The mystery of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a phantom of literary debate that has haunted readers throughout the centuries. Hamlet is a complete enigma; a puzzle scholars have tried to piece together since his introduction to the literary world. Throughout the course of Hamlet the reader is constantly striving to rationalize Hamlet’s odd behavior, mostly through the play’s written text. In doing so, many readers mistakenly draw their conclusions based on the surface content of Hamlet’s statements and actions. When drawing into question Hamlet’s actions as well as his reasons for acting, many assume that Hamlet himself is fully aware of his own motives. This assumption in itself produces the very matter in question. Take for example Hamlet’s hesitation to kill the king. Hamlet believes that his desire to kill King Claudius is driven by his fathers’ demand for revenge. If this were true, Hamlet would kill Claudius the moment he has the chance, if not the moment he knows for sure that Claudius is guilty of murdering his father. Why does Hamlet hesitate? One must call into question what Hamlet holds to be true. If Hamlet’s given motivation for killing the king is legitimate, then Claudius should die at about Act 3. Because Hamlet’s actions do not correspond with his given reasoning, one is forced to look for an alternate explanation for Hamlet’s behavior. In doing so, one will come to the conclusion that Hamlet is driven by forces other than what is obvious to the reader, as well as Hamlet himself. Given this example, one must denounce the assumption that Hamlet is aware of the forces that motivate him, and understand that Hamlet’s true motivation is unconscious This unconscious force is the true reason behind Hamlet’s mysterious behavior. In naming this force, one must look beneath the surface of Hamlet’s own level of consciousness, and into what Hamlet himself is consciously unaware. The key to understanding Hamlet lies in the realization of the unconscious energy that provokes him to action and inaction. By channeling into Hamlet’s unconscious, providing both Freudian and Jungian psychoanalytical perspectives, Hamlet’s true unconscious motivation will be uncovered, and the mystery of Hamlet will be silenced.
The term consciousness refers to "one’s awareness of internal and external stimuli. The unconscious contains thoughts, memories, and desires that are well below the surface of awareness but that nonetheless exert great influence on behavior."(Weiten) Jung and Freud agree upon the existence of the unconscious, but their perspectives are vastly different.
The core of the Freudian perspective is centered around Hamlet’s relationship with his mother, and the aforementioned example concerning Hamlet and King Claudius. According to the Freudian view, Hamlet is driven by unconscious sexual desire and aggravation. This sexual aggression is directed towards his mother and Claudius. The overall analysis of Hamlet’s behavior is represented in Jones’ statement, "So far as I can see, there is no escape from the conclusion that the cause of Hamlet’s hesitancy lies in some unconscious source of repugnance to his task" When Hamlet first hears the ghost’s call for revenge, he answers: Haste me to know’t, that I with wings as swift
As mediation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge. (Act I, Sc. 5)
Hamlet says this in Act I, yet Claudius is not killed until Act 5. Surely Hamlet is not "sweeping" to revenge. Hamlet’s inability to act upon the ghost’s request cannot be linked to any uncertainty of the ghost’s claims, for in Act 3 Sc.2 Hamlet states "I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound". A probable conclusion lies in the possibly that Hamlet does not want to kill the king. Take into consideration the relationship between Hamlet and his...
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