In "Man and Wife Is One Flesh": Hamlet and the Confrontation with the Maternal Body, Janet Adelman argues that the motivating force behind the plot action in Hamlet is the collapse of boundaries between relationships of individuals, sexes, and divisions of public (state) and private (love) life. The primary cause of the breakdown results from the bodily contamination spread through overt sexuality, specifically maternal sexuality. Janet Adelman asserts her feminism into the sexist view of psychoanalysis to define the contamination as that power of women that men fear.
Adelman's case for the collapse of boundaries is her strength and weakness. Extensive textual evidence supports her claim for the melding of the men, but her choice to ignore the women's differentiation is a critical error. Gertrude and Ophelia define themselves through sexuality, memory retention and communication, existing as two individual beings separate from the collapsing masculine world. Adelman continues to argue that the power of women's sexuality contaminates all life associated with it. While sexuality is women's most potent power, it is the power to give life and sustain it through maternal fulfillment, not to promote death and further erasure of boundaries through contamination, poison and death. For madness and death follow promptly after the removal of the women's sexuality.
Shakespeare expresses the Freudian concept of sexual and aggressive conflict by assigning the traits to female and male characters respectively. The alternating suppression, sexuality over aggression and aggression over sexuality, plays out in Hamlet ultimately proving their symbiotic relationship. The sup...
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... strips away female sexuality, life ends. Aggression does not create life. The eradication of the conflict-boundary is a self-sacrificing effort by the men, who in so doing, deny everyone sexual satisfaction to balance the aggression, thus resorting to fatal violence and ending their immortality through procreation.
Adelman, Janet. "Man and Wife is One Flesh": Hamlet and the Confrontation with the Maternal Body.
William Shakespeare: Hamlet. Ed. Susanne L. Wofford. Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism. Boston: St. Martin's, 256-282.
Calhoun, J. "Personality and Psychoanalytic Theory." Psychology 1101. UGA. Athens, 6 Nov 1998.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Susanne L. Wofford. Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism. Boston: St. Martin's, 1994.
Stoppard, Tom. Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. New York: Grove, 1967
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