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Can anyone help compare "Medusa" to Act III, scene iv of Hamlet?  Thanks!

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brandih | eNotes Employee

Posted September 29, 2013 at 2:59 PM via web

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Can anyone help compare "Medusa" to Act III, scene iv of Hamlet?  Thanks!

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 30, 2013 at 5:45 AM (Answer #1)

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In "Medusa," which interestingly, Plath wrote as a companion poem to "Daddy," her much more famous work about the relationship between a father and daughter, Plath creates a persona who is still engulfed by her mother. The speaker imagines the umbilical chord to still exist between them, tangling her and trapping her, and the speaker wanting to break free from this link and relationship:

My wind winds to you

Old barnacled umbilicus, Atlantic cable,

Keeping itself, it seems, in a state of miraculous repair. 

To the speaker, her relationship with her mother is still just as powerful as it was when she was born, but now she is an adult, she feels restricted and oppressed by the strength of that relationship. The poem ends with the command of the speaker to her mother to leave her and break free from her, as the speaker seems to identify that she will not be able to become secure in her own identity and strong in her self if her mother is still such a massive part of her own life. 

In the same way, in Act III scene 4, Hamlet has to challenge his mother and insult her with the truth of what she has done in forgetting his father so quickly and marrying his uncle:

O shame, where is thy blush? 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.

Hamlet is forced to insult and challenge his mother, in a sense creating the kind of break in their relationship that the speaker of "Medusa" desires. However, the difference between these two texts is that Hamlet, through upbradining his mother and confronting her with her crime, actually seems to repair their relationship in a way, as at the end of this scene it is strongly suggested that Gertrude is on Hamlet's side and now distrusts her husband. "Medusa" speaks of an irrevocable break in the mother-child relationship. This scene in Hamlet witnesses a conflict that, once it has been aired, actually seems to strengthen Hamlet's relationship with his mother rather than damage it completely. 

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