Psychoanalysis of Hamlet Essay
4024 WordsJun 16th, 200017 Pages
Hamlet has been praised and revered for centuries as one of William Shakespeare's best known and most popular tragedies. Based on its popularity, critics alike have taken various viewpoints and theories in order to explain Hamlet's actions throughout the play. The psychoanalytic point of view is one of the most famous positions taken on Hamlet. Psychoanalytic criticism is a type of literary criticism that analyzes and classifies many of the forms of psychoanalysis in the interpretation of literature. As the Concise Oxford Dictionary defines psychoanalysis, as a form of therapy that is concluced by investigating the interaction of conscious and unconscious elements in the mind' (Barry 96). One of the most popularized…show more content…
As the play goes on, Hamlet encounters his father's ghost. Upon discovering that his father's death wasn't natural, he says with much feeling that "Haste me to know't, that I with wings as swift/ As meditation, or the thoughts of love,/ May sweep to my revenge" (1.5.29-31). The ghost tells him that he was murdered by Claudius. His motives were his love for Gertrude, without her knowledge or consent. Hamlet is furious and seething with rage with the news of his father's murder. Knowing the truth makes Hamlet's subconscious realize that killing Claudius would be similar to killing himself. This is so because Hamlet recognizes that Claudius' actions of murdering his brother and marrying Hamlet's mother, mimicked Hamlet's inner unconscious desires. Hamlet's unconscious fantasies have always been closely related to Claudius' conduct. All of Hamlet's once hidden feelings seem to surface in spite of all of the "repressing forces," when he cries out, "Oh my prophetic soul!/ My uncle!" (1.5.40-41). From here, Hamlet's consciousness must deal with the frightful truth (Jones). Therefore, when dealing with Claudius, Hamlet's attitude is extremely complex and intricate. The concepts of death and sexuality are interchangeable in this play (Adelman 271). To the reader, it is evident that Hamlet hates his uncle, but his despise of Claudius comes more from his jealousy than from anything else. The more Hamlet criticizes Claudius, the more his
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If one wants to truly understand the psychological implications of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the primary focus should be on the character Hamlet, and how he develops and modifies throughout the play. Using the fundamentals of the psychoanalytic perspective of critical evaluation, one would be able to truly identify and explore the true nature of Hamlet, and the effects that his character has on the situation surrounding him.
In order to gain a true understanding of most of the detail that is implied through Hamlet’s way of portraying himself to others, it is vital to look deep into the actions that are carried out, and analyze them psychoanalytically. Many have already written works that evaluate the play using this method, and one can also do this simply by having a good understanding of what a psychological evaluation truly is. Before beginning the analysis, it would be necessary to have a proper understanding of the psychoanalytical perspective.
After attaining knowledge about the perspective, and reading Hamlet of course, one can begin to make important connections using details from the play. In the actual play, one of the principle argument is whether Hamlet is truly mad or not. To analyze this for validity, one would have to look at the linguistics of the play and the situations that play out within it. There is concrete evidence, as well as implied detail, which leads one to believe that Hamlet is only acting as if he were mad in order to carry out his plan to avenge the death of the late King Hamlet.
One of the first examples of this evidence shows itself when Hamlet warns Horatio of what he’s planning, and in effect, not to blow his cover. “Here, as before, never, so help you mercy, how strange or odd soe’er I bear myself,? As I, perchance, hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on,? that you, at such times seeing me, never shall… note that you know aught of me:? this is not to do, so grace and mercy at your most need help you, swear. ” (Hamlet) This quotation clearly shows that Hamlet is conscious of the situation, and will pretend to be mad.
But, there is other evidence that may lead one to think about whether or not Hamlet may have actually been slightly mad. For instance, it strikes one as odd that Hamlet waits so long, and goes through so much trouble in order to kill King Claudius. Hamlet was struggling with himself, debating when to avenge his father’s death, though he had several opportunities, such as the time he found Claudius alone praying. He considers doing it at that time, recognizing it as a good oppritunity, but then finds reason to wait. Now might I do it pat, now he is praying; And now I’ll do’t;? and so he goes to heaven; and so am I reveng’d.? that would be scann’d: A villain kills my father; and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven. ” (Hamlet) Had Hamlet really been mentally sound, he might have acted right away, killing the king. Instead he exhibits a great deal of internal conflict because he’s desperate to make his move, but believes that in this situation, killing the king would actually a blessing to him, rather than the punishment that Hamlet feels her deserves.
