Oedipus complex?greenspun.com : LUSENET : Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet : One Thread
It seems that everywhere I look, in many of the films at least, Hamlet is portrayed as having a thing for his mom. Is there really anything in the play to suggest this? To me it just seems like a movie embellishment. Does anyone think it's true that Hamlet has an Oedipus complex? Any thoughts?
-- evilfishy (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 02, 2001
Well, Evilfishy, you are not alone in thinking that this whole Oedipal thing is reading a bit too much between the lines. To my understanding, it came into fashion in the early 60's when pop psych was all the rage. Hamlet is a play of such depth and human understanding that how it is played is often a reflection of the times. It can be a political film, a love story, an anti-war statement, a psychological thriller, or whatever the time dictates. The words may not change (please, never change the words), but the interpretation will change from generation to generation. Anyone else want to throw in two cents?
-- mikken (email@example.com), February 07, 2001.
I felt that if I was going to have Claudius and Hamlet die someone would need to carry on the name. In the end, I tought it would be fun to kill off Gertrude too. ;)
-- William Shakespeare (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 04, 2001.
so far this has been the most intelligent conversation on the subject of hamlet and his supposed oedipus complex. i am writing a paper on this subject for a theater class. any suggestions on how to either further make the connection of hamlet and oedipus or to disprove it? many thanks in advance. i lean towards the belief that hamlet did have a thing for his mother. it just seems to fit in with good ole bill shakespeare and the sometimes subtle twists he liked to put into his stories.
-- roberta schwartz (email@example.com), April 10, 2001.
It has always seemed to me that people read too much into this---Hamlet could care for his mother without having a "thing" for her, after all. After some thought on the subject, I'd say keep in mind that there are legitimate arguments for either viewpoint. This question can really go either way depending on your interpretation. From the Oedipal view, you could say that Hamlet's loathing for Claudius is caused mostly by jealousy. Does Hamlet see a reflection of himself in the spirit of his honorable father? He obviously thinks Gertrude's speedy marriage to Claudius is a sick concept, and tries (almost violently) to make her realize this huge mistake she's made. Does he do this in the spirit of insanity, anger, jealousy, or love? Or all of the above? Interesting question. In any case, Hamlet feels betrayed. Check out the "conversation" between Hamlet and his mom in Act III, Scene 4. Please let me know about any breakthrough ideas and opinions that make more sense than I do. Thanks!
-- evilfishy (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 10, 2001.
I also agree that people are reading too much into the situation. Hamlet is angry at his mother about her hasty marriage because he feels like she has forgotten his father, not because he has romantic feelings for her. I am writing a paper on how the Oedipus Complex theory is invalid in the tragedy of Hamlet. Does anyone have any other thoughts, or know where I may be able to find more research supporting this? Everything I have found before this has been in favor of the Oedipus Complex.
-- (email@example.com), June 26, 2001.
This has always pipped me off. Oedipal complexes weren't around pre Freud. WS in other plays and in the Sonnets explores same sex relationships (compare especially TWELFTH NIGHT) but no things for mothers beyond love and respect. Note also H's unempathetic comment on his mother's age in III.iv.67 - 69. H "loved Ophelia": yeah sure, he's a bit rough with her, but that's after she's denied him and lied to him, and this when he's already very unhappy. The best key to understanding WS is to take him at face value, for God's sake. Then it's most direct, powerful and p
-- catherine england (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 03, 2001.
Hamlet did indeed have an Oepidus complex. Sigmund Freud came up with the complex after years of observation, part of his whole sexual development and id, ego and superego thing, and he needed a name. Oedipus became the final name for the condition, of loving one's mother and hating one's father, but prior to that there was another name. Before settling on Oedipus, Freud was going to call it the Hamlet complex! The only reason he didn't was because people might miss it and believe the complex to be one of indecision and delay, so Freud went with Oedipus becuase it is more obvious in that piece of work.
-- Jane Smith (email@example.com), November 15, 2001.
Because Freud read an Oedipus complex into HAMLET does not mean that it is in HAMLET. You need to find evidence in the play itself. I do not find any; I only find evidence to the contrary. HAMLET concerns far different complexities of relationships. Hamlet does not hate his father: he hates his stepfather for harming his father. He loves Ophelia as a lover (see III.ii.107-120, 139-143, 240-246, and V.i.264-266).
He loves his mother as a mother, though he is hurt by what he sees as her betrayal of his father. See for some examples:- I.ii.139-158; he almost invariably calls her "madam" or "mother"; note I.ii.120, and also I.ii.159: this is filial obedience; he has no empathy with sexual desire at her age, and therefore certainly doesn't view it, and her at it, with any sexual love himself: III.iv.68-70 and 81-88,
You cannot call it love; for at you age The heyday in the blood is tame, it's humble And waits upon the judgement ... Rebellious hell If thou canst mutine in a matron's bones, To flaming youth let virtue be as wax And melt in her own fire; proclaim no shame When the compulsive ardour gives the charge, Since frost itself as actively doth burn And reason panders will.
To him she is definitely "a matron" and "frost" as far as sexual love goes. Can refute this with evidence from the text of the play?
-- catherine england (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 29, 2001.
I have a serious problem with Catherine. Do you think that you know more than William Shakespeare? This man is a genius. He would not have put anything into a characterization or plot that he didn't want people to pick up on. Of course the Oedipal complex existed in Shakespeare's time, it just wasn't called the Oedipal complex. If I see a chair standing on the floor yet I dont know the name of the object it still exists, even though I am not able to articulate that it is a chair. If America wasn't discovered yet does that mean that it wasn't there? Shakespeare wanted the people who watched his plays to look past the "face value" that Catherine thinks we should only look at. For example if I was to only look at the face value of MacBeth, I would think that "no one of woman born shall ever harm MacBeth." If I think out of the box and look behind the "face value" I then realizer that there is someone who can harm MacBeth, and that person is MacDuff, and the forests can move etc. Get real, Catherine, and open your closed mind. - Anonymus
-- Anonymus (email@example.com), January 14, 2002.
Thank you for your critique. Sorry to have given such offence.
Of course WS was a genius - Lord above, did I ever say he wasn't? I thought that was my point: he put so much in his plays, do we really need to read in stuff that isn't there?
Shakespeare knew he was good, too: he put his name to his writing.
To get back to WS's text (sorry again, I'm like that: I like to focus on the sources - it's that blasted historian in me) rather than what critics have said about what other critics think about what Freud said about the text, which is what I mean by taking it at face value, not taking what characters say at face value ...
... as I have said before, I cannot see that the text supports an Oedipal reading, but rather the contrary. So I am convinced that Shakespeare didn't put the Oedipal thing into either characterization or plot in HAMLET. Please do show me with the text, the words the genius Shakespeare wrote, where I have gone wrong.
If we are going to discuss Saussure: my too briefly and poorly worded comment that Oedipus complexes weren't around pre Freud was to imply that it is imposed on HAMLET because the Oedipus complex has become fashionable since Freud formulated it; but of course, such a concept was in existence, though as a part of a myth, not as a defined complex. The myth predates Hesiod, Sophocles' heart-aching trilogy on Oedipus and his family was written in the second half of the fifth century BC, and many plays and poems about the doomed king have been written since ancient times. I simply maintain that HAMLET is not an adaption of them.
-- catherine england (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 15, 2002.
