A Hamlet timeline – chronicle of events
Setting the Timeline – considerations
Claudius – planning my foul murder
King Hamlet's funeral – where was Hamlet?
Gertrude & Claudius – adultery or not?
Horatio – Hamlet's friend?
Horatio – is he passion's slave?
Polonius – the evil that men do
Ophelia's love? – did she love Hamlet?
Ophelia closetted – Polonius on love
O help xxx ....... – Olivier's version
Ophelia's change – is Hamlet suspicious?
Hamlet feigns madness – protective "cover"
Is Hamlet mad? – Polonius's opinion
Hamlet kills Polonius – stabs the "Voice"
Laertes on Ophelia – madness & death
Ophelia's death – a recipe
Hamlet's age – digging up the past
Yorick – something rotting in Denmark
Betting on Hamlet – the fencing match
Hamlet's fencing skill – better than Laertes
Hamlet feigns madness
Thinks meet to put an antic disposition onThe moment Hamlet is told that Claudius murdered his father to get the crown he would realise that Claudius would not hesitate to murder him, too, if necessary, so as to keep it.
As long as Hamlet appears harmless, Claudius is not going to worry about him, but if Hamlet starts causing problems or gets too close to the truth, then Claudius will kill him. How does Hamlet choose to appear harmless? He feigns madness as a "cover", and the Ghost goes along with the plan.
Thus Hamlet, without fear of being murdered, is able to roam freely around the palace and so pick the right time and place to carry out the revenge the Ghost has asked him to do.
As an apparent madman, Hamlet is considered to be harmless, by everyone, including Claudius. In fact, Claudius is so believing that Hamlet is mad that he works with Polonius in trying to find the reason for it and calls in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to assist, and even plans to send Hamlet to England to be cured.
This is all going along fine, until the performance of "The Mousetrap." Then things suddenly change. Hamlet has put scenes in the play that copy exactly what the Ghost told him of the murder. In the course of the play, Claudius suddenly stands up and brings the play to a close. The actual cause of Claudius's action is indeterminate. Was he confronted by revelations in the play? Or was it that he was angered by Hamlet's outbursts which made the obvious insulting comparison of his marriage to Gertrude to that of the player-murderer's marriage? Either way, he would have instantly reversed his opinion of Hamlet.
Hamlet's "cover" of a madman is no longer any protection and his life is then at risk. Hamlet, realising his sudden vulnerability, went about armed and ready to respond to any threat.
Others might still think Hamlet mad and harmless and though Claudius may still think him mad, to Claudius he has become an intolerable irritation and a threat and best gotten rid of. The first thing Claudius does on leaving the play is plan Hamlet's death. Hamlet is, on the instant, to be sent to England, escorted by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern carrying Claudius's commission to the English king. The commission orders that Hamlet be put to death immediately upon arrival in England.