Adelman, Janet. “Man and Wife Is One Flesh: Hamlet and the Confrontation with the Maternal Body.” Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal Origin in Shakespeare’s Plays, Hamlet to The Tempest. By Adelman. New York: Routledge, 1992. 11-37.
This monograph chapter argues that Hamlet “redefines the son’s position between two fathers by relocating it in relation to an indiscriminately sexual maternal body that threatens to annihilate the distinction between the fathers and hence problematizes the son’s paternal identification” (14-15). Hamlet “rewrites the story of Cain and Abel as the story of Adam and Eve, relocating masculine identity in the presence of the adulterating female” (30). Gertrude “plays out the role of the missing Eve: her body is the garden in which her husband dies, her sexuality the poisonous weeds that kill him, and poison the world—and the self—for her son” (30). The absence of the father combined with the presence of the “engulfing mother” awakens “all the fears incident to the primary mother-child bond” (30). The solution is for Hamlet to remake his mother “in the image of Virgin Mother who could guarantee his father’s purity, and his own, repairing the boundaries of his selfhood” (31). In the closet scene, Hamlet attempts “to remake his mother pure by divorcing her from her sexuality” (32-33). Although Gertrude “remains relatively opaque, more a screen for Hamlet’s fantasies about her than a fully developed character in her own right,” the son “at least believes that she has returned to him as the mother he can call ‘good lady’ (3.4.182)” (34). As a result, Hamlet achieves “a new calm and self-possession” but at a high price: “for the parents lost to him at the beginning of the play can be restored only insofar as they are entirely separated from their sexual bodies. This is a pyrrhic solution to the problems of embodiedness and familial identity . . .” (35).
Brown, John Russell. “Connotations of... [continues]
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