Is there concrete textual evidence in Act III, scene iv of Hamlet for the assertion that Hamlet has an Oedipal Complex, being jealous of Claudius?Is there concrete textual evidence in Act III,...

Is there concrete textual evidence in Act III, scene iv of Hamlet for the assertion that Hamlet has an Oedipal Complex, being jealous of Claudius?

Is there concrete textual evidence in Act III, scene iv of Hamlet for the assertion that Hamlet has an Oedipal Complex, being jealous of Claudius?

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jmj616's profile pic

jmj616 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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In response to rienzi.

a) The closet:

I got the idea that the conversation between Hamlet and Gertrude took place in a clothes closet from you, sir.  You objected to an "intimate" interpretation of this conversation because:  "3.4 doesn't take place in Gertrude's bedroom it takes place in her closet."

Perhaps I am guilty of assuming that you thought that a "closet" is a clothing closet; perhaps you thought it was a china closet or a water closet. 

b) My "straw" argument:

Yes, I know that psychological interpretation can sometimes go too far, and--believe it or not--I think that Freud and Jones went a little too far in their interpretation of Hamlet.  On the other hand, though, do you think that no psychological ideas should be applied to our analysis of literary characters, just because "they are not real people"?  On what basis would you want us to analyze literary characters if not on their similarity to real human beings?

Any way, all's well that ends well.  This has been an entertaining argument, which you're welcome to continue if you like.

jmj616's profile pic

jmj616 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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Although I do not fully accept the Freudian interpretation of Hamlet, I find that I must take some exception with the answer given previously by rienzi.

a) Rienzi refers to the Freudian view of Hamlet as a "hokey bit of interpretation."  I find this to be a bit flippant and disrespectful toward Freud, who certainly put much deep thought into his interpretation.  You may disagree with Freud, but remember with whom you are disagreeing.

b) Rienzi writes: "3.4 doesn't take place in Gertrude's bedroom it takes place in her closet."  One of the definitions of "closet" is a small private room for study or prayer.  This is a much more likely interpretation than that of saying that Hamlet met with Gertrude in a closet for clothing.  Even if their meeting did take place in a clothes closet, it is a private meeting, the kind of setting in which intimate thoughts are more easily expressed than in public.

c) Rienzi writes: "Second, Claudius isn't even Hamlet's father."  Yes, we know that Claudius is not Hamlet's father.  The Freudian theory (as explained by his disciple Ernest Jones) is that Hamlet hesitates to kill Claudius because Claudius has done just what Hamlet has always wanted to do: kill the King and marry the Queen.  By killing Claudius, Hamlet would be admitting that his own desires are immoral.

d) Rienzi writes: "Third, Hamlet has no deep seated psychiatric issues because Hamlet is not a real person. He is a character put on paper by Shakespeare."  Come now, you must be kidding!  Of course Hamlet is a fictional character.  But we are trying to understand him as if he were real.  That is the basis of all analysis of literary characters.  According to your statement, we shouldn't bother analyzing literary characters at all, because they are not "real."

 

bozogatz's profile pic

bozogatz | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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In reply to rienzi. Your post has many errors...

Firstly, whilst Claudius is not Hamlet's actual father, he still holds a 'father figure' in Hamlet's life and can still be seen to be Hamlet's rival for Gertrude...whether he is actually Hamlets father by blood makes no difference if you read Freud's and Jones's theory. In an Oedipus is can be simply the "perception of a father" (Jones).

Secondly, the definition of Closet is a small room, which is always private. Shakespeare does not specify whether there is a bed, and Olivier does not specify whether it is Gertrudes only bedroom for royals often have more than one.

Thirdly, Freud and Jones did study Hamlet in depth, and whilst that isn't so clear in Freud's work, Jones used a lot of Freud's ideas in his work "Hamlet and Oedipus" so to dismiss them as amateurs of literary criticism is...quite frankly...stupid..

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bozogatz | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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Is there concrete textual evidence in Act III, scene iv of Hamlet for the assertion that Hamlet has an Oedipal Complex, being jealous of Claudius?

Is there concrete textual evidence in Act III, scene iv of Hamlet for the assertion that Hamlet has an Oedipal Complex, being jealous of Claudius?

There is no CONCRETE evidence, as Shakespeare did not intend for his work to be interpreted in this way - however the individual interpretation does not rely upon the author's intention. In fact many philosopher's believe that what the author intends is irrelevant, and that it is only the individual interpretation which matters. However I myself have been investigating Jones and Freud's oedipal interpretations and have been trying to understand them in their reasoning.

Here is a list of parts which can be seen to stress a more intimate form of relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude (Note: some suggest that Gertrude had feelings for Hamlet as well).

Þ    The wiping of Hamlet’s face during the fight

Þ    Dying words to warn Hamlet of the poison

Þ    The insistence that Hamlet returns to Denmark

Þ    Claudius’s observation that Gertrude “Lives almost by his {Hamlet’s} looks”

Þ    The instruction to R&G to investigate Hamlet.

