Quotes in Hamlet that show an Oedipal relationship between Hamlet and Queen Gertude?

Expert Answers
gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout the play, Hamlet's behavior and inner monologues suggest that he may have an Oedipal relationship with his mother, Queen Gertrude. There are several scenes that portray Hamlet's fascination and preoccupation with his mother's relationship and sexual proclivities. Hamlet questions her attraction to King Claudius, begs her to not sleep with him, and continually grieves over her incestuous ways.

In Hamlet's opening soliloquy he laments at his father's unfortunate death and elaborates on his mother's decision to marry Claudius in rather graphic terms. Hamlet says,

Why she, even she—O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason Would have mourned longer!—married with my uncle, My father’s brother, but no more like my father Than I to Hercules. Within a month, Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears Had left the flushing in her gallèd eyes, She married. O most wicked speed, to post With such dexterity to incestuous sheets! (1.2.149-158)

In act 3, scene 2, Hamlet enters Gertrude's chamber and chastises her for marrying Claudius immediately after his father's death. This is referred to as the "closet scene" and is an intimate moment between Hamlet and Gertrude. After ridiculing his mother for choosing to be with Claudius, he comments on her attraction to his uncle by saying,

This was your husband. Look you now, what follows. Here is your husband, like a mildewed ear Blasting his wholesome brother. Have you eyes? Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed And batten on this moor? Ha, have you eyes? You cannot call it love, for at your age The heyday in the blood is tame, it’s humble, And waits upon the judgment. (3.4.64-71)

Hamlet's preoccupation with his mother's desires is unusual and is evidence that he may have an Oedipal relationship with Gertrude. Hamlet continues to ridicule his mother's decision to be with Claudius and ends his conversation by making her vow to abstain from sex. Hamlet's insistence that Gertrude refrain from having sex is additional evidence to suggest his Oedipal relationship. Hamlet tells his mother,

Oh, throw away the worser part of it, And live the purer with the other half. Good night—but go not to mine uncle’s bed. Assume a virtue if you have it not. That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat, Of habits devil, is angel yet in this: That to the use of actions fair and good He likewise gives a frock or livery That aptly is put on. Refrain tonight, And that shall lend a kind of easiness To the next abstinence, the next more easy. (3.4.159-169)

amymc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hamlet, at several points in the play, considers his mother's sexual activity with Claudius in a way that seems to be extreme.  This fits the definition of a young man with an Oedipal complex - one who feels a strong attachment to his mother and who feels in competition with the father for the mother's affection.

In Hamlet's first soliloquy in Act I scene ii, Hamlet comments upon his mother's recent remarriage by referring to sex, not something many teenage men choose to dwell upon:  "O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!"

Later, when Hamlet meets with his mother in her room, he brings up her sex drive, also an unusual topic for a mother/son discussion:

Ha! have you eyes?
You cannot call it love; for at your age
The hey-day in the blood is tame, it's humble, (III.iv)

Later in the same scene, he becomes enraged at the thought of her sexual activity, screaming

Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,
Stew'd in corruption, honeying and making love
Over the nasty sty,--

He finally concludes this odd encounter by asking his mom to refuse her husband's sexual advances.  He urges her

Not this, by no means, that I bid you do:
Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed;

This is evidence that Hamlet has unusual sexual fixations on his mother, which does lend itself to an Oedipal interpretation.

Read the study guide:
Hamlet

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question