Hamlet is a tragedy-themed play thought to have been written by William Shakespeare between 1599 and 1600. Hamlet is one of the most impressive plays in English literature. It was one of Shakespeare's popular plays during his lifetime. Hamlet is a work that has influenced many writers in both English and world literature and still maintains its importance today.
One of the most important and prominent themes of the Hamlet play is madness, and throughout the play, Hamlet exhibits many features that point to madness. In Hamlet, Shakespeare reveals the idea of madness following. ‘Here, as before, never, so help you mercy. How strange or odd soe’er I bear myself, (As I perchance hereafter shall think meet To put an antic disposition on)’ (Hamlet1.5.168-175) When we translate these words of Hamlet into modern English, we see that for the first time Hamlet is talking about acting crazy and mad. Thus, we see that Hamlet, who is the main reason for the madness theme in the work, enters into a war of revenge with his mad role. Actually, Hamlet doesn't need to pretend to be crazy to get revenge, but Hamlet wants Claudius to think about Hamlet that he is harmless and cannot avenge his father's murder.
Secondly, we see that Polonius suspects Hamlet's insanity and says to himself: ‘Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t'.’(Hamlet2.2.211-212) Thus, Polonius and the characters gradually begin to suspect that Hamlet is actually acting for a purpose, which leads King Claudius to fear and unease. That's why Claudius tries to send Hamlet to England as soon as possible.
In all this, Shakespeare clearly shows us that Hamlet is going to pretend to be crazy, but as we read the play, we realize that the characters are not as sure as the readers and the audience about whether it is more than just acting. For example, Hamlet's speeches seem rather strange to Horatio. Although the reader and the audience do not suspect much here, as the play continues, the changes in Hamlet become more evident, and the confusion, depression, and melancholic mood that Hamlet feels become more evident. The longer Hamlet waits to avenge and kill Claudius, the more he goes mad and falls into a melancholy mood. In fact, the best example we can give to this melancholic mood is Hamlet's famous phrase ‘To be, or not to be? That is the question’(Hamlet3.1.56)
We understand that Shakespeare clearly tells us for the first time in act 1 scene 5 that Hamlet is going to play the madman and so for the first time as a reader, we see Hamlet talk about the role of the madman. Afterwards, although both the characters and readers notice some strange behaviour in Hamlet, we are not sure whether it is really Hamlet going crazy or Hamlet pretending to be crazy. Later on, we realize that with the words Polonius said to himself, the characters understood something about Hamlet's crazy role but despite all this, apart from the crazy role of Hamlet that Shakespeare showed us the readers, there is one thing that the characters suspect, which is whether Hamlet is really crazy or not. Shakespeare leaves the decision on this issue to the reader, so even though he reveals the madness, which is one of the most important themes of Hamlet, with the role of Hamlet as the madman, we cannot fully learn the truth as the reader and the characters.