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No Oedipal Complex Found In Hamlet

1146 words - 5 pages

No Oedipal Complex Found in Hamlet


Some scholars have interpreted Hamlet's actions throughout Hamlet to be the Oedipus complex.  According to the story of Oedipus, Laius, his father, learned from an oracle that Oedipus would kill him.  Laius then left his son to die on a mountain, where he was found and raised by the King of Corinth.  Oedipus was also told that he would someday kill his own father, and fled Corinth because he believed that the King of Corinth was his real father.  On Oedipus's journey, he passes Laius on the road, they argue and Oedipus kills Laius, without even knowing Laius was his true father.  Oedipus eventually marries his mother, Queen Jocasta, unaware of her true identity.


Sigmund Freud introduced the Oedipus complex, and his theory states that the individual suffers from a repressed sexual desire for the parent of the opposite sex while having a rivalry with the parent of the same sex.  Many people see a connection between Hamlet and Oedipus.  They insist Hamlet is in love with his mother and this is why he wants to kill Claudius, Hamlet's uncle and Gertrude's new husband.  They contend that Hamlet's "madness" is actually his repressed longing for his mother.  Although Hamlet and Oedipus both kill their fathers, their actions are for different reasons.  Hamlet loves his mother, but he is not in love with her or desire her sexually.  The reason behind his anger towards Claudius is not due to feelings of jealousy, but because Claudius killed Hamlet's father, whom he loved dearly.  Hamlet does not suffer from an Oedipal complex.


            Upon closer examination, it is clear that Hamlet and Oedipus do take the same actions in their lives, but for different reasons.  Hamlet does share the characteristic of being overly emotional like Oedipus, however, he is not excessively confident like him.  Hamlet does not act impulsively.  As soon as Oedipus discovers his fate to kill his father, he flees.  In contrast, Hamlet contemplates his actions and does not act hastily.  This is demonstrated in his "O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I" soliloquy in which he asks, "Am I a coward" for not seeking revenge sooner (II.ii.577-634).  Oedipus kills his father in a moment of spontaneous rage, not for revenge.  The parallel to Oedipus's father is King Claudius.  Hamlet's true father is dead.  Only Claudius remains in the way of Hamlet's mother, yet Hamlet does not kill Claudius as a rival.  He follows the instruction of the ghost of King Hamlet, which is to "Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder," (I.v.31).  One trying to prove the Oedipal complex theory could take the angle that the ghost was a figment of Hamlet's imagination, but the ghost is seen by Horatio, Marcellus, and Bernardo, proving it is not.  Oedipus and Hamlet...

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