Hmmm...definitely going to have to side with Catherine on this one. This whole "Hamlet and his mum" thing has gotten way out of hand for the last 35 years or so. Let's all hope that Branagh's adaptation will help turn the tide for future generations.
-- mikken (email@example.com), January 15, 2002.
Listen, Cat, may I call you that? I am sorry my intial response came out to be so rude. I was simply upset. However, I will prove to you that Hamlet had an Oedipal complex. Give me 10 days. That is all I am asking. At the end of the 10 days I will e mail you my response complete with textual evidence and citations, actually, I may post it on this bulletin board if it will allow me. After the 10 days I would like to discuss this matter further. Until then I hope that you are well, and I look foward to hearing from you.
-- Anonymous (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 16, 2002.
'Till then, in patience our proceeding be.'
Certainly, I think this should be done on the board. Then everyone can join in the battle.
I shan't call you Anon.: people may confuse you with one of the most prolific and best-known poets of all time. :)
-- catherine england (email@example.com), January 17, 2002.
Well well, I seem to have started quite a nice little Shakespearean brawl here. :) I'd be extremely interested in your thoughts or proofs or disproofs, and I'm sure plenty of other people would too---please post them! Maybe I should go read the play again. All this is making me wonder about it.
-- evilfishy (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 17, 2002.
Here it is, as promised. Enjoy!!
Hamlet is one of the most famous characters of all Shakespearean plays if not in all of literature. Like nearly all of Shakespeare’s protagonists, Hamlet is plagued with what many call the “tragic flaw” or what is also known as his Harmatia. A character’s Harmatia can only be something that makes them up. It cannot be an action or something the character said; it can only be a feeling or way of being that makes up the character. For years historian and literary critics have been puzzled in solidly nailing down Hamlet’s Harmatia. T.S. Eliot says, “Hamlet is dominated by an emotion which is inexpressible, because it is in excess of the facts as they appear” (Eliot 182). Eliot is correct, some argue that it is Hamlet’s insanity; others believe that it is because he is too cerebral. Still others claim that it is Hamlet’s indecisiveness that causes his downfall, Hamlet is surrounded by excess and that is what makes pin pointing his Harmatia so difficult. One of the most disputed and argued upon Harmatia topic is the issue of Hamlet’s Oedipal complex. This paper will examine the Oedipal complex and follow it throughout Shakespeare’s Hamlet, proving that Hamlet certainly was struck by the hand of the Oedipal complex, which led to his eventual demise, and a demise which led to his realization of truth at the point of death. Sigmund Freud, the legendary trail - blazer in the field of psychology, proposed the Oedipal complex in his “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality.” Along with describing the four stages of sexual development: oral, anal, phallic, and latency-genital, Freud showed the world that at the age of four or five during, the phallic stage of sexual development, a boy begins to feel that he is in competition with his father. Freud claimed that all boys during that age feel a sexual attraction between themselves and their mothers, unless however they are homosexuals. They begin to feel so attracted to their mothers that they may say that they want to marry their mothers and they may act very attached to their mothers, not wanting to leave their side. As far as the father is concerned, the child wants nothing to do with him. From the boy’s point of view the father is nothing but his competition. The child may try to get in between the father and mother and will develop a seemingly loathing attitude towards the father. That is normal for all young boys, although the feeling is subconscious and doesn’t surface into the conscious state of thought. Hamlet’s feelings towards his mother, however, go past the phallic stage of his sexual development and continue through his latency-genital stage and far into his adult life. This is no longer the Oedipal stage in his life, at this point; the sexual feelings become the Oedipal complex. The complex consists mainly of two parts: the excessive love and erotic sexual feelings towards one’s mother and the intense hatred, jealousy and complete loathing toward one’s father. Hamlet has two fathers during the course of the play so in order to prove that Hamlet’s Harmatia is due to an Oedipal complex we must first establish Hamlet’s hatred for both his fathers. From the information we are given in the play we don’t know much about Hamlet Sr. The only information that we are given regarding Hamlet Sr. comes from the scenes where we see him in a ghostly form. In Act I Scene 1 Horatio says a few words that help us to better understand the personality and history of Hamlet Sr. Horatio describes him as “ambitious” and “angry” (Hamlet 4). Marcellus comments about him always being in war and battling other countries. He is hardly described as a loving father figure for Hamlet. When finally the deceased king speaks to Hamlet, a son who loved his father would have said, “I love you Dad,” or “I miss you.” Hamlet’s responses to his father are limited to one line each mostly consisting of one or two words: “What,” “I will,” “O God” etc. (Hamlet 21). Also, whenever Hamlet mentions his father he does not refer to him as father and if he does it is only after he has called him king first. “I’ll call thee Hamlet, King, father; royal Dane” (Hamlet 19). By addressing his father this way, Hamlet is showing that fatherhood was only an afterthought in Hamlet Sr.’s life. His duty as King often took precedence. In Act III, Scene 4, while speaking to his mother, Hamlet refers to the death of his father saying, “As kill a king and marry with his brother” (Hamlet 61). A child who loved his father would have called him father or refer to him as his mother’s husband. Hamlet gives the impression that he doesn’t care much for a father who had little or no relationship with his son. After Hamlet Sr.’s death, Hamlet is quickly presented with a new father. His uncle, Claudius, who we find out actually killed Hamlet’s father, marries Hamlet’s mother shortly after the king’s death. Hamlet has problems emotionally dealing with how quickly his mother was able to move on to a new husband. Staying true to his Oedipal Complex, Hamlet once again shows contempt and hatred for his new father, although there is proof that Claudius is a loving husband and perhaps a better King than Hamlet Sr. G. Wilson Knight claims that Claudius’s evil actions are faultless when he says. “ His faults are forced on him. He is distinguished by creative and wise action, a sense of purpose, benevolence, a faith in himself and those around him, by his love of the queen” (Knight 189). Nevertheless, the first time we see Hamlet and Claudius together is in Act I Scene 2. The King addresses Hamlet saying, “But now, my cousin Hamlet, now my son.” Hamlet responds sarcastically saying, “A little more than kin, and less than kind.” He is telling Claudius that even though he may now be his father it doesn’t mean that Hamlet is going to like him or be any more affectionate towards him. The king responds with, “How is it that the clouds still hang on you?” referring to the fact that he is still emotionally shaken from the events of his mother remarrying. Hamlet rebuttal is, “Not so, my lord; I am too much in the sun.” This response of Hamlet is a pun on the word son, which again indicates Hamlet’s bitterness towards the new relationship between himself and his uncle (Hamlet 9). Hamlet shows his hatred for his new father when he compares him to a satyr: a half goat, half man creature. Furthermore, what is better evidence to prove that Hamlet hates his father than his soliloquy in Act III Scene 3, while looking at Claudius as he pray. He had previously directed a play “Mouse Trap” that was written in order to prove the guilt of the King. Now Hamlet debates killing Claudius. “Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;…and so he goes to heaven…this in hire and salary, not revenge… When he is drunk asleep, or in a rage, or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed, at gaming, swearing…then trip him…that his soul may be as damned and black as hell, whereto it goes.” (Hamlet 59 –60). Hamlet loathes his father so much that killing him is not enough. He cannot simply kill him because he not only wants to