A recurring question through Hamlet is the state of Hamlet’s psychological state. Is he, or is he not, mad?
Hamlet spends much of the play telling the other characters that he is not mad, just pretending to be mad. Such as when he says to Gertrude, "I essentially am not in madness, / But mad in craft." (Act 3, Scene 4, lines 187-8). However, Hamlet’s behaviour continues to be erratic when he is alone. It may be that Hamlet eventually comes to take on the mad persona that he creates.
It is up to the classroom to finally put the debate to rest and decide whether Hamlet is or is not mad through a mock trial.
1. Divide the class into three groups:
- Group 1 will act as Hamlet’s prosecutors (arguing he is mad).
- Group 2 will act at Hamlet’s defence (arguing he is sane)
- Group 3 will act as the Judge and Jury.
2. Give some time for each group to work on a strong case using evidence from the text in order to convince the Jury. The aim is to prove whether Hamlet is or is not sane.
3. Hold a debate in the classroom, with one member of Group 3 elected to judge the proceedings. Each group will present their case, be questioned by the Jury, and then give a final statement. Encourage all members of the group to speak on the matter.
4. Group 3 will then weigh by the arguments and summarise them for the class. They should put forward the most convincing points of each group. They will then present their findings to the class and announce whether they believe Hamlet to be sane or mad