One of the most valuable insights into whether or not Hamlet has actually gone mad comes with Shakespeare’s presentation of the ghost of Hamlet’s father. This is a part of the play that has been fuel for debate between critics and readers alike. Some believe that it is the ghost of Hamlet’s father that “brought forth the urge for vengeance within Hamlet” (Paredes) while others believe that Hamlet “already had within himself the urge to kill and to seek revenge for his father” (Paredes) and that the ghost was contrived by Hamlet’s imagination to justify his urge to kill Claudius.
With the appearance of the ghost the reader is, whether they realize it or not, being challenged to take a position on Hamlet’s state of mind. At first the reader may take it at face value assuming that a ghost is a ghost and should be accepted as such. But after a deeper look using the psychoanalytic perspective of critical evaluation, it becomes believable that the ghost is just a trick of Hamlet’s mind used to justify his urges to avenge his father’s death, a sort of madness. It is hard to decide what to think about Shakespeare’s introduction of the ghost because of the two different ways he portrays it.
Hamlet is not the first one to see the ghost, Marcellus and Bernardo were. The next night it appeared to Horatio as well. It was only after its first two appearances that Hamlet got a chance to see the ghost. At this point the reader doesn’t have much of a choice but to take the ghost at face value. If several characters saw the ghost? there must really be a ghost. It’s not until Hamlet’s second encounter with the ghost that the reader is asked to decide whether they buy into the idea of the ghost being real. After Hamlet kills Polonius, he has a conversation with his mother during hich the ghost appears to Hamlet, but this time he is the only one who ? sees’ it, Causing the queen to question his state of mind. “Alas, how is’t with you, that you do bend your eye on vacancy and with the incorporal air do hold discourse? Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep; and, as the sleeping soldiers in the alarm, your bedded hairs, like life in excrements, start up and stand an end. O gentle son, upon the heat and flame of thy distemper sprinkle cool patience! Whereon do you look? ” (Gertrude) After this dialogue it’s no longer clear to the reader whether or not the ghost is real.
Whereas at first there were several people witnessing the ghost, now Hamlet is all alone and seems mad, certainly to Gertrude and possibly to the reader as well. This is when the reader should pose a question to themselves: Does this ghost actually appear to Hamlet making him mad indeed? Or is it that Hamlet using this ghost as a ploy to get Gertrude to believe he’s crazy, and that Shakespeare merely wrote the ghost into the play to give us an idea of what the dialogue may have been between Hamlet and the ghost, if he weren’t acting for Gertrude’s sake.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet has a vast amount of potential as a subject for psychoanalysis. One can easily analyze the work, or use what others have understood from analyzing Hamlet themselves to draw conclusions and gain an in-depth understanding of what the character is going through from a psychological perspective. There are endless sources out there than can be used as references to support this sort of inquiry. It all comes down to comprehending the work and the perspective. It’s not necessary to scrutinize the inner workings of the play in order to enjoy it, it never has been.
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Sometimes it’s not until the second or third, or even fourth reading that the reader begins to ask the more advanced questions and demand more of the text. Once that is accomplished, the rest is a proverbial piece of cake. Works Citied Shakespeare, William. “Hamlet: Prince of Denmark. ” Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Comp. Robert Deyanni. Boston; McGraw-Hill, 2000. 941-1042. Paredes-vonOyen, Erin. Has Hamlet Gone Crazy?. 26 October. 2000 . Takahashi, Yasunari. “Speech, Deceit, and Catharsis: A Reading of Hamlet. ” Hamlet and Japan. Ed. Yoshiko Ueno. Hamlet Collection 2. New York: AMS, 1995. 3-19. Adair, Vance. “Rewriting the
Author: Brandon Johnson
Psychoanalytic Analysis of Shakespeare’s Hamlet
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