ruin his father’s mortal life but he wants to also haunt his afterlife, so he would rather kill him when he was having sex with his mother because at least that would ensure his spot in Hell, rather than killing him while praying when he could be sent to Heaven. That is the ultimate hatred. He even goes so far to tell his mother how much he detests his new father telling him that he is “like a mildewed ear” and “a murderer,” and “villain”(Hamlet 63). In Act III Scene 4, Hamlet tells his mother not to have sex with Claudius. Hamlet encourages Gertrude to remain abstinent saying, “Go not to my uncle’s bed, assume a virtue, if you have not…Refrain tonight; and that shall lend a kind of easiness to next abstinence: the next more easy; for use almost can change the stamp of nature” (Hamlet 64). That brings up the second main part of proving Hamlet’s Oedipal complex, his love for Gertrude. Ernest Jones, the great critic and Freudian disciple says, “The presence of two traits in the Queen’s character accord with this assumption, namely her markedly sensual nature and her passionate fondness for her son” (Jones 200). He also goes on to point out that Hamlet’s unconscious is trying to say to Gertrude, “`You give yourself to other men whom you prefer to me. Let me assure you that I can dispense with your favours and even prefer those of a woman whom I no longer love’” (Jones 201). As is seen in many relationships, when someone loves another person very much, they often are the most critical and judgmental towards them. This is because when someone loves someone else they seem to put them on a pedestal. Hamlet does just that. He puts Gertrude on a pedestal and worships her so much that when she does something that Hamlet doesn’t like it upsets him. A.C. Bradley observes, “All his life he had believed in her, we may be sure, as such a son would. He had seen her not merely devoted to his father, but hanging on him like a newly-married bride” (Bradley 170). His idolization of Gertrude is evident in Act I Scene 2. Gertrude begs Hamlet to stay with her the way a wife would beg her husband not to leave to war. She says, “I pray thee, stay with us, go not to Wittenberg.” Hamlet, however replies with “I shall in all my best obey you, madam” much different then the way he spoke to Claudius. He speaks properly to Gertrude showing how much he respects her however he does not call her mother but instead, madam as if to show that he has a relationship different than one of a mother and son. He has problems dealing with the fact that his idol is only human. Hamlet looks up to his mother and when she falls in love with Claudius, Hamlet has difficulty accepting that she was able to replace Hamlet Sr. so quickly. Gertrude, however, had been unfaithful to Hamlet Sr. and had been with Claudius prior to Hamlet Sr.’s death making the transition from a husband who was too busy taking over other countries to make time for his family, to a seemingly loving husband whom she already loved very easy. Hamlet is distraught over Gertrude’s infidelity. Finding out that the woman he worships needed to fulfill her lustful desires while Hamlet Sr. was on his quests is very troubling to Hamlet. Jacqueline Rose comments that “excess” of Gertrude and “too much sexuality” causes Hamlet to not only become depressed, bordering insanity but also treat women poorly, like his relationship with Ophelia. Hamlet toys with his girlfriend Ophelia the way he believes that his mother is toying with Claudius or perhaps the way he feels his mother is toying with him. In Act III Scene 1 he tells Ophelia, “I loved you once…I loved you not” (Hamlet 47). Hamlet even takes his tormenting of Ophelia so far as to speak sexually to her after he had broken up with her in order make his mother jealous. At the performance of the “Mouse Trap” he lies upon Ophelia’s feet. His mother, wishing to fulfill her own sexual and lustful desires says, “Come hither, my good Hamlet, sit by me.” Hamlet refuses saying, “ No, good mother, here’s metal more attractive” (Hamlet 46). Hamlet knows how much his mother wants him and he wants his mother as well, but he uses the opportunity to make her jealous with Ophelia. We know that he doesn’t love Ophelia because as Arnold Kettle states, he “treated her with the utmost brutality of a prostitute” (Kettle 244). The only reason he is acting like he still loves her is to toy with the women in his life, to once again torment Ophelia into thinking he wants her back and to make his mother envious. Rebecca West even points out “the Queen is jealous of Ophelia,” when Ophelia comes to visit her and the queen responds, “I will not speak with her” (West 231).
Hamlet, like a concerned father questioning his teenage daughter about a new boyfriend, asks Gertrude what she sees in Claudius. Then he demands that she stop having sex with Claudius. This is very strange for a son to say to his mother. The only reason that Hamlet would say something like that would be if he were jealous. Perhaps the reason that Hamlet asks Gertrude to stop having sex with Claudius is because he doesn’t want her making love to his competition. Hamlet tells Gertrude in Act III Scene 4 “Nay, but to live in the rank sweat of an enseam’d bed, stew’d in corruption, honeying and making love over the nasty sky.” At this, Rebecca West points out, “the Queen admits the charge on sensuality” replying with “O! Speak to me no more these words like daggers enter in mine ears; no more, sweet Hamlet” (West 228). With this response Gertrude shows her pain and agony over what he has said. Her response seems to depict that she feels guilty that she was unfaithful to Hamlet Sr., but not because she wishes that she didn’t hurt Hamlet Sr.’s feelings but because she feels as if she has let Hamlet down. She even says “sweet Hamlet,” as if to say that she feels sorry for disappointing him and that she hopes he can forgive her and love her the way he once did. There aren’t many mothers who would let their son comment and tell them how to live their love life. Furthermore, the only reason a mother would reply with sweet Hamlet would be if she was trying to ask forgiveness while at the same time trying to sneakily seduce Hamlet to get back on his “good side.” The only way a mother would call her son sweet when he is being anything but sweet, and very rude would be if she had a deeper feeling for him beyond a normal mother/son relationship. It is evident that Hamlet’s Harmatia was most certainly due to his excessive and lustful feelings towards his mother, but it is also true that heroically Hamlet overcomes his Harmatia late in the play. It seems that as he dies in battle, he finally becomes noble and gets beyond his inappropriate feelings for his mother. During the last scene of the play several differences occur in Hamlet’s personality. A man that through the whole play avoided confronting his problem and avoided action, fights for the revenge he longed for, in a duel, the noblest of confrontations. Also his Oedipal Complex seems to disappear. The Queen says to Hamlet, “Here, take my napkin, rub thy brows” (Hamlet 98). This scene shows the Queen in a motherly light. Like most mothers would, she tries to protect her son by wiping his brow at the same time that she is encouraging him to do his best, even causing her to ignore the warning of the King that she is drinking the poisoned cup. Upon seeing the Queen fall, Hamlet quickly rushes to his mother asking how she is but never acting in any inappropriate way. It seems that Hamlet has recovered from his problems and perhaps his immaturity that plagued him throughout the play. Finally during his few moments as king, he took the opportunity to appoint the next king, Fortinbras. Hamlet, thus ends his life as a hero. Is it merely coincidence that he doesn’t overcome and face his fears until after he overcomes his Oedipal Complex? Is it merely a coincidence that he becomes king and finally becomes mature only after he overcomes the complex? Hamlet had to let go of his mother before he could act on his own. Like a young boy, he couldn’t learn to ride the bike until after his mother let go and he allowed for her to do so. Gertrude lets go in the final scene of Hamlet and consequently Hamlet acts as a noble prince and for a brief moment a noble king.
-- Anonymous: You may call me Joe (email@example.com), January 22, 2002.
Righty-hoo. Well. Basically we're asking, aren't we, whether or not H is sexually attracted to his mother. To this you have added that he loathes his 'fathers', and that he wishes to torment the women in his life. No, no, and again, no. Tonight on our show, H's relationship with his real father, OH; and H's view of women in general.
