Hamlet’s “Oedipus Complex”
“Hamlet is another of the great creations of tragic poetry…What is it that inhibits him in fulfilling the task set him by his father’s ghost?...Hamlet is able to do anything—except take vengeance on the man who did away with his father and took that father’s place with his mother, the man who shows him the repressed wishes of childhood realized. Thus the loathing which should drive him on to revenge is replaced in him by self-reproaches, by scruples of conscience, which remind him that he himself is literally no better than the sinner whom he is to punish.”- Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud, a brilliant psychologist, once theorized that a child will wish to kill one parent and sleep with the other of the opposite sex. This notion, known as the “Oedipus Complex”, is incredibly common in children, and often suppressed as an adult. It even plays a large part in shaping Shakespeare’s tragic character Hamlet. For centuries, scholars have studied Hamlet’s fascinating and sophisticated character in order to answer the question; what is stopping him from killing the uncle that murdered Hamlet’s father and now is married to his mother? Throughout the remarkably truthful play Hamlet, Hamlet’s desire for his mother can be explained easily by the Oedipus Complex, which causes him to hesitate when told to kill King Claudius.
Hamlet’s attachment to his mother is quickly made evident within the first act of the famous tragedy. Hamlet, who sulks around wearing black clothing to mourn the death of his father, first speaks in the play to insult his stepfather. He voices his distaste at his new relationship with his uncle by criticizing that they are, “A little more than kin and less than kind” (I.ii.65). He believes that it is unnatural for his uncle to also be his father, and eagerly jumps at an opportunity to offend Claudius. However, Hamlet acts entirely different towards his mother, despite his poor attitude. When Gertrude pleads for Hamlet to remain in Denmark instead of returning to England to study, he happily complies by saying, “I shall in all my best obey you, madam”(I.ii.120). His willingness to please his mother creates a sharp contrast to his rude behavior towards his stepfather. He optimistically and respectfully refers to Gertrude as “madam”, yet maintains his depressed attitude when addressing anyone else. So, what causes this...