Hamlet and the Oedipus Complex

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The Oedipus complex originates from the classical era and was seen as

pejorative due to the afflictions of hatred, jealously and a desire to

kill the father. It is where a boy unconsciously develops a desire and

lust for his mother considering the father as his ultimate rival whom

he must eradicate. The death of Hamlet's father to his envious

adversaries hand, stimulates Hamlet's deep affections for his mother

from his childhood.

Hamlet's Oedipal desire leads him to procrastinate in killing

Claudius: in doing so, it would be an obvious admittance to his

Oedipal lusts: his enemy has already fulfilled his Oedipal desires in

murdering Old Hamlet and sleeping with Gertrude. Hamlet is incapable

of killing his uncle since it would be symbolic of him taking his own


Claudius unavoidably has to be killed in revenge for the murder of Old

Hamlet. Hamlet, however, feels his right to do so is prohibited

because he himself is evil due to his incestuous thoughts. Therefore,

Hamlet acknowledges that he cannot judge another man for being

immoral. He is also aware that killing Claudius whilst Gertrude is

still alive would not only deeply scar her emotions but it would also

be an admittance of him suffering from the Oedipus complex. Hamlet can

only perform the deed once his conscience is clear of any ulterior


Furthermore, the thought of incest and murder combined are too

intolerable to be borne. Hamlet appears to be repulsed by his Oedipal

desires understanding that incest is morally wrong; the confliction

within him manifests itself both in repulsion of women and madness.

Ironically, Hamlet tries to prevent these thoughts but his actions

seem to suggest that he is preoccupied by his mother's sexuality.

Hamlet is obsessed with his mother's sexual life and his description

of it is leaves nothing to the imagination:

'In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed / Stew'd in corruption, hanging

and making love / O'er the sty.'

He forcefully commands his mother not to be tempted into bed with

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