But first a few quibbles. I still maintain H has no 'tragic flaw', unless it is simply being human, which we all share. He's just a young man, straight out of uni, learning about death and life the hard way, through his experiences. I've discussed this elsewhere on the board ... sorry, can't remember where.
It is unlikely Gertrude committed adultery with Claudius, before OH died. I know it's in Belleforest, but it doesn't seem to be in WS to me. The ghosts words in I.v can be interpreted as describing Gertrude's seduction by Claudius after OH's death. Hamlet does not accuse her of adultery in III.iv, only of marrying Claudius after OH's death: two brothers, one following the other as husband. That's all that THE MOUSETRAP play shows too. I feel if Hamlet thought she'd done it, he'd accuse her of it.
Also, Hamlet is never king, and does not appoint the next king. Denmark has an elective monarchy. At the end Denmark is kingless, until Fortinbras (or somebody else) can be elected. Hamlet merely announces that his vote goes to Fortinbras. Of course the vote of the dying Prince, as of Claudius for Hamlet to be king after Claudius is dead (I.ii.109) carries a bit of extra clout.
You have pointed out Hamlet loves and idolized his mother. Basically true (though not sexual). You have somehow missed the fact that he also loved and idolized his father (again, not sexual!). And you have made Claudius out to have a soul as white as the cloud you must think he's sitting on in the afterlife, implying that H should love and idolize him too.
As you say, H calls his father 'King' or 'father', and his mother 'madam' or 'mother'. But you seem to come up with conflicting reasons for this: for you, 'King' indicates he dislikes his father, but 'madam' indicates a sexual attraction for his mother. Why? Obviously he's demonstrating loyalty to both as monarchs: they are his king and queen, he is their courtier (see I.ii.115-117):it's part of the dual role of royalty - public and private - which is thematic in WS's plays concerned with royalty. The terms 'Dad' and 'Mum' were not around ca. 1600. The options were father and mother, or christian names. He calls his father Hamlet once, in I.iv.44. He never calls his mother Gertrude. To both he shows the filial love, duty, honour, and obedience proper in the period, as, incidentally, do also Laertes and Ophelia to their father. At least no one's suggesting that Ophelia is sexually attracted to her father: yucko!
Both parents were idolized by Hamlet as examples of perfect man/father/king, woman/mother/queen. The ideals are different for the different roles. Yes OH is talked of as having been a warrior king. This was part of kingship: to be able to defeat your enemies in battle was necessary, valiant, honourable, and glorious, especially as this story is ex-viking, ex-Norse. Only two particular wars are mentioned:one with 'the sledded Polacks on the ice' about which we learn nothing; and one with old King Fortinbras of Norway, which was provoked by Old Fortinbras, not Old Hamlet (I.i.83-89). Now how old is Hamlet, eighteen? Two campaigns in eighteen years don't constitute fatherly neglect. Count up the hours your father was at work.
H loved and almost worshipped his father. In I.ii.234, H wishes he'd 'been there' to see his father even as a ghost. Then, as you say, he meets the ghost. But you left out all H's responses to the ghost which show the love and duty he gives his father: 'Speak, I am bound to hear', '...that I with wings as swift/ As meditation or the thoughts of love/ may sweep to my revenge', plus the soliloquy I.v.92-112, especially 'Hold, hold my heart ...', 'Ay, thou poor ghost ...'.
See also I.ii.139-142 'So excellent a king, that was to this/ Hyperion to a satyr', and 148 'my poor father's body', and 151-153 where he says Claudius is 'no more like my father/ Than I to Hercules.'
See I.ii.187-188 'A was a man, take him for all in all,/ I shall not look upon his like again': this is the highest praise a humanist like Hamlet can give a guy.
See also II.ii.565: his father the King's life was 'most dear'; III.ii.276-277 'This realm dismantled was/ Of Jove himself ...'; III.iii.75-79; III.iv.9 'Mother, you have my father much offended'; III.iv.55-63: H sees his father as having all the best qualities of the ancient gods, culminating to produce, again, 'a man' against which Claudius is no more than 'a mildewed ear', and his father was a 'fair mountain' to which Claudius is only a 'moor'. Then the ghost enters and H calls it 'your gracious figure'. By III.iv.125-130 he is almost if not actually crying at the sight of the ghost of his father. In Iv.iv he says 'How stand I then,/ That have a father killed, a mother stained...': so he doesn't always qualify 'father' with 'king'.
(This, by the way, is what I mean by using the text, not quoting what some critic has said about one line of the thousands, taken out of context and warped for a meaning to suit their argument. We have to find the whole pattern to get at the truth.)
Oh. And the whole play is, after all, fundamentally about Hamlet avenging his father's murder at the risk of his own life. Would you do this for a father you didn't like, or one that you adored?
About Ophelia and women. In the TV version he filmed, Derek Jacobi played III.i quite as callously as you have described. But I don't see it that way. I think that with 'Where's your father?' we have to accept that H has discovered Polonius' if not Claudius' presence. I've only ever seen it played that way, I know of only one critic who's disagreed, and most importantly the text seems to support it, the way the conversation develops. I've gone into this a bit elsewhere on the board (IS HAMLET SO OBSESSED WITH HIS OWN PROBLEMS ...).
I'll just point out here that before 'Where's your father?' Hamlet's remarks are against MEN, with particular self-doubt thrown in. And the 'virtue cannot innoculate ...' bit refers to the notion of original sin being Adam's fault. See Romans 5:12, 'Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned'. From this passage St Augustine gleaned the doctrine of original sin. The fault is expressed as being Adam's, the man's. I think the 'I loved you not' reflects his uncertainty about himself, and his own power to love, and even love itself, not about her.
Only after 'Where's your father?' and Ophelia's lying response does H give a tirade against women, because one of them has betrayed him here and now, echoing what he sees as his mother's betrayal of his father. So. He loses his temper. I know I would too. It's a nice dramatic passage, full of fireworks; but it lasts about thirty seconds. It should not be taken to characterize and provide the colour for Hamlet and Ophelia's whole relationship, or the spectrum of Hamlet's thinking.
H's first soliloquy tells us OH died 'not two' months ago, and that Gertrude married Claudius 'within a month' of OH's death. For argument's sake, then, let's say OH died seven weeks before Act I starts, and Gertrude married Claudius four weeks before Act I starts. But Hamlet has been courting Ophelia up to I.iii when Polonius tells her to reject him. No problems with misogyny there. He does not hate women in general. His disgust and misery is focused on his mother's action with his uncle.
What we see in the brief rant in III.i, then, is a moment of emotion, not the whole story. It's so sad, because he and Ophelia are trying to help each other: she says so at III.i.38-42 in answer to Gertrude's wish, and his words in III.i before 'Where's your father?' are aimed at protecting her from the strife of humanity. But both hurt each other. It's like Donne: 'Call her one, me another fly,/ We're tapers too, and at our own cost die': the love of the moth for the flame that burns.
I think the thing I loved most about the Branagh HAMLET was the reading of most of H's letter to Ophelia by H himself, even though it departed from the text. If you read the letter, ignoring Polonius' commentry, it is charming, sincere, witty as he is and I suppose he knows she will appreciate, and above all a beautifully tender expression of fragile young love. 'O dear Ophelia ... that I love thee best, O most best, believe it'. The Prince signs with his christian name.
