William Shakespeare's Hamlet

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William Shakespeare's Hamlet

Hamlet has been praised and revered for centuries as one of William Shakespeare's best known and most popular tragedies. Based on its popularity, critics alike have taken various viewpoints and theories in order to explain Hamlet's actions throughout the play. The psychoanalytic point of view is one of the most famous positions taken on Hamlet.

Psychoanalytic criticism is a type of literary criticism that analyzes and classifies many of the forms of psychoanalysis in the interpretation of literature. As the Concise Oxford Dictionary defines psychoanalysis, as a form of therapy that is concluced ‘by investigating the interaction of conscious and unconscious elements in the mind' (Barry 96). One of the most popularized psychoanalysts of all time was Sigmund Freud. His theories on repression most directly parallel to Hamlet's actions in the play. This theory states that "much of what lies in the unconscious mind has been put there by consciousness, which acts as a censor, driving underground unconscious or conscious thoughts or instincts that it deems unacceptable. Censored materials often involve infantile sexual desires" (Murfin ). These unconscious desires are seen in dreams, in language, in creative activity, and in neurotic behavior (Murfin ).

This theory of repression also is directly correlated to Freud's Oedipus complex. The Oedipus complex deals with Infantile sexuality as well, by explaining that sexuality starts at infancy with the relationship of the infant with the mother, not at puberty. The Oedipus complex assesses that the infant has the desire to discard the father and become the sexual companion of the mother (Barry 97).

In analyzing Hamlet, the Oedipus Complex is clearly apparent to the reader. As a child, Hamlet always expressed the warmest fondness and affection for his mother. This adoration contained elements of disguised erotic quality, especially seen in the bed chamber scene with his mother. The Queen's sensual nature and her passionate fondness of her son are two traits that show her relationship with Hamlet goes beyond the normal mother-sun relationship. Nonetheless though, Hamlet finds a love interest in Ophelia. His feelings for Ophelia are never discussed fully in the play, but it is evident to the reader that at one time he loved her because of the hurt he feels whe...

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... of looking at Hamlet's actions. Freud and other theorists were able to take the play and analyze it scene by scene, giving a more in-depth meaning to the actions of the characters. In a sense, Shakespeare wrote two plays in one; one play dealing with a tragedy, leaving the stage with many corpses; the other standing the test of time, in a captivating exploration into an unconscious world of the unknown.

Works Cited

Adelman, Janet. "Man and Wife is One Flesh:" Hamlet and the Confrontation with the Maternal Body. Hamlet. Ed. Susanne L. Wofford. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1994.

Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory. New York: Manchester University Press. 1995.

Jones, Ernest. "Ernest Jones: Hamlet and Oedipus." N. pag. Online. Worldwide web. 21 May 2000. Available at: http://click.go2net.com/adpopup?site=hm&shape=noshape&border=1&area=DIR.EDU.HIGHER&sizerepopup=1&hname=UNKNOWN

Murfin, Ross C. "Psychoanalytic Criticism in Hamlet." Hamlet. Ed. Susanne L. Wofford. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1994.

Shakespear, William. Hamlet. Ed. Susanne L. Wofford. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1994.
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