Antic Disposition Essay

Submitted By 21stpilot
Words: 1077
Pages: 5

Addison Cowan
Arthurian Legend
20 April 2013
Fishmongers and Nunneries In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, there exist numerous antic disposition scenes which create a façade of madness in order to shroud Hamlet’s true, sinister intentions. He seeks revenge for his uncle Claudius’s unlawful murder and usurpation of Hamlet’s father, but Hamlet knows he must be coy about allowing anyone to be aware of his plot. He cannot confide in friends or family, nor the woman he is in mad, misguided love with. Instead, Hamlet acts as if he has gone utterly insane, which occupies most everybody’s thoughts and draws their attention away from his scheme. In order to track the source of Hamlet’s madness, King Claudius seeks Polonius’s help, because the King has not the faintest clue what might be making Hamlet appear so estranged from the court. The king’s initial assumption was that it was caused by the death of his brother, the former king Hamlet. Polonius tells the king he believes it is because Hamlet is smitten with his daughter, the fair Ophelia. The two men then decide they will work in tandem to try coercing Hamlet into spilling his secrets; however, they drastically underestimate Hamlet’s sharp wit and cunning. Polonius requires a moment alone to speak with Hamlet, and as soon as Polonius initiates the conversation, antic Hamlet makes an appearance when Polonius inquires whether Hamlet knows him or not, and Hamlet replies that he knows him “Excellent well. You are a fishmonger” (2.2.190). Hamlet does, in fact, know of Polonius, but if he can distract Polonius from probing about his madness, and ramble on about protecting the virtues of a beautiful daughter like Ophelia, that Polonius will report to the paranoid King that Hamlet does not seek revenge for his father, but rather that love is the ultimate cause of Hamlet’s madness. Thus, Hamlet expounds on the importance of making sure his virtuous daughter does not fall in love with the wrong person, which Hamlet knows is himself, but he leaves the situation vague enough to show some concern that Ophelia might love someone other than Hamlet. The subtle clues fall on deaf ears as the dull Polonius unwittingly falls into Hamlet’s trap; he provides the king with a false cause for Hamlet’s recently disparaging antics. Polonius, being the right hand man to the new King, is also the active messenger-boy sent to fetch Hamlet when his mother wishes to speak to him. Polonius delivers the news, and is assailed by seemingly meaningless chatter about the clouds, and how they resemble camels, weasels and whales, to which Polonius is dumbfounded and simply leaves, allowing Hamlet to contemplate how he will have to deal with his mother, the faithless Queen Gertrude. Hamlet’s own must trusted companions, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, are subject to Hamlet’s mask of insanity when he realizes that they, too, are likely spies for the prying plot of the King. Shortly after he gives Polonius one story to report to the King of his madness, he gives his friends a completely contradictory reason to tell the King. Hamlet damns Denmark for being a prison, but the two hired accomplices of shame continue to pretend as if they cannot see what the matter is with Hamlet, even though Hamlet all but tells them he has plan for what has happened in recent months. Their feigned ignorance only gives them disguise until Hamlet inquires of them “ Were you not sent for?/Is it your own inclining? Is it a free visitation?/ Come, come, deal justly with me” (2.2.295-7). Hamlet exposes both of his “friends” and when they try to redeem themselves, Hamlet alters his disposition to change the subject altogether from himself to acting, effectively preventing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from having any semblance of an idea as to his madness, other than anger or contempt at the King and perhaps mourning over his late father. Fortunately for Hamlet, neither of the King’s new errand boys wish to seem inept to the king, so they tell him