Ophelia means 'succour'. I do not believe it is WS's mistake for Aphelia, 'innocence'. I believe WS is pointing out that she has helped him through his grief before Polonius takes her away from him. She gets all the rude jokes in III.ii, and rebukes and contradicts him gently and with some humour, notably not just agreeing with him and humouring him as Polonius does, which irritates him in Polonius. Elizabeth I was known to like a good dirty joke. Elizabethan England was not an age of innocents and prudery. In III.ii H is being wittily vulgar and anti-women, but not brutal or cruel or tormenting, or treating her like a prostitute. Note that he's rather rude to the players too, where he wasn't at the beginning of the scene.
He's not concentrating on Ophelia at all; and it's not surprising his conversation is febrile: he's watching Claudius and Gertrude together, which clearly upset him in I.ii; and he's watching to see Claudius watching the reenactment of OH's murder; and he's watching a reenactmen of his father's murder himself. And this is only halfway through one hell of a day (III.i to IV.iii, possibly IV.iv).
Hamlet's disgust with women is focused on his mother's behaviour. (Let's face it, less than a month after the father he adores has died, she has married and is having sex with his uncle: eeyeeuuww!) It gets generalized only in moments of extreme emotion, when the best of us will exaggerate.
Now I'm sorry, but you just can't get that Gertrude is jealous of Ophelia from 'I will not speak with her.' Once again, you're just taking critics as prophets. 'I will not speak with her' is not specific, but it more likely means that the soft, weak Gertrude will feel upset and uncomfortable talking with a mad girl she likes, as we then see that she is during the scene. Over Ophelia's grave Gertrude says, 'Sweets to the sweet. Farewell./ I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet's wife: I thought they bride-bed to have decked, sweet maid...'. Compare III.i.38-42, 'Ophelia, I do wish/ That your good beauties be the happy cause / Of Hamlet's wildness; so shall I hope your virtues/ Will bring him to his wonted way again,/ To both your honours.'
You go on to suggest that Gertrude is sexually attracted to her son, rather than the other way about. I'm not even going to go there, unless I have to. Anyway it couldn't prove that he is attracted to her. There are many types of love. He's her son. She's his mother. Yes, they love each other, and show their affection, but it's not sexual.
'Had I but time': I'll get to H's relationships with Claudius and Gertrude tomorrow night.
-- catherine england (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 23, 2002.
I should add that 'Frailty, thy name is woman' is not a misogynistic remark: see my response under the question on this board GRAILLY, THY NAME IS WOMAN. It's a widely accepted view in the period.
-- catherine england (email@example.com), January 23, 2002.
PART TWO - titled, ‘Plese don’t get shirty with me Joe: this is just my opinion - but God in Heaven I love this play - and thanks to Virginia for making these discussions possible.’
You are right in saying that Hamlet hates Claudius, but it is not because Claudius is hia father. It is because Claudius is the uncle who killed the father Hamlet adored and then married Hamlet’s mother. Claudius is not to be accepted as Hamlet’s father by the audience any more than he is by Hamlet. That’s what the lines in I.ii are showing:
CLAUDIUS: “But now, my cousin [close relative] Hamlet, and my son -” HAMLET: “A little more than kin, and less than kind.” [sort of ie.: You might be married to my mother, but like hell I’m your son, you unnatural bastard.]
The only times Hamlet calls Claudius father are when he’s taking the p***.
Let’s get one thing straight. Claudius and Gertrude are practicing INCEST. That’s a SIN. To marry a man and his brother is a sin. Why it has been allowed only the court knows (I.ii.14-16); we aren’t told. It may or may not have been for the political good of making the throne secure.
The ghost treats it as a sin: I.v.42-46 and 82-83. Hamlet treats it as such: I.ii.156-158, III.iv.146-152. And Gertrude, saying “O Hamlet, ... Thou turn’st my eyes into my bery soul,/ And there I see such black and grained spots/ As will not leave their tinct” and asking for his advice at III.iv.182, obviously agrees with him.
In addition, Claudius and Gertrude have succumbed to LUST. That’s one of the Seven Deadlies, as is COVETOUSNESS, which Claudius has committed and acted on to get the crown and Gertrude.
Now we’re not talking about nicking a lollipop from the supermarket. This is bloody serious - sin on the Ben Hur scale, the stuff that you go to that real medieval Hell of torment, torture, sulpher, fire, brimstone, and blackness for. And that’s the reality for the Renaissance mind, whether we believe it now or not. And historically speaking, the only way out for them is to ‘repent’ - to stop practicing the sins and ask God for forgiveness, as Claudius outlines in III.iii and Hamlet does in III.iv.146-154.
In addition, Hamlet feels it’s going to bring problems or disaster to others, perhaps to the whole country. See I.ii.158, “... It is not, nor it cannot come to good”, and I.v.105, “O most pernicious [ie destructive, ruinous, fatal] woman”.
Now add to all that the fact that Hamlet is Gertrude’s son. She’s married his uncle a few weeks after the father he adored has been killed by that uncle. You can’t have an actor with as many lines as Hamlet has vomit on stage, but you get the sense of his revulsion from his language. He really doesn’t need to have a sexual attraction for his mother to be grossly disturbed. Call his behaviour excessive if you like, but if you take a boy and shove him in these circumstances I guarantee you he will react somewhat ‘excessively’.
Nor is it madness. Have you ever had a parent die, or else someone else close to you, been through a divorce, seen parents divorce, even lost a pet? And in amongst it all, the girl Hamlet loves himself is taken away from him. Like Hamlet and Claudius, I do not know if lasting true love exists, though it always makes a nice story. But I know grief like Hamlet’s exists. And “grief”, like “woe”, is a powerful word. This is not just sadness, or unhappiness; it is GRIEF, woe, anger and confusion.
Naturally enough Hamlet is going to hate the guy responsible, his uncle, Claudius. We don’t know what sort of relationship they had before the play’s narrative starts. In I.v.41 Hamlet’s “O my prophetic soul! My uncle!” tells us he had an inkling his uncle had killed his father before the ghost told him. Yes, in I.ii Hamlet demonstrates dislike of his uncle. But of course even without that inkling, the fact that Claudius has married his mother would be enough, as indeed Hamlet shows us in his soliloquy.
The point is, Claudius is not his father, and should not even be married to his mother. It’s the whole Genesis thing: the serpent in the garden, the fall of man, Cain and Abel. And Claudius, though drawn very humanly as WS excels at doing with his villains, is not a good or nice guy. Nor are his actions “faultless”. He starts off the chain himself with his covetousness and the murder. He could back out and repent but does not. He IS “a murderer” and a “villain”, and he corrupts and uses others including Gertrude, Ophelia (through Polonius) and Laertes. He even uses Polonius. He is thoroughly selfish: note the obvious things - murdering to get what he wants - but also things like his reaction to the news of Ophelia’s death. He only cares to the extent that it upsets Laertes again so that Claudius will find it more difficult to deal with Laertes. His reaction to Polonius’ death is, basically, ‘Holy crap, he’s dead: that was nearly me; and I’m going to be blamed for it’ (IV.i.12-19). And at the end, though he’s supposed to love Gertrude, it isn’t enough for him to stopher drinking from “the poisoned cup” when there’s a risk people will find out he’s the one who poisoned it. Really, he’d only have to run towards her to make her look at him in astonishment rather than drink, and then he could knock it on the floor. If he truly cared enough he could yell out that it’s poisoned.
