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Does Hamlet display the Oedipus complex?

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brightensky | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 12, 2008 at 7:43 PM via web

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Does Hamlet display the Oedipus complex?

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luannw | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted October 12, 2008 at 8:32 PM (Answer #1)

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Hamlet's character is a very complex one and many would say that he does, indeed, display characteristics of the Oedipus complex.  From his first appearance and his soliloquy in Act 1, sc 2, Hamlet laments the marriage of his mother to his uncle.  He tells us in his soliloquy in this scene that he's upset because his mother remarried so soon after his father's death and that she married her husband's brother (in the eyes of the church, a woman married a man's family as well as the individual, therefore, Claudius was her brother in that sense, hence the reference to "incestuous sheets").  Even Gertrude recognizes the source of Hamlet's unhappiness, when in Act 2, sc. 2, when she says she has no doubt the source is her "o'er hasty marriage."  In Act 3, sc. 4, when Hamlet confronts Gertrude in her chamber after the play, the emotion he's been bottling up, explodes.  Hamlet rants at this mother for her marriage to Claudius.  He questions how could she stand to let him touch her.  He asks her what she sees in Claudius.  This exchange seems to show Hamlet just a little too emotional over his his mother simply remarrying. Some read into the scene the lustful love of a youth for his mother, but there is nothing definitive to the words spoken by Hamlet.  Considering the fact that he has discovered his father's ghost told him correctly his uncle killed his father and he's just killed Polonius, it is normal for him to be emotional.


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kindyc | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 28, 2011 at 4:23 PM (Answer #2)

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I think it makes some sense. first, he starts to doubt about the worth of life and Ophelia’s love that is indeed pure and deep, his mother’s remarry made him cast the whole world into the shadow. It really makes people feel strange how his mother could display such a big impact on him.second , hamlet is a thinker rather than a single minded revenger, he is always hesitated on action, but in his mother’s chamber, In Act 3, sc. 4, he just killed Polonius without thinking, and the single minded blood action is just against his characteristic. In a word, his unusual behavior towards his mother shows, to some degree, the Oedipus complex in him.

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