The Oedipal Complex In Hamlet Essay

1035 words - 4 pages

The Oedipal complex in Hamlet In Shakespeare's play Hamlet, Hamlet is "burdened with his own mind" (Chute), leading the nineteenth century psychoanalysts to diagnose the poor boy post mortem. Sigmund Freud theorized that Hamlet suffered from the Oedipus complex. Others, such as T. S. Eliot, see Hamlet's relationship with his mother in a totally different light. Eliot thinks that Hamlet is just disgusted with his mother. Neither of these men is fully correct in their assertions, due to their over complication and oversimplification of Hamlet (respectively).According to Freud (in An Outline of Psychoanalysis), there are a series of stages in a male child's libidinous development. (The libido is sexual desire.) The first stage is oral; second, sadistic-anal; third, phallic. From this last phase stems the Oedipal phase, where, according to Freud, all boys harbour a secret desire to kill their fathers and sleep with their mothers. He quotes Diederot: "If the little savage were left to himself, preserving all his foolishness and adding to the small sense of a child in the cradle the violent passions of a man of thirty, he would strangle his father and lie with his mother." Hamlet is a perfect example of this then; he "came to grief over the task of punishing someone else for what coincided with the substance of his own Oedipal wish..." (Freud-SC). Hamlet could not kill Claudius because he was jealous of him; Claudius was living out what Hamlet secretly desired to do himself.At the end of Act One, Hamlet agrees with his (dead) father and decides to enact revenge on his Uncle Claudius ("Oh villain, villain... Now to my word"; I.5.112). He wants to kill him (murder being the nature of revenge, after all), but he delays, and does not, until Claudius' murder of his mother pushes him to it in Act Five. Hamlet could very well be jealous of Claudius for both the murder and the bedding of Gertrude, and this may be what stops Hamlet from killing him, however, any sexual desire for the mother is largely interpreted. Freud says we only know about Hamlet's complex from "it's inhibiting consequences." But his inaction, or inhibition, was never directly related to sexuality or aggression, but rather more to his tendency to over-think things. We learn that Hamlet were sexually active (with Ophelia) and that he was aggressive (Hamlet insults Polonius and Claudius, sent Rozencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths, and kills Polonius and Claudius and Laertes (Jones).) So his aggression, or perhaps misdirected aggression, may not necessarily be a cause of an Oedipus complex.Freud was correct in connecting Hamlet to a typical Oedipal child, to a certain extent. (The assertion that children even have a libido is questionable!) Freud's interpretation of simple childhood impulses such as attachment to a mother, and sexual exploration, takes a great deal of liberty in that it is not a simple explanation. Freud, then, was wrong. For the sake of fairness, Freud did say that it...

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