Psychoanalytical Perspective of Hamlet

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Reading Hamlet from a Psychoanalytical Perspective

A psychoanalytical reading of a text involves an assessment of the conscious and unconscious elements of the mind. Freud’s theory on repression parallel Hamlet’s actions in the play. In the unconscious mind sits thoughts and instincts that the conscious mind finds unacceptable. The censored material is infantile sexual desires. Repression (the mind’s defence mechanism against feelings toward the maternal/paternal figure) directly correlates to Freud’s Oedipus complex. The O/C deals with infantile sexual/emotional relationship of the infant with the primary maternal figure. The O/C assesses that the infant has the desire to discard the father figure and become companion to the mother. These desires are repressed out of fear.

The opening scene of Hamlet immediately reveals the diseased state of Denmark as a result of the death of Old King Hamlet and the ensuing war with Norway over land. Hamlet is thrown into crisis by the appearance of his father’s ghost who demands Hamlet avenges his murder. Hamlet’s personal crisis is that the murder of his father awakens repressed desires. Hamlet’s disgust at his mother for her hasty marriage to his uncle and his inability to act to avenge his father’s death is owing to his ‘Oedipal desire for his mother and subsequent guilt preventing him from murdering the man who has done what he unconsciously wanted to do’ (Freud). Hamlet realises that he is no better than the sinner he is to punish. He is immobilised by fear as killing Claudius is akin to killing a part of himself and would gain disapproval from his mother. The deterioration of Hamlet’s psyche is a result of the internal and external turmoil he experiences. He progressively becomes distanced from reality as is suggested by language. His speeches are laced with metaphors, similes and word play including puns. These language techniques have hidden latent meanings that surpass the literal. Such language has an affinity...
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