Paying attention to the treatment of the women characters Gertrude and Ophelia, is there any basis for the Freudian interpretation of an Oedipal attraction between Hamlet and his mother?
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This kind of approach to the plot suffers from two directions: first, the Elizabethan times vs. modern times, and second, the fact that these characters are fictitious characters, not psychological entities; any analysis of the details of the plot is more fruitful for the psychology student than the literary critic. Hamlet’s reactions to the events of the exposition are part of the dramatic construction, not manifestations of some trauma to Hamlet; the violent reaction he has to his mother’s new relationship is entirely justified inside his position as heir apparent to the throne; his subsequent relationship with Ophelia is not some kind of reflection on his “affection” for his mother, but rather his endistancing of all tender emotions caused by his present dilemma. Modern critical theories discourage these psychological interpretations, as alienating the text from its real structure. Better would be to examine the speech-acts imbedded in the dialogue – what action is implied in each utterance?
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