and seduction of his mother. In modern terms, I’d say Hamlet was suffering from PTSD and grief.


There’s a lot of that going around in Hamlet. After Hamlet mistakenly kills her father Polonius, Ophelia goes mad and drowns, either accidentally or of suicide.


Thought fictional, this theme rings true to me, as it has to centuries of audiences. For adolescent children and young adults, the death of a parent can be stressful to the point of psychosis. “Driven mad with grief” is a cliché, but not, I think, an unrealistic one.


Though irrational and erratic, I wouldn’t say Hamlet is paranoid or delusional, as the people he believes are trying to kill him really are trying to kill him.

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