Why does Polonius think Hamlet is mad?

Lord Polonius believes that Hamlet is insane due to his obsessive love for Ophelia, which leads him to forbid his daughter from communicating with the prince. Throughout the play, Polonius is convinced that Hamlet’s emotional sickness is caused by his feelings for Ophelia. He sees how the prince struggles when she rejects him and believes that his heightened, even depressive reaction is a result of heartbreak. Polonius asserts that love is a self-destructive and brutal emotion that can drive people to madness, which highlights Hamlet’s tragic flaw.

Ophelia’s description of one of Hamlet’s strange visits provides final evidence for Polonius to believe in Hamlet’s insanity. After her speech, he becomes certain of Hamlet’s madness. The prince came to her room in dirty clothes, shook Ophelia without saying a word, and behaved in a violent manner. These actions, along with Ophelia’s shock, persuade Polonius to believe in Hamlet’s insanity. Hamlet’s plan to pretend to be mad is successful, but it foreshadows future plot twists.

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As a result of his belief in Hamlet’s madness, Lord Polonius forbids his daughter from interacting with him to sustain her dignity and safety. Polonius approaches the subject of Hamlet’s insanity differently with his children. He expresses concerns about Hamlet’s obsession and discusses his findings and evidence with his son, Laertes, but mocks Ophelia for her feelings towards an unstable man. Polonius claims that she is deceived by Hamlet’s untrue statements and obsession driven only by his impulse.

As the story progresses, Lord Polonius limits Ophelia’s contact with Hamlet by forbidding her from seeing, writing, or talking to him. Ophelia complies as an obedient daughter, which saddens her further and pushes both her and Hamlet into depression. Polonius’s control over his daughter’s life decisions may be why she agrees to follow his directions. At his request, she sends back all of Hamlet’s letters and denies him visits to her room, separating from her loved one entirely.

Despite Polonius’s efforts to protect his family and others from Hamlet, he fails. He causes an irreversible chain of events that leads to an unhappy ending. To further prove Hamlet’s madness, he shares his findings with the king and queen. Needing more evidence, Polonius plots another plan. He hides behind a curtain to observe Gertrude and Hamlet interacting, searching for signs of madness. This attempt ends fatally when Hamlet accidentally kills Polonius, which reinforces his madness. This act affects Ophelia’s sanity, starting a downfall caused by Hamlet’s tragic flaw and moral dilemma.



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