Have you a daughter?

Hamlet is asking questions he knows the answers to. You gotta figure he’s up to something here. It’s an interesting game. Polonius proposed it, really, by asking Hamlet if he knew him. Hamlet pretends he knows him as someone he is not, then brings the game around to someone that he is i.e., the father of his love interest. Now, this is curious to me. Why is Hamlet interested in toying with Polonius on the subject of his daughter? It would seem that the strategy of particularly convincing Polonius that he’s mad would feed more sensible in to Polonius’ role in the Danish Court. If he’s going to taunt Polonius about anything, the dirty jokes about his daughter, while surely designed to make Polonius uncomfortable, don’t necessarily lead directly back to the King.

I suppose this is where a study of Elizabethan madness might come in handy because both Hamlet’s feigned madness and Ophelia’s actual madness (FOOTNOTE: I assume Ophelia’s madness is actual, I’d be interested in a version of Hamlet in which hers is feigned, too) feature the crossing of sexual boundaries. Is madness in this era not really madness unless it does that? I’ve seen many varieties of madness in real life – one or two featured some inappropriate sexuality but the bulk of them did not. And maybe its only Danish madness that has to be this way. Lear and Edgar’s (actual and feigned) madnesses don’t really go so blue. Is Lady M mad? Or just sleepwalking? Who else goes mad in Shakespeare? What are the symptoms?

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