✎✎✎ Hamlet Psychoanalytic Analysis

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Hamlet Psychoanalytic Analysis



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Introduction to Hamlet l Summary and Psychoanalysis l Lesson 1

From our first encounter with Hamlet, he is consumed by grief and obsessed with death. Although he is dressed in black to signify his mourning, his emotions run deeper than his appearance or words can convey. In Act 1, Scene 2, he says to his mother:. Hamlet is pained to think that everyone has forgotten his father so quickly—especially his mother Gertrude. However, Hamlet is emotionally disorientated and finds it difficult to take action. He cannot balance his overwhelming hatred for Claudius, his all-encompassing grief, and the evil required to carry out his revenge. We see a different Hamlet return from exile in Act 5. Ophelia can be seen as weak in this scene because she protests little against Hamlet and only hopes that his insanity will end.

These crude comments Hamlet says to Ophelia continue throughout the play until Ophelia is being buried when Hamlet asserts that he loved Ophelia. Challenges come in many forms within this play, and they have various results in the end. However, the major challenges within this act show how awful scenarios may conclude in a much worse consequence. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Hamlet feels betrayed by his mother and feels like he can 't trust anyone. Shakespeare gives Hamlet these struggles in the play to amplify the mental and psychological events that make the reader feel bad about what all happened to Hamlet. Hamlet eventually kills Claudius like his father told him to, but only did it after his mother, Gertrude, drank the poison that Claudius meant to give Hamlet. Numerous commentators offer in Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Hamlet might be distraught. In Hamlet by William Shakespeare frenzy can be viewed as the domino impact.

The peruser sees Shakespeare has composed characters whose franticness prompts their inescapable passing. Albeit because of Hamlet 's activities all through the play, unmistakably he, truth be told, isn 't frantic, however mindful of his activities and what he is doing. For example, franticness is characterized as the quality or state of dysfunctional behavior or derangement. This is something in which the peruser finds in others characters of the play, yet not especially in Hamlet himself. Gertrude thinks that the play queen may never marry again due to her undying love for her late husband. These internal processes are externalized and dramatized in the soliloquies, where the thought is frequently revengeful, sadistic and self-destructive.

Hamlet's soliloquies are also expressions of superego conflict: to die or to live; to honour or to revenge; duty to oneself or to one's father. On one level, Hamlet is ashamed of his father's command to revenge, and, at the same time, ashamed of his inability to fulfil the command. Eleanor Prosser suggests the Ghost is an idea Hamlet has long been waiting for. So, uncle, there you are. If the command to murder Claudius is another instance of repressed wishes surfacing into conscious intention, then it is obviously less threatening that the revengeful need seems to come from outside, from the superego demands of authority, of the outraged father, husband and king.

The Oedipal theory clearly works here. Hamlet has been thinking, on some pre-conscious level, about his uncle-father; and that is why at first he thrills to the command to revenge and murder: '0 my prophetic soul! My uncle! By creating the Ghost, Shakespeare creates a father-son-mother confrontation at the heart of the play. The play dramatizes a crisis in Hamlet's identification with his idealized, murdered, heroic father, who returns from the dead to demand Hamlet revenge his death, and in so doing, rescue his mother from her second, and incestuous marriage. Everything hinges on Hamlet's struggle to identify with his father's superego demands that he revenge; that is, after all, justice within the revenge genre, and it coincides with one aspect of the cultural superego — it is the right thing to do — but Shakespeare sets up the problem of revenge in such a disruptive way that the action on moral, ethical and psychic levels is blocked.

The conflict of revenge engages the action on many levels, delaying revenge through ambiguities in psychological motivation, language and action. The creation of the Ghost is itself a piece of theatrical aggression for it stops Hamlet's initial fierce self-restraint; allows him to express his deeply conflicted feelings about Claudius, and his desire to kill him. The Ghost's revelation of murder, incest and adultery — 'Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast' I. The revelation is also conclusive and irreversible affirmation of his intense feelings about his mother: '0 most pernicious woman!

The Ghost and Hamlet share the same obsession: Gertrude. Together they comprise an ancient and often cursed triangle. As actor-manager, Hamlet externalizes or projects his inner conflict about revenge onto the directing and acting of the entire scene of his father's murder, which, by pure chance or dramatic device! I'll have these players Play something like the murder of my father Before mine uncle. The play reaches its climax with Hamlet ferociously urging Lucianus on: 'Come, the croaking raven doth bellow for revenge' III. As director, actor, chorus and audience, Hamlet is ecstatic at the end of this performance, because it is as if he had avenged his father.

The successful displacement of inner aggression affords Hamlet immense relief. Moreover, he has made public the entire story, from known beginning to wished-for conclusion. The Ghost is the means of dramatizing Hamlet's deep-seated inner fears and anxiety, his hatred of Claudius and his unconscious desire to kill the man who has 'whor'd' V. The Ghost's foul imaginings about Gertrude's lustful sexuality anticipate Hamlet's own image of 'incestuous sheets' I.

There is very little evidence in Gertrude's dialogue that she is as lustful as her first husband and Hamlet would have us suppose. Just as lago voices Othello's disturbing, destructive, jealous fantasies, so the Ghost does Hamlet's. It may be objected that the Ghost tells Hamlet to leave his mother 'to heaven' I. In the closet scene, he pleads with Hamlet to 'step between her and her fighting soul' III. But it is too late. And Hamlet's father knows it. He has timed his intervention perfectly; for, in his passionate and deeply conflicted interview with his mother. Hamlet has already used enough verbal daggers to cleave her 'heart in twain' III.

