Motifs are defined as recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes or characterizations. Two motifs in Hamlet deal with incest and misogyny.
Incest and Incestuous Desire: incest runs throughout the play and is frequently alluded to by Hamlet and the Ghost, most obviously in conversations about Gertrude and Claudius, the former brother-in-law and sister-in-law who are now married.
Misogyny: Shattered by his mother’s decision to marry Claudius so soon after her husband’s death, Hamlet becomes cynical about women in general, showing a particular obsession with what he perceives to be a connection between female sexuality and moral corruption. This motif occurs sporadically throughout the play, but it is an important inhibiting factor in Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia. He urges Ophelia to go to a nunnery rather than experience the corruptions of sexuality.