In the article, Shakespeare and Psychoanalysis: Tragic Alternatives: Eros and Superego Revenge in Hamlet, the author, Joanna Montgomery Byles, focuses on the psychological origins of revenge in Hamlet. Also the concept of the superego, both individual and cultural are brought up; and the importance of understanding the dynamics of aggressive destruction in Shakespeare’s tragedies involving revenge. The Freudian superego is usually thought of as heir to the Oedipus complex. In Hamlet himself, hate and destructiveness are consuming passions; the deep movement of superego aggression that motivates revenge carries him towards death.
Although I don’t believe Hamlet had an Oedipus complex as Freud suggested, I do believe that Hamlet’s superego, the part of a person’s mind that acts as a self-critical conscience, drove him to the revenge he sought. Hamlet was not bad, or an anti-hero; he was merely a tragic hero. The command to murderous revenge denies Hamlet the possibility of developing the healing processes of mourning whereby the lost loved one is internalized and causes him to act as he does throughout the play. In my essay I will discuss how Hamlet’s superego affected him creating this an inward tragedy which ultimately carries Hamlet to his death.
Shakespeare weakens the logic of revenge by representing revenge as an “inward tragic event” (Byles). This tragic event is backed by the destructive family relationships that as a whole wear down Hamlet, ultimately destroying him. This hate and destructiveness in the end consume Hamlet, and carry him toward his death. Hamlet is the perfect example of the destruction and self-sacrifice of a tragic hero as the socialized and self-superego come together and the demands of each are met. Hamlet satisfies his own superego when he takes revenge for his father’s death by killing his uncle Claudius; while the socialized superego urges Hamlet to move on and stop the mourning of his father.
The command to murderous revenge denies him the healing process, where instead the mourning of his father is then internalized. And as a result of his father’s ghostly revelations, Hamlet rejected Ophelia- being consumed only by this command to take revenge for the murder of his father. This command is the instrumental reason as to why Hamlet rejected Eros thereby leading him to his destruction. The call for revenge overrides everything in Hamlet’s mind and creates this feeling of guilt and obligation to avenge his father’s death, rousing his superego which ultimately is controlled by the ghost of King Hamlet. The ghost instills this idea that Hamlet must carry out this revenge otherwise he never loved his father and does not care for his legacy or any sense of justice, thereby effectively inducing guilt onto the grief ridden mind of Hamlet who then lets this call consume him- not wanting to disobey the ghost of his father and this superego which has just awakened inside him.
The rejection of Eros plays a huge role in the...