Claudius is a lying, murdering, two-faced, scheming, selfish, self-absorbed, using, corrupting, bloody-minded bastard, and Hamlet knows it. Claudius tries to pray in III.iii, I believe, because he is struck with a moment’s remorse brought on by fear. And that has been brought on because Hamlet has let Claudius know he knows what Claudius has done and is going to take revenge: Hamlet says at III.ii.239, “This is one Lucianus, NEPHEW to the King.” Hamlet is King Claudius’ nephew. If Hamlet could add a speech to the playlet as he plans in II.ii, he could easily have made Lucianus ‘brother to the King’, as Claudius was to OH. It’s a threat, veiled so that only Claudius can pick it up. And Claudius promptly arranges for Hamlet to be killed in England (won’t even do the dirty deed himself?).
So yeah, Hamlet hates Claudius’ guts. But it has absolutely nothing to do with him wanting to have sex with his mother, or even loathing Claudius as a father.
Hamlet loves his mother in every way that a young man ordinarily loves his mother. He also respects and honours her as is proper, at least for a Prince towards his mother the Queen (“a queen, fair, sober, wise” III.iv.191). That is why he says “I shall in all my best obey you, madam” in I.ii (though it’s also a typically double-eged Hamletian remark, pointing out that he’s not so ready to obey Claudius).
And it is because as a son and Prince he loved, honoured and respected her as a mother and Queen that he is so distressed by her defection from the father and king he also loved, honoured and respected.
I think the one of the saddest lines in the play is “But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.” Why does he not feel he can talk to Gertrude about it? There is a distance in their relationship, at least since she married Claudius, which does not permit it, and I find that very sad.
In any case he bottles it up, while two more months or so pass (III.ii.124-126). By the time we get to III.iv, considering that, and the day he’s already had, he’s naturally ready to lose his nana at her. After the success of the playlet he’s riding on exultation, rage, adrenalin and blood-lust (I think that’s pretty clear without me citing/quoting). He tells us in III.iii.383-390 that he feels deep down he could kill Gertrude. Then he stops himself killing Claudius, ’cause he ain’t going to have that bastard going to Heaven. He goes to his mother. Polonius is just asking for it, and he unfortunately gets it because Hamlet has lost his temper and is on edge, and happens to be wearing a sword. Hamlet doesn’t kill his mother, however. He just yells at her. Most teenagers get mad at their parents occasionally, but it does not mean they want to have sex with them.
Throughout the whole scene there just IS NOT one line which remotely suggests Hamlet is sexually attracted to Gertrude. As I have pointed out in an earlier response to this question on the board, there are lines which suggest the opposite. And the lines from Jones which you have put into Hamlet’s mouth (‘ “You give youself to other men ...” ’) do not relate to or translate from any of Hamlet’s actual lines, and you have not even attempted to make them do so. YES, HE ‘LOVES [HER] VERY MUCH’, BUT YOU HAVE NOT PROVED IT IS SEXUAL, OR ANY LOVE OTHER THAN THE LOVE A SON ORDINARILY FEELS TOWARDS HIS MOTHER.
As shown above, Hamlet is revolted and distressed (made “thought-sick” himself) by the marriage. He yells, and is even quite unempathetic as I said in my earlier response to this question. He talks disgustedly about sex (“Nay but to live ...”) because he wants to throw up at the thought of his mother having sex with his uncle, not because he wants to have it with her himself.
Gertrude admits her fault, not so much of ‘sensuality’ as of specifically sensuality with Claudius. She calls Hamlet “sweet Hamlet” because he actually is normally is a sweet-natured, courteous person, only here, and at other points in the play, pushed over the edge. Note his earlier courtesy towards her in I.ii as discussed above, and his friendly and courteous treatment of Marcellus, Bernardo, Horatio and the players. His explosive attack on Gertrude naturally shocks and distresses her, especially as she knows he is fundamentally right. In his anger he wanted to ‘speak daggers’ to her (III.ii.387) and he succeeds: she says “These words like daggers enter in my ears.”
Then the ghost shows up, because the ghost had commanded him to take revenge on Claudius, but to not harm Gertrude “Taint not thy mind nor let thy soul contrive / Against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven ...” (I.v.85-86). After that Hamlet gets his temper back, becomes the “sweet Hamlet” she knows again.
Despite being a queen, Gertrude is a soft, gentle, submissive lind of person - weak, if you will. (As I said elsewhere on the board: ‘That Gertrude has so little to say is, I think, a deliberate reflection of her character - or lack of it. She is influenced, not influential. And both she and Ophelia are certainly gentle women overwhelmed by a man's world. Such was life, and women were supposed to be passive. But she does grow slightly through the play. She begins by always agreeing with Claudius, obeying him, following his lead. But come III.iv, Hamlet forces a choice on her, and she makes it herself and sticks to it in IV.i as Mikken has outlined, lying to Claudius for Hamlet. In IV.v she doesn't want to speak with Ophelia but brings herself to face doing it; and under excitement she tries to protect Claudius form Laertes, probably physically endangering herself. In IV.vii she finds the moral guts to tell Laertes of Ophelia's death. In V.ii, for the first time she actually initiates something, even though it is minor, desiring Hamlet "to use some gentle entertainment to Laertes". And in this scene she finally definitely stands up to Claudius, drinking when he tells her not to. She done a bad thing, but like her son she learns and grows through the consequences of it.’)
And she is a woman, in a period when women were conditioned as lesser creatures. Hamlet is a (young) man, and a Prince groomed for kingship and leadership. He has the personal character and a certain masculine obligation to guide and instruct her, and she accepts that by the end of the scene (see III.iv.182-201, “What shall I do?” + agreeing to Hamlet’s request not to let Claudius seduce her into telling him that Hamlet is sane). She has strayed from the path of right, so to speak, in marrying Claudius. As shown above, Hamlet is concerned about the ill the marriage might bring, and concerned about the state and destination of her soul. So now he begs her “for love of grace” to “Repent” (III.iv.146-160). It is in this context that he asks her to “go not to my uncle’s bed” (III.iv.161-174), because one cannot repent and be forgiven if one continues to commit the sin (compare III.iii.38-40, 51-66 and 97-98). There is nothing in Hamlet’s speech that suggests he is ‘jealous’: you have made that up. Hamlet is simply acting as heaven’s “scourge and minister” (III.iv.175-177) on Gertrude.
You are quite right about Act V to the extent that there is no evidence of an Oedipal complex there; and this is because Hamlet does not have one. Nor did he ever have.
-- catherine england (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 25, 2002.
I've tried to email you but it doesn't seem to like your address. (So sorry to everyone else for this, but its a damn sight shorter than what I just wrote. Also, sorry about the spelling mistakes - I really should make myself proof-read.)
Thanks for the challenge. It's been heaps of fun. As I say, my response is all only my opinion. Please do rebut if you feel inclined.
Regards, Catherine England.
-- catherine england (email@example.com), January 25, 2002.
