Hamlet and the Oedipus Complex

Topics: Characters in Hamlet, Hamlet, Gertrude Pages: 5 (1548 words) Published: April 20, 2010
William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a play about indecision, apprehension, and inner turmoil. Hamlet, the main protagonist, struggles within himself, attempting to muster the courage to avenge his father’s death by the hand of the current King, Claudius, who is also his late father’s brother. There seem to be many possible reasons for Hamlet’s delay in doing so. However, the one theory that answers all the questions is that Hamlet was possessed by his own Oedipus Complex , that is, he was deeply in love with his own mother, Gertrude. This can be seen throughout the play in several ways. Hamlet was understandably upset over his father’s death, but he was much less angry about the loss than he was disgusted with his uncle. His “girlfriend” Ophelia was not his lover, the relationship was a cover-up for his true feelings. King Hamlet’s spirit was aware of this. When he finally gave his blessing to Hamlet and Gertrude, he still did not act against Claudius. And most significantly, when Hamlet finally did take revenge and murder Claudius himself, he only did so because he knew Gertrude would approve at that point.

Hamlet did not seem angry with Claudius as much as he seemed disgusted. After Claudius’ marriage to Gertrude in the first act, Hamlet is clearly suicidal in his first soliloquy: O, that this too too solid flesh would melt

Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God! (I, 2, 129-132) However, the soliloquy is not about the loss of his father, or about Claudius taking the throne, but about his hasty marriage to Gertrude: Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears

Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not nor it cannot come to good:
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue. (I, 2, 154-159) This undue preoccupation with Gertrude’s personal life and suicidal tendencies show his self-hate and inner turmoil over his feelings for Gertrude, and the repressed desire to have her for himself. It seems as if he had been privately waiting for the inevitable death of his father for a long time, and was extremely bitter that Claudius married Gertrude before he had her to himself for any amount of time.

Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia was a guise put up for two reasons: Firstly, a cover-up for Hamlet’s inappropriate feelings for Gertrude, and secondly, a sexual release for Hamlet. Whether Hamlet consciously realized this or not, he showed displays of love for Ophelia when he felt he was obligated, such as when he jumped into her grave, but when the two of them were together in private, he did not treat her as one should treat a significant other. It was seen how Hamlet treated Ophelia in private when he spoke to her in the castle: You should not have believed me; for virtue cannot

so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of
it: I loved you not. (III, 1, 118-120)
Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a
breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest;
but yet I could accuse me of such things that it
were better my mother had not borne me: I am very
proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at
my beck than I have thoughts to put them in,
imagination to give them shape, or time to act them
in. (III, 1, 121-128)
He told her, essentially, that he never loved her and discourages her from breeding immoral beings like himself. It seems that he may have begun to realize his complex around this point, and while he cared for Ophelia enough to try and let her go, he did not love her enough to continue the guise. However: When Hamlet was in the graveyard in Act 5 Scene 1, he speaks matter-of-factly about death and dying with Horatio: No, faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with

modesty enough, and likelihood to lead it: as
thus: Alexander died, Alexander was buried,
Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of...
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