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Oedipus in Hamlet?Freud claims that there "are traces of Oedipus in...

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jamie-wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted March 1, 2008 at 3:55 PM via web

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Oedipus in Hamlet?

Freud claims that there "are traces of Oedipus in Hamlet."  Do you agree or disagree?  Support your argument. 

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted March 1, 2008 at 5:15 PM (Answer #2)

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Totally agree. Hamlet really cared about his mother to the point of have Oedipal tendencies. I think he wanted to be king with his mother by his side. I don't think that wanted her sexually although I do think that he was charged sexually when he was forcibly handling her in Act 3 Scene 4. He is simply too emotional when dealing with his mother and talks to her very personally that one tends to think that he had at least a bit an an Oedipus complex.

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jamie-wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted March 1, 2008 at 6:05 PM (Answer #3)

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I think so too, Crystal, but Bloom argues vehemently otherwise.  He says, "Despite the urgings of Freud, and of his hagiographer Ernest Jones, there are no traces of Oedpius in Hamlet.  The Hamlet Complex is not incestuous but again theatrical.  Hamlet, price of players, kills players; at the tragedy's close we are richer by eight corpses....That is prodigal even for Shakespearean tragedy, but belongs to the Hamlet Complex, of which murderousness forms as large a component as does self-conscious theatricality.  Or are the two components fused:  would we speak of a murderous theatricalism?"  (Poem Unlimited, 54-55). 

I am still not sure how I feel about this question.  Thoughts? 

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted March 1, 2008 at 6:36 PM (Answer #4)

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I think there are shades of gray when it comes to Hamlet and Oedipus. I don't think one can read the play and not think there are at least Oedipal tendencies. While I can certainly see Bloom's point of view here, I'm not sure I agree completely, I don't think it's all an act of theatrics for him, I think that a lot of the way he acts toward his mother is true to who he is.

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted March 1, 2008 at 6:37 PM (Answer #5)

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Personally, I've never thought there was an Oedipal side to Hamlet's character.  I think it's portrayed that way to spice up the movies, but a strict reading of the text shows a young man who is sick to death of women, of marriage, of everything to do with love.

He mocks Ophelia and women - "You jig, you amble, and you lisp, you nickname God's creatures, and make your wantonness your ignorance" (3.1).  When Ophelia talks of the prologue to the play and says, "'Tis brief, my lord," Hamlet replies, "As woman's love" (3.2).  His response to the player queen's lines about never remarrying is "Wormwood, wormwood," which means "How bitter!" (3.2).  And in 3.4, he tells his mother to stop sleeping with his uncle, and that "when you are desirous to be blest, I'll blessing beg of you."  He is angry with her, to be sure, but I don't believe his anger has a sexual side to it.

Just my take on it, but I don't see anything Freudian about Hamlet's relationship with his mother.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 12, 2008 at 11:49 AM (Answer #6)

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The scene in Gertrude's bedroom has certainly been read that way...Mel Gibson's film version definitely took it in that direction. Personally, I don't see it.  I've read the play more than 100 times, and I have never thought Hamlet had anything other than the love a son has for his mother toward Gertrude.  He is confused, angry, and violent, but not incestuous.

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