Yes, my e mail has been very tempermental lately, Catherine. I suppose that we will ahve to simply agree to disagree. Just know that though these are my opinions and not the law, many other great minds have agreed with the idea of Hamlet having and Oedipal complex. When Shakespeare wrote these plays he did not write them so that we could read them in our English classes our read them at all. He wrote plays so that they could be PERFORMED for audiences. There are many discrepencies regarding Hamlet. For example, did Ophelia know that her father was listening in on her and Hamlet's conversation in the "Get thee to a nunnery" scene? Some directors make it out that she knew while other make it out that she is innocent and had no idea. Also when Polonius tells Ophelia not to see Hamlet anymore and she says more or less, "I will do my best to obey you father." A director can make it out to be sarcastic or innocent. I am just pointing out that there are more than one way to look at things and really the best way they are expressed is through performance. In two of perhaps the most respected films made on Hamlet, the Olivier version and the Franco Zefferelli version Hamlet is made out to have an Oedipal complex and we know this from a few passionate, and I mean passionate kisses. I dont know how many people can really argue with brilliant and well respected directors like these. It comes down to a choice. Oedipal/or non Oedipal. I agree it is Oedipal but I certainly respect your opinion. You have made me realize that it isn't as clean cut as I thought. YOu were seeing it in a certain way and I was seeing it in another way. I don't think either of us are right or wrong we just have different. You have an extraordinary mind Catherine and I have enjoyed debating this issue but I think that we have to simply agree to disagree.
-- Joe (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 25, 2002.
Now there, at least I do agree. It is of course in the 'interpretation', and it is in part different interpretations which keep plays alive. I would point out, though, that those films you mention are post-Freud, when, as I say, the Oedipal complex has become fashionable, and Hamlet is, as you say, "MADE OUT" to have one through direction, not from the text.
Personally though, even as an actor and director myself, I like to interpret within the guidelines of the text and what I understand to be the author's intentions.
But at least no one's yet rewritten Hamlet with a happy ending, as was done with LEAR in the late 17th century. Here's an idea though, HAMLET - THE MUSICAL: better than THE PRODUCERS' 'Springtime for Hitler'.
(Out of interest, in III.i how can Ophelia not know her father and Claudius are listening? She is one of the group when lines III.i.30-51 are spoken. Polonius and Gertrude both speak to her during these lines, and she responds to Gertrude and takes the book from Polonius. It'd be a bit awkward for Polonius and Gertrude to be dashing from one side to side of the stage between Ophelia and Claudius. I suppose in a modern production she could have a discman with headphones. But Gertrude's lines are grafted onto Claudius'. They wouldn't really make sense to Ophelia unless she had heard Claudius' as well. And Ophelia must be sincere in I.iii.136 when she says "I shall obey, my lord", because in II.i.109-111 she outlines how she has obeyed her father. Should we carry this over to an Ophelia question people?)
Thank you for your compliment. I'm glad you don't really think it closed. You've clearly done a lot of research yourself.
-- catherine england (email@example.com), January 26, 2002.
Oh, how I do enjoy a debate! Well, Catherine and Joe, that was both lovely and lengthy! Most interesting on both sides. However, I must disagree with the statement that Zeffirelli is a "great director". I am not familiar with much of his work, but I have seen his R&J and his Hamlet.
Zeffirelli's R&J was my first exposure to filmed Shakespeare and convinced me that the Bard's only goal was to torture students for hundreds of years after his death. I was ready to chew off my own leg to get away from anything Shakespeare after that.
Well, many years pass, and I develop a taste for the classics that high school had tried to force feed me so many times. Lo, here comes Zeffirelli's Hamlet with Mel Gibson! What a chance to finally enjoy Shakespeare! Wrong! What a load of crap! If I had had any hope of ever liking S's work, it was now dashed.
Some more time passes and I come upon Henry V on the Bravo Channel. What the? Is this *really* Shakespeare? But, it's interesting. It's ... touching. Funny and sad and scary and ... good! What the heck is going on here? I buy myself a copy.
Years later, browsing the video store ... near Henry V is ... Hamlet? By Branagh? Looks nothing like the Hamlets I've seen. Rent it. Watch it. Watch it again. Three more times (thank heaven it's a 5 day rental - really long movie!). Revelation. Hamlet rocks! Hamlet is the best story ever! I am a Shakespeare junkie!
Ok, calm, go back and rent the Zeffirelli version. Thinking maybe I just didn't get it. Now that I understand how *great* the story is, I want to collect all versions of Hamlet. Watch it. Choke back the bile. Return it the next day in disgust. Revelation. Not all Hamlets are created equal. No longer want to collect them all. Will go to library and rent as many versions as they have and view them carefully.
I own three copies of the Branagh version (one pan and scan, two widescreen) and am ready to pounce on the dvd the instant it is released. I owe Kenneth Branagh a debt of thanks for putting Shakespeare back into my life. Franco Zeffirelli owes me $3.50 and 4 hours of my life (2 in high school, 2 at home). If I ever pass him on the street, I intend to collect (at least the money, anyway, the time he can pay in purgatory as far as I'm concerned).
-- mikken (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 28, 2002.
You know on the Z HAMLET score I have to agree, absolutely. What? - no WHAT?? With the single exception of Alan Bates as Claudius, though Derek Jacobi was of course, as always, perfection. But Gibson: mate, do you know what you're saying? And the whole thing lacks empathy and character rapport.
But I confess I like Z's R&J (except that shlocky '60's music) even though I don't like the play, simply because the story is just bloody illogical. I mean who in their right mind would make those choices? Three day death-sleeping draughts? A girl with Juliet's spunk would just nick off to Mantua with Romeo, yes? Or even perhaps point out to Daddy that she can't marry Paris because she's already married? Or better still, go tell the Prince and get his protection? And I always found Romeo's turn from Rosaline to Juliet a bit too specious.
But I can whinge - I do opera for God's sake.
Z, though, somehow made R&J emotionally true for me; usually with this play I cringe, but with this version I did cry. And he used such young leads, the right ages for the roles, who still seemed to understand every word they said. And the costumes and settings I thought were fantastic: historically, atmospherically and aesthetically so right. And, like Branagh always does, he found the comedy and electric energy, which add such poignancy to tragedy. And it was this version that made me realize R&J is the greatest hate story of all time, not the greatest love story.
I've only seen these two films of Z. Obviously he likes WS himself. I simply have to conclude that being Italian, he does Italy and Italianate better than he does pseudo-Scandinavian.
-- catherine england (email@example.com), January 29, 2002.
I believe William Shakespeare (although brilliant with his words), has left way too many loose ends to ever make sense of his work. Does Hamlet have Oedipus Complex? We will never know. Unfortunately we'll never have the luxury of having Shakespeare around to explain himself. Since there are so many things left unsaid it makes it impossible to take any theory in regards to the play and make it the truth and the law. I think the debate -- although interesting -- is a waste of time because nothing will come of it. People should read it as they see it, enjoy the simplicity and splendor of the words, and then put it down. A debate? no. A translation session? yes.
Do you ever wonder if the sub-conscience could possibly be putting the Oedipus Complex into people's translations of the material as they are reading it? Is it possible the Complex doesn't exist in the material, but instead, the people reading it have the Complex and can relate it somehow to the material? This is not as far fetched as you might seem. It is only natural to relate our thoughts and feelings into the material we read to make it more interesting.
I guess that's a debate all to its little self isn't it?
Furthermore, please don't steal my thoughts or ideas for your own personal gain.
-- Kiki Kasal (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 01, 2002.
Goodness me, I wouldn't dream of it. I'm afraid I'm already pestering way too many people with my own.
And, oops! I've just read that little section called ABOUT: you know, 'about' this forum, where it says we shouldn't use the word 'Freud' - there now, I've done it again - bad girl!
