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Why Should I Care?

Obfuscating insanity—uh, faking madness to throw people off—is one of the oldest tricks in the book. But Shakespeare doesn't just leave it at that. He doesn't just want Hamlet to go fake cray-cray. No, he wants to use the madness as a way to talk about bigger stuff.

It's a classic Shakespeare trick. You think you're talking about one thing, but then he makes jokes about other things as well in order to layer meaning on meaning. Take this scene. Hamlet has gone off the rails, so we're expecting to see some wild things coming out of his wonky mind. Instead, we end up laughing at Polonius and actors—not at Hamlet. By the end of the scene, Hamlet seems like the sanest one of the bunch.

We think you should care about this scene because it's downright genius the way Shakespeare switches it up on us. Plus, we get to laugh at the ridiculousness of Polonius thinking he's figured it out. And the icing on the cake is that Shakespeare even points out the craziness of acting.

Mocking Polonius and actors all in the same jab? Now that's a phrase worth repeating.

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