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Word Count: 1,768
I am but mad north-north-west when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw IIii376-7 This is a classic example of the wild and whirling words Iv134 with which Hamlet hopes to persuade people to believe that he is mad These words however prove that beneath his antic disposition Hamlet is very sane indeed Beneath his strange choice of imagery involving points of the compass the weather and hunting birds he is announcing that he is calculatedly choosing the times when to appear mad Hamlet is saying that he knows a hunting hawk from a hunted handsaw or heron in other words that very far form being mad he is perfectly capable of recognizing his enemies Hamlets madness was feigned for a purpose He warned his friends he intended to fake madness but Gertrude as well as Claudius saw through it and even the slightly dull-witted Polonius was suspicious His public face is one of insanity but in his private moments of soliloquy through his confidences to Horatio and in his careful plans of action we see that his madness is assumed After the Ghosts first appearance to Hamlet Hamlet decides that when he finds it suitable or advantageous to him he will put on a mask of madness He confides to Horatio that when he finds the occasion appropriate he will put an antic disposition on Iv173 This strategy gives Hamlet a chance to find proof of Claudiuss guilt and to contemplate his revenge tactic Although he has sworn to avenge his fathers murder he is not sure of the Ghosts origins The spirit that I have seen May be the devil IIii596-7 He uses his apparent madness as a delaying tactic to buy time in which to discover whether the Ghosts tale of murder is true and to decide how to handle the situation At the same time he wants to appear unthreatening and harmless so that people
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