But really, you know, there is such a thing as textual evidence. And if you sit down and try to join ALL the dots in this play (and yes, being obsessive compulsive about it, I have done it: somebody has called the disease 'morbus Hamleticus') you find it does limit all those supposedly endless options a bit. Yes, there are many, many ways to say each line, but I find that that's still within a pretty clearly defined set of plot events and character relationships.
I can't imagine that Larry Olivier had an O.C.. Anyone know about Zeffirelli?
-- catherine england (email@example.com), April 02, 2002.
have you seen his mom, she is DAMN fine
-- The big Pun (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 13, 2002.
Let me guess: you were swapped with Hamlet at birth ... . But on the bright side, you're the heir to Denmark. Hooray 4 you.
-- catherine england (email@example.com), December 15, 2002.
I havent got a witty remark in reply to previous arguments im just writing to give a massive thanx to Catherine England for giving me a ridiculous amount of help. Im doing an essay on act 3 scene 4 and have never been 100% convinced of the oedipal thing regardless of what countless professors have tried to force upon me. With your informative answers I have been able to back up my own opinions with yours. thanx
-- lauren (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 05, 2003.
In opposition to Catherine as well, Joe has helped me a great deal on a paper I am writing on Hamlet and the Oedipal Complex...many thanks to everyone!
-- Rachel (email@example.com), February 11, 2003.
You have to remember that WS was writing for commoners. They weren't psychologists. If Hamlet DOES have an Oedipal complex, it's all very vague and subtexty. The people watching the plays in Shakespeare's time weren't going to read into that subtext.
I think people have been misled by Olivier and Zef's films. They see these kisses and take them for canon. I know Bill was a bit niggard of stage directions, but if he was so intent on including this Oedipus thing, why didn't he just include a Hamlet/Gertrude kiss? (On a side note, Branagh's Hamlet kissing Gertrude on the cheek is just the CUTEST thing ever!)
I dunno, I'm not all learned like Catherine and Joe (well done, people), I'm only a young one. Maybe one of the Quartos HAS a stage direction, 'Hamlet jumps Gertrude.' *Shrugs* But from my (limited) understanding of the text, although you COULD argue that he has an Oedipus Complex, the evidence to the contrary is a bit weightier. The evidence put forward that he HAS an Oedipal complex seems a bit clutching-at-straws-y.
F's theory is a brilliant one, an interesting one, but I think it hass spiralled out of control a little. Coming back to Olivier's film, his whole mission was to popularise Shakespeare for the masses. Maybe he personally didn't agree with the Oedipal Complex theory, but incest was 'in' then, as were all things F-related (man, I wish I could just SAY it ;) ) Maybe that's why he put it in.
-- Eimear (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 17, 2003.
Hamlet does not have a thing for his mother. IF he did all his rantings about his mother commting incest would have inrelavent. If Shakespear wanted Hamlet to have a thing for his mom it would have no qustion left in the play.
-- Danielle (email@example.com), March 26, 2003.
It seems to me that our culture is absolutely obsessed with sex. People are so eager to take anything in literature and analyze it so that it is revealed to have sexual implications. Throughout "Hamlet" I can see no concrete evidence that Hamlet and Gertrude (or Laertes and Ophelia either) have sexual feelings for one another. The sexual relationship between Gertrude and Claudius is the the only case which could be evidenced as incest.
Actually, I am very surprised that Freudian theories about Hamlet have been so widely accepted because of the general lack of evidence for them in the play. I don't think that the fact that Hamlet's desire for Ophelia cannot be acted upon has anything to do with any attraction he feels for his mother. He may be extremely overwhelmed and angered by the image of his mother and uncle together, but this is only natural since their being together resulted from a the murder of his own father. I don't see any evidence in the play that supports the theory that Hamlet is jealous of the relationship his mother has with Claudius. One theorist says: “toward the end of his interview with his mother the thought of her misconduct expresses itself in that almost physical disgust which is so characteristic a manifestation of intensely repressed feeling.” I think that is absolute garbage, and it is healthy to repress sexual feeling, or for that matter most passionate desires. Just because a person feels like doing something, does not mean that it is right or healthy for them to do it. (Just look what happened to Polonius when Hamlet did what his emotions instructed him to.) I think that self-control is of the utmost value, and is an essential part of a responsible person's character.
Since "we" are so devoted to uncovering the sexual implications of Hamlet, I am surprised that we don't assume that Hamlet and Horatio or Ophelia and Gertrude were attracted to and involved with one another. The fact that Guildenstern and Rosencrantz are always together must also imply that they are attracted to one another, and surely Claudius takes sexual advantage of the servile attitude of both these courtiers. It is possible that any one of the characters in Hamlet could experience feelings of attraction for any other character, but there is no real evidence for most cases. Are there really "heavy sexual overtones" in Hamlet? I don't think so, what it comes down to is the fact that our culture has a sexual obsession and we are members of a perverted and confused generation that is intrigued by the strange and disgusting.
-- Erin James (Erin1.James@ucourses.com), March 26, 2003.
I have a paper that's due tomorrow. can anyone help. Can u you guys help me with information regarding the character oedipus, creon and jocasta reaction about the the killing of laois, the former king.
-- MOISE PECK (JOPE2001@AOL.COM), April 27, 2003.
please disregard the previous email address,(jope2001). Please email at me firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Moisepeck (email@example.com), April 27, 2003.
this is kindof late in the discussion, and really off point, but do go read Rosencrantz And Guildernstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard... very interesting deconstruction of the whole theatre thing and a rather intriguing look at the 2 most minor characters in the play. (read: i did not understand it. :P) but yeah it's quite skillfully done i must say even tho Stoppard said it was just a bit o' fun... i don't believe him tho.
hmm came across this thread when i was searching for commentary on popularising Shakespeare, for an essay (due soon ack). anybody read Shakespeare Without The Boring Bits, by Humphrey Carpenter? Purists would detest him, but i think it's done rather ingeniously... i still love Shakespeare's language tho. just wondering what pple think :)
-- Grace Toh (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 29, 2003.
Catherine and Joe have helped me a lot to see both sides of this debate. I used to think that he had an Oedipus Complex and now I'm not sure, both sides of the debate both make sense to me, but thanks for all the information you guys have shown me. I needed information on Hamlet and his "Oedipus Complex" for an essay, thanks again
-- Racheal (email@example.com), May 12, 2004.
Catherine, there are many lines that support the Oedipal Complex. True Freud coined the phrase Oedipus Complex, but seeing as how the story Oedipus Rex was written about a thousand years before Shakespeare was born, I'm sure he was perfectly able to see the story lines there and create a similar type of drama. At the moment I'm busy writing a paper on Hamlet's Oedipal Complex so I'll get back to you on the lines that exist in the text that support this theory. Besides, the whole point behind writing a lot of literature is the hopes that people will analyze it to death and get something out of it. Plus you have to consider Hamlet's character, it would be much to simple for him to say..."Hey mom, if your not too busy, I don't know maybe we could hook-up?"...especially if it is his subconscious and he is denying it himself. Its all about the subtext. When I get a good copy of my paper finished I'll gladly post it (if I remember) so everyone can pick it apart. It'll be fun.
-- Me (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 25, 2004.
Did everyone forget that the oedipus complex happens on the subconcious level!!!!! It's Hamlets inner thoughts!!
-- anon (email@example.com), March 07, 2005.