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Hamlet's Hesitance In Seeking Revenge Essay

1051 words - 4 pages

The hesitance of William Shakespeare's character Hamlet in his search for vengeance is one that has produced endless theories and received the criticism of many. Whilst Shakespeare never gives a concrete reason for his characters extended inaction, most appear to agree that there is some basis for Hamlet's delay rather than simply an attempt by the playwright to lengthen the drama of the play to its full five acts. Freud's psychoanalytic theory of Hamlet involving the Oedipus complex is widely known and has received many supporters and even more critics over the years. More commonly accepted explanations include religion and intellect, as Hamlet appears to struggle with the moral implications of his intended deed.One theory of Hamlet's delay in killing Claudius is the well-known psychoanalytic theory originally proposed by Sigmund Freud and seen in his work The Interpretation of Dreams. Freud believed that Hamlet's lack of action was driven by the Oedipus complex which he himself named and entails a child's secret desire to remove their same sex parent and take their place with the parent of the opposite sex. Freud suggests that the only possible explanation for Hamlet's uncharacteristic hesitation when it comes to action against his uncle is that he himself unconsciously identifies with Claudius. Watching Claudius take the place of his father with his mother after murdering the King unveils the subconscious desires of the character and without even realising it Hamlet aligns himself with the man who has done what he wished he could. It is pointed out by Freud that Hamlet is anything but incapable of action as he exhibits on a number of occasions such as the scene in which Hamlet slays Polonius as he eavesdrops on a conversation between Hamlet and his mother, only briefly declaring "how now, a rat? dead for a ducat, dead" (Shakespeare, act 2, scene 4, line 15) before he takes action. Hamlet appears to experience a sudden realisation after his uncle kills his father, that he is no better than and just as sinful as the man he is supposed to kill and as such "is able to do anything - except take vengeance on the man who… shows him the repressed wishes of his own childhood" (Leitch, Cain, Finke, Johnson & McGowan, 2010, pp. 817-818). Whether Shakespeare was aware of it or whether it was unconsciously done as Freud suggests, Shakespeare allows his character to witness what the fulfilment of his secret desires would result in and as such is left in horror preventing him from taking the life of the man he sees to be so like himself. Despite many critics believing that Freud had missed something important in his interpretation of Hamlet, almost completely missing the point of the play itself, Martin Bergmann (2009) states that Freud's "psychoanalysis offered an explanation for Hamlet's actions, which otherwise remain puzzling" (pp. 398-399) implying that there was no other reason for this hesitance that could be plausible.Another suggestion as...

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