It is needless to labour the Oedipal basis of the closet scene. It is a famous piece of psychoanalytic criticism frequently incorporated into contemporary productions. But what chance does Hamlet have of keeping the crucial love of Ophelia, which might have sustained him? Hamlet is irretrievably trapped in a parental relationship involving murder, adultery and incest. What chance is there of detaching himself from this overwhelming guilt? He has been made responsible for wiping it out; moreover, he has promised to do so. And Hamlet is a responsible person; his superego sees to that, even if he curses his masculinity in being 'born to set it right' I. Yet Hamlet cannot become his father's avenger because that would involve him and his mother still further in family guilt.

His repudiation of her makes clear the powerful family knot of emotional attachments that ruin their relationship:. You are the Queen, your husband's brother's wife, And, would it were not so, you are my mother. The superego, then, is a revengeful force which seeks to punish. Hamlet tries to become his father's superego, but because he cannot act on it, his own superego takes revenge on him — tortures him, kills him eventually. He cannot consciously question the morality of avenging his father's murder, because that would be to challenge his father; moreover, part of him is torn by the moral discrepancy involved in committing murder as a solution to the problem of murder.

In a conscious effort to gain control over the destructiveness of the superego, the tragic hero tries to project his sense of guilt, through his ambition or revenge, onto others. Hamlet channels his vengeful aggression in a variety of ways: through his constant cruelty to others, his verbal hostility and his 'antic disposition' I. Barber and Wheeler write of Hamlet's need to use his hostility to 'protect his integrity against acquiescence in the corrupt world, on the one side, or acquiescence in self-loathing, on the other'.

The command to revenge is itself a directive to transform love into violent and vengeful hatred. It is a superego command from the idealized father to his son to hate and destroy the bestial father-figure of Claudius, that heap of 'garbage' I. Initially, the command to revenge displaces some of Hamlet's superego aggression outward in his attempts to 'catch the conscience of the King' II. Furthermore, his attempts to act out his inner conflicts, his desire to rescue his mother and kill Claudius, have resulted in the regrettable, accidental killing of Polonius and the devastating suicide of Ophelia.

Moreover, his mother still shares his uncle's bed, continues to sleep between those 'incestuous sheets' I. He suffers acute mental agony for these blunders. No wonder Hamlet seems resigned to his own death upon his return from England; all his displacements have failed; the immense energy attached to his sense of guilt turns inward, there is nowhere else for it to go. Hamlet becomes a victim of his own desire for punishment — his need to end his life. He takes revenge upon himself; he accepts the wager from the absurd Osric: "Tis a chuff, but, as I say, spacious in the possession of dirt' V.

This is the same anguished, grief-stricken Hamlet who, standing in Ophelia's open grave, has willed 'Millions of acres' to be thrown on him so that he may be buried quick with her V. His ego yields to his superego and takes on the suffering the self-abusive superego produces. In these circumstances, the ego collapses under the weight of so much revengeful self-hatred; the pain and anxiety produced by the murderous superego become unendurable. Hamlet submits his person to a duel arranged by one he knows to be his mortal enemy. Freud's view of instinctual fusion between erotic and aggressive instincts suggests an admixture of erotic quantities even in destructive processes, and this may explain any masochism there might be in the tragic hero's self-sacrifice, as well as the sadism in superego aggression.

In Shakespearean tragic drama, the protagonist's sense of guilt superego aggression and need for punishment are so pronounced that the ego is not strong enough to be independent of the superego, or to control it. In normal living, this unconscious aggressive energy is displaced or sublimated. In this kind of tragedy, the ego seems unable to defend itself from the severity of the revengeful demands of the superego by such normal activities as repression, denial or rationalization. The function of the plot is to make sure the protagonist's displacements eventually fail. The ultimate aim of the tragic hero is to act out the compulsive nature of his guilt, both the guilt he feels for his own personal wrong-doing, and the generalized guilt which the social demands represented by the drama have required him to internalize.

He is compelled to submit to the deathly demands of his own superego and those of the community. In dying, Hamlet's psyche is cleansed of the burden of failed love, familial outrage and grief. As I suggested at the beginning of this essay, in Hamlet , Shakespeare represents revenge as an inward tragic event which is externalized, dramatized, and then reinforced by destructive family relationships whose psychic energies violate and eventually destroy the psychic wholeness of the tragic person. The conflict between ego and superego constitutes the dynamic action of Hamlet on many levels, creating revenge and its delay through acute inner anxieties and mental anguish, as well as ambiguities in action, language and thought. Through his conscious articulation and dramatization of the unconscious dynamics which drive stories of poisonous revenge, Shakespeare invites our reflection, invites us to hold the mirror up to our own deepest conflicts and desires.

The resolution of Hamlet leaves us not only moved, but challenged and enlightened. Hamlet's fatal story is a lesson we must not ignore, but keep in our hearts, too:. If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, Absent thee from felicity awhile, And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain To tell my story. The mimetic power of violent revenge in Hamlet depends on the reality of those psychic conflicts Shakespeare dramatizes as revenge.

See J. Laplanche and J. Pontalis, 'The Oedipus complex plays a fundamental part in the structuring of the personality and in the orientation of human desire' The Language of Psycho-Analysis London: Hogarth Press, , p.

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