Hamlet is the typical kind of son almost every father and mother would want: intelligent, loving, caring, strong and loyal. Yet, some scholars believe that he is just another emotional character, defying our eyes to think that his acts are innocent, when his real purpose is to take his mother for himself. This gives scholars, like Ernest Jones, the impression that Hamlet’s actions were encouraged by an Oedipus complex, characterized by feelings of intense rivalry with a father figure in regards to a mother’s spousal affection. Even though there are lines that can be interpreted to show that Hamlet may have had such a desire for his mother, when these lines are examined in the full context of the play, the proposal becomes absurd.
The concept of an Oedipus complex was formed by Sigmund Freud in the 1900’s. It is based on the play Oedipus Rex, written by Sophocles around 427 BC. In this play, Oedipus killed his father, the king of Thebes, and married his mother without knowing his relationship to either of them. The Oedipus complex states that “children experience a phase in their psychosexual development (the phallic stage) during which they experience positive feelings toward the parent of the opposite sex and feelings of rivalry toward the parent of the same sex” (Nicholi 24). In other words, children are sexually attracted to the parent of the opposite sex while feeling hostility to the other parent.
Hamlet does not have an Oedipus complex. Hamlet’s true father, Old Hamlet, is already dead once the play starts and there is no evidence that Hamlet had any rivalry with his father before the story begins. The only person who stands between Hamlet and his mother is h...
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...rds Claudius - only evidence of hate, rage, anger, and distrust. Upon observing all of these points within the play, it becomes far less reasonable that Hamlet had some sort of sexual desire for his mother, and far more reasonable that he simply wanted to avenge his father’s death. Hamlet’s actions, while as absurd as they may have seemed, were all motivated by the undying love of a son, not by the driving force of lust that some ambitious scholars have proposed.
Newman, Dawn. “Women in Hamlet.” 12 Nov. 2005
Nicholi, Dr. Armand M. The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.
Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Ed. G. B. Harrison. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980.
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