In Shakespeare's "Hamlet", the main character offers a puzzling and ambiguous persona. Throughout the play, Hamlet often contradicts himself. He seems to balance the virtues of "playing a role", with being true to himself. Further proof of these conflicting personas are demonstrated by his actions and inactions. The ambiguity noted here, lies in two conflicting mannerisms displayed by the young Hamlet: One that is perfectly calm and rational; and another which displays madness. These conflicting behaviours are related within Hamlet's internal struggle-to kill Claudius for revenge of his fathers' murder; or act responsibly, and await further proof of Claudius' guilt. Throughout the play, Hamlet teeters on the brink of insanity induced by his actions, or inactions.
Hamlet's sanity is clarified, in the first act, by statements and feelings expressed within his dialogue. When asked about his depressed appearance and demeanour by Gertrude, Hamlet replies, "Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not "seems" (1037, line 76). This relates the idea that Hamlet is 'what he appears to be'. Later, he clearly makes a statement about his mental health when he commits himself to avenge his father's murder. This quote allows the reader to follow Hamlet's train of thought in regards to his role as student, mourning son, and Prince to the throne:.
"I'll wipe away all trivial fond records, All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past That youth and observation copied there, And thy commandment all alone shall live Within the book and volume of my brain" (1054, line 100). Hamlet is stating his utmost commitment to nothing short of revenge of his fathers' death. At this juncture in the play, there is little doubt about his state of mind, or intentions. However, the next act belies Hamlet's sanity and reason.
In act two, Hamlet appears again, although it now becomes apparent he has lost the conviction he demonstrated earlier-to complete his destiny as prescribed by the ghost of his father.