This sample paper on Oedipus Complex Hamlet offers a framework of relevant facts based on the recent research in the field. Read the introductory part, body and conclusion of the paper below.
Psychoanalytical criticism, developed by Freud, is a way to interpret authors, and other artists’ work, making connections between the authors themselves and what they actually create. The Oedipus complex is a psychoanalytical theory where a child has the unconscious desire for the exclusive love of the parent of the opposite sex.
The desire includes jealousy towards the parent of the same sex and the unconscious wish for that parent’s death. It usually occurs between the ages of three to five and is a normal developmental process of human psychological growth.
The stage is usually ended when the child identifies with the parent of the same sex and represses its sexual instincts. Freud believed that all people experienced the Oedipus complex but many researchers in psychoanalysis believe it develops as a result of a person’s environment and does not occur in everyone.
Freud believed the complex could stay in the unconscious mind and affect the person in adult life.? Within Hamlet the Oedipus complex can be applied to Hamlet’s character.
Hamlet still isn’t over his father’s death, and the appearance of the ghost of his father at the start of the play fuels his anger to take revenge, but he delays killing Claudius throughout the play. This is because unconsciously he admires Claudius, because he has fulfilled Hamlet’s own unconscious wishes of killing his father and marrying his mother, ‘a father kill’d, a mother stain’d,’ which is exactly the position Hamlet would like to be in.
The Oedipus complex can appear to be reflected in Hamlets behaviour in Act III Scene IV.
From the start of the scene Hamlet is talking to his mother with anger and resentment. He is disgusted with her for marrying her dead brother’s wife; ‘You are the Queen, your husband’s brother’s wife’ (III, IV, 14). This is because unconsciously he feels he should be in Claudius’ position, of being King of Denmark, and being married to Gertrude. Things start getting very heated between Hamlet and Gertrude and he shows his disapproval of their relationship; ‘In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed, Stew’d in corruption, honeying and making love Over the nasty sty! (III, IV, 92-94).
At this point Hamlet sees the ghost of his dead father appear before him to remind him of what his purpose is, which distracts him and interrupts their heated conversation. The ghost appearing at this particular moment could be seen as Hamlet’s unconscious creating the image of his father to stop something happening with his mother. Hamlet then warns his mother ‘But go not to mine Uncle’s bed’ (III, IV, 161) because he doesn’t want her sleeping with Claudius, or being close to him because he wants her for himself.
Act III Scene iv is a crucial part of the play for a director when deciding whether to interpret the play with the Oedipus complex in mind or not, because there is so much dialogue interaction between Hamlet and his mother, more so than other scenes in the play and because it is easy to identify the Oedipus complex in this scene. Looking at this scene especially, in different film versions different directors have interpreted it in different ways. In Zefirelli’s 1990 film version, Act III Scene IV has been performed with strong reference to the Oedipus complex in mind.?
Olivier’s 1948 production is performed with only a slight reference to the Oedipus complex in the way the characters interact with each other.? In Brannagh’s 1996 film version, there is no direct reference to the Oedipus complex in Act III Scene IV at all.? Freud’s theory can be applied to the text as a whole as well as just Act III Scene IV. In Act I Scene ii this is the closest Hamlet gets to confronting Claudius about the marriage to his mother. He talks to himself about it straight after Claudius and the rest of the court have left ‘She married -O most wicked speed! (I, II, 156) but it is still directed at Gertrude not Claudius because unconsciously he can’t blame him. And throughout the whole play he never says anything about, or to Claudius, being ‘incestuous’ for marrying his brother’s wife. After Hamlet sees the ghost of his father and is told by it to take revenge for his murder, Hamlet pretends to be mad, unconsciously, to delay killing Claudius. The Oedipal complex explains why Hamlet delays killing him and is unable to take direct action, through out the whole play.
Claudius has coincidentally fulfilled Hamlets unconscious fantasies. After the ‘Mousetrap’ play is performed and Hamlet knows for sure that Claudius is guilty of his father’s murder, he still doesn’t take action, but chats with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, ‘O, the recorders. Let me see one. ‘ (III, II, 36). He doesn’t realise he is doing this, and so won’t think that Claudius will stop him from telling people – and he does. He sends Hamlet to England. Before Hamlet pretends to be mad, he is deeply in love with Ophelia, ‘I did love you once’ (III, I, 115).
But when he is pretending to be mad he tells her bluntly that he no longer does, which hurts her so much that she kills herself! The desire for his mother is so much that he no longer cares about Ophelia. Surely if he realised what he was doing, he wouldn’t have done it because he cares for her. But he doesn’t realise and unknowingly plays a part in her death. When Hamlet finally does take action against Claudius in Act V Scene II (the final scene), it is only after Gertrude is dead that he is able to kill Claudius.
This is because Claudius is no longer a projection of Hamlets unconscious mind so he now takes revenge for the murder of his father and his mother. When applying the Oedipus complex to Hamlet’s character, it can be a valid interpretation. The behaviour of Hamlet, and his actions through out the play, shows how the theory can be applied, as it is in film versions by Zeffirelli and Olivier. But there is actually little textual evidence to support the idea. The only way it can be applied is by looking at it as a deep Freudian interpretation.
If taken at face value with out reading into it as much, it is difficult to see the theory applied in the text, although it can be seen if a director has chosen to interpret it this way. As Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, and it was being performed, in the seventeenth century, the Oedipus complex and Psychoanalysis would not have been applied, as it was only developed in the twentieth century by Freud. This means that at the time, it would not have been performed with the Oedipus complex in mind.
In Elizabethan England It most likely would have been performed simply as a play to entertain the audience and would have been understood by them to be a revenge tragedy which were popular types of play at the time. Act III Scene IV is a major part of the play for a director when deciding whether to interpret the play with the Oedipus complex in mind or not. In Brannaghs film version, there is no evidence of the Oedipus complex being applied to the scene, or the play as a whole.
With out applying the Oedipus complex, Act III Scene IV can be presented in different ways. From the start we know Hamlet is still not over his father’s death; ‘Do not for ever with thy vailed lids Seek thy noble father in the dust. ‘ (I, II, 70-71). He has so much pent up anger and emotion from the death of his father and the hasty marriage between Gertrude and Claudius, he doesn’t know what to do. Act III Scene IV can be presented as a point where Hamlet finally releases all his anger because Claudius has just shown his guilt from his reaction to the Mousetrap play.
This leads to the confrontation with his mother, where he shows his dislike for their marriage, ‘Mother, you have my father much offended’ (III, IV, 9), and where he warns her to stay away from Claudius ‘But go not to my uncle’s bed’ (III, IV, 161). He is so angry he has no hesitation in killing the person behind the arras, especially as he thinks it’s the king. The play can be presented at face value, simply as a story of revenge as it would have done at the time it was written.
I think the Oedipus complex is a valid interpretation of the text when psychoanalysed and can be performed well with the theory in mind, but it is a twentieth century interpretation. In the seventeenth century when it was performed, it would have been written to be performed as entertainment. The performers would of performed it to entertain the audience and the audience would of understood it as it was performed, not my looking into the text and looking for deeper meanings.