 

There is more, and these certainly arent the most compelling but hopefully this is helpful..!

muddy-mettled's profile pic

muddy-mettled | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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In taking another look at the work of Dr. Jones as found in the EVERYMAN edition one finds:  "It will be seen from the foregoing that Hamlet's attitude towards his uncle-father is far more complex than is generally supposed."  I quoted above the only tangible evidence that I  could find in Act 3, scene 4 that seems to pertain to the subject.  Certainly , given Shakespeare's wide ranging references, it is reasonable that Dr. Freud searched the work of classical Greek dramatist Sophocles.  Searching the text of HAMLET, armed with a little study of the work of Dr. Jung( b. 1875, nineteen years after Dr. Freud), perhaps Jung would say that the fact that several characters see the ghost is a function of what he called the collective subconscious.  That the ghost speaks only to Hamlet is consistent with Gertrudes comment:  " This is the very coinage of your brain / This bodiless creation ecstasy / Is very cunning in"(3.4.132.134).  Another passage of interest is from Claudius:  "there's something in his soul / O'er which his melancholy sits on brood"(3.1.165-166).  Also, perhaps relevant to the matter is Hamlet's:  "For by the image of my cause I see / The portraiture of his"(5.2.78-79).

rienzi's profile pic

rienzi | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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In response to jmj616:

You should go back and read the original question and my initial response. The 'Oedipal Complex' has found expression in 3.4 by setting the scene in Gertrude's bedroom. I reference in particular, Laurence Olivier's 1948 production where 3.4 is played in Gertrude's bedroom. In the texts 3.4 is not set in a bedroom or even a bedchamber. It is set in Gertrude's closet. Rosencrantz, Polonius and Claudius tell us that the scene is in her closet. Obviously, Gertrude's closet is a private room within Elsinore.

As for analyzing literary characters I think it must be approached within the context of the play. The characters don't exist apart from the play. Shakespeare has given all a character needs to fulfill his/her function. It strains credibility for Jones to make a psychological "diagnosis" based on assumptions that would never be accepted in real life.

rienzi's profile pic

rienzi | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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In response to jmj616:

>>How great Freud is<<

Your appeal to authority is fallacious. Freud's argument inasmuch as he had one must stand on its own not on his reputation. 
Neither have I challenged his expertise in the field of medicine. The topic is Hamlet. Further, Freud did not offer "deep thought into his interpretation" since in his book he simply uses Hamlet (and Oedipus) as examples in a larger examination of the interpretation of dreams.

>>The closet issue<<

Where on earth did you get the notion that Hamlet, Gertrude, Polonius and the Ghost enact the scene in a clothes closet? Olivier's Hamlet places this scene (as did Zeffirelli) in a bedroom with a large bed. There is no clothes closet and there is no bedroom in the texts.  The point of setting 3.4 in a bedroom is that it lends itself to the oedipal interpretation.


>>"But we are trying to understand him as if he were real.  That is the basis of all analysis of literary characters.  According to your statement, we shouldn't bother analyzing literary characters at all, because they are not "real.">>

As for your last point that is a straw argument. Of course I am not opposed to critical examination of the play. As for your claim about the realness of literary characters, there lies the essence of the argument and one with which I most profoundly disagree. I'll direct your attention to an essay by L.C. Knights entitled, "How Many Children Had Lady Macbeth?" Knights views harshly the type of psychological character study propounded by A.C. Bradley (e.g. Shakespearean Tragedy). Jones' work is of the same stripe. I suggest you find Knights' work, read it and you will understand better that which you so cavalierly to dismiss.

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muddy-mettled | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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For me, a good brief guide to the criticism is two lines from KING LEAR. One is Kent's response to the Fool's comments:  "This is not altogether fool, my lord"(1.4.149).  The other is Gloucester's last line:  "And that's true too"(5.2.11).  Some time ago, after reading Ernest Jones' comments I returned to the text.  Inspired by Hamlet's rant at Ophelia, "I am myself indifferent honest, but yet / I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me"(3.1.123-125), one might infer from Hamlet's line in the "closet scene," "O, such a deed / As from the body of contraction plucks / The very soul"(3.4.46-48), that he is saying, in part:  If you hadn't brought me into this world, I wouldn't be in this mess!  Certainly Hamlet is referring to the marriage contract, yet it is late at night and he may be a bit cranky and drowsy.

rienzi's profile pic

rienzi | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Laurence Olivier's 1948 production of Hamlet brought this hokey bit of interpretation to national prominence. Of particular note was that Act 3 scene 4 was set in the royal bedroom and is incorrectly designated as the "bedroom" scene. Olivier was influenced by Sigmund Freud and his sidekick Ernest Jones both of whom had written about this.

There are a number of problems with such an interpretation. First, 3.4 doesn't take place in Gertrude's bedroom it takes place in her closet. Second, Claudius isn't even Hamlet's father. Third, Hamlet has no deep seated psychiatric issues because Hamlet is not a real person. He is a character put on paper by Shakespeare. Jones tries to get around these two latter issues.

If you want to read Jones' article I have linked it below.

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