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In the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, the protagonist, Price Hamlet, uses several ways to defend himself against his oedipal desires, his animosity towards his uncle, as well as his own inner conflict . Hamlet’s hatred towards Claudius stems from two crimes committed; Claudius’ murder of his brother and his incest with Hamlet’s mother. Because of the seriousness of both crimes, as well as the fact that both persons affected are closely related, there is evidence of an interrelation between both of the crimes; which can further explains Hamlet’s reaction.Following his father, King Hamlet’s death, his mother, Gertrude proceeds to marry his Uncle Claudius; this causes a surge of Hamlet’s oedipal desires towards his mother. Hamlet attempts to reconcile his incestuous urges using his relationship with Ophelia. Furthermore, his need for vengeance for his father’s death causes Hamlet to experience great anger towards his Uncle; Hamlet incorporates the Oedipus Complex in his revenge against his father’s murderer, who is presently his mother’s husband. At the same time, Hamlet experiences an inner conflict. He is torn between his duty to avenge his father’s death and his inability to kill his uncle; which can be seen in relation to his Oedipal Complex as well.
Hamlet’s feeling of repugnance towards the marriage of his mother and his uncle is a direct reaction to his repressed Oedipus Complex. Hamlet, at first, seeks to resolve his oedipal desires through the character of Ophelia. “Hamlet appears to have with more or less success weaned himself from his mother and to have fallen in love with Ophelia.” In the paper “Hamlet Psychoanalyzed” by Ernest Jones, there is mention of many similarities between the Queen and Ophelia, as was seen by various writers; Ophelia seemed to take over Gertrude’s role as mother by becoming Hamlet’s source of affection. Furthermore, the idea of sexuality being connected with Hamlet’s mother can be seen in comparison to Hamlet’s association between Ophelia and erotic desire. In essence, Hamlet is reverting to a more infantile mind frame when associating Gertrude with Ophelia, subconsciously trying to defend himself against his unresolved Oedipal desires towards his mother. However, when King Hamlet dies and Gertrude remarries, Hamlet’s repulsion of his mother is transmitted to Ophelia, causing Hamlet to completely reject her.
Hamlet’s oedipal desires for his mother, Gertrude, emerge following his father’s death. However, contrary to the natural course of the Oedipus Complex, where Hamlet would replace his father, Gertrude marries another man; namely, his Uncle Claudius. In this respect, Claudius now not only represents Hamlet’s object of vengeance, but represents Hamlet, himself. The familial image of his father’s own brother being intimate with his mother reflects Hamlet’s own incestuous desires as well; this can be seen as the root of Hamlet’s inner conflict. By killing his Uncle, he would be subconsciously killing himself as well. For this reason, Hamlet has extreme difficulty carrying out the murder of his uncle. Throughout the play Hamlet searches for excuses to procrastinate the deed of killing his father’s murderer. His use of cowardice, doubt of his uncle’s guilt and even the contemplation of suicide, are Hamlet’s methods of delaying his moral obligation to his father’s ghost. Only once Gertrude is dead can Hamlet gather the strength to murder Claudius. Her demise broke the cycle of the Oedipus Complex, allowing Hamlet to detach his own identity from that of his uncle’s, and giving him absolution. This can be proven further by the parallelism with Hamlet’s relationship to Ophelia. As mentioned above, Ophelia, in a sense, represents Gertrude, the receiver of Hamlet’s oedipal desires. Laertes, Ophelia’s brother, is the counterpart to Hamlet’s Uncle. Hamlet did not feel any remorse by killing Laertes after Ophelia had died. This is because Hamlet’s subliminal self related Laertes to the character of Claudius; who was, in turn, a reflection of himself. “Fathers perceive children as they do their wives and bodies, as beasts to be controlled…” Hamlet observed the way Ophelia was controlled by her brother in a parental fashion, and associated that with how Gertrude was controlled by Claudius as well; how they both accepted commands at the male’s will, characteristic of the times. Consequently, Hamlet was in a similar Oedipus Complex with Ophelia and Laertes as he was with Gertrude and Claudius; both of which contributed to Hamlet’s inner conflict; the murder of his Uncle versus his Oedipal desires.
The character of Hamlet is pulled in all directions throughout the play. He grieves his father, rejects his mother and Ophelia and loathes his uncle all while attempting to deal with inner problems. In reaction to this, Hamlet’s character can be seen as one who assumes many different identities; as such, Hamlet uses different methods to defend himself from the opposing forces surrounding him; those forces being, his mother and his sexual desires for her, his uncle and his hatred towards him and himself and his own grief.