Hamlet and the Oedipus Complex
The Oedipus Complex is a theory formed by Sigmund Freud, stating
that individuals have a repressed desire for sexual involvement with the parent of the opposite sex while feeling rivalry with the parent of the same sex. There is much evidence in the play that suggests
Hamlet is a victim of the Oedipus Complex.
In the beginning of the play when Hamlet is reciting his
first soliloquy, he makes may references to his disgust in his mother when she is with other men. “Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him, as if increase of appetite had grown.” He says this of his
deceased father. He does not want to remember how his mother hung on his father, as if to satisfy some great appetite, a need for his love. He tells that his mother married his uncle with “most wicked
speed,” to “incestuous sheets.” He then continues, “It is not nor it cannot come to good; But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.” Hamlet must keep quiet about his feelings and it tears him
If Hamlet does, indeed, have the Oedipus Complex, he would
have violent and hateful feelings toward his father, perhaps even enough hatred in him to kill his father. When Horatio and Marcellus tell Hamlet of their encounter with his dead father’s ghost, Hamlet
voices that it is very strange, but also he also states, “This troubles me.” If he loves his mother and hates his father, he would not want to be concerned with his father after he is supposed to be dead
and out of the picture. Hamlet asks his friends, “Arm’d, say you?' From top to toe? ' Look’d he frowningly?” Perhaps Hamlet is concerned that his father knows of Hamlet’s relief in his father’s death,
and is worried that his father may be looking for revenge on Hamlet.
When Hamlet goes with his friends to see the ghost, he
says “angels and ministers of grace defend us!” Again, he is troubled, distressed at the thought of his father seeking revenge. When the ghost beckons Hamlet, Horatio says to him, “It beckons you to go
away with it, as if it some impartment did desire to you alone.” And Marcellus, “It waves you to a more removed ground.” When the Hamlet learns the real reason of the ghots’s visit, he promises to
quickly seek revenge. “Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love, may sweep to revenge.” However, when Hamlet has to opportunity to kill his uncle, he does
not. He reasons that he should wait until his uncle is doing something wrong, so that his death will lead him to hell. However, Hamlet only wants to wait until he has his mother’s approval. Only after
Hamlet talks to his mother, does he finally feel that he may kill his uncle. Hamlet hears a noise from behind a curtain and immediately thrusts his knife into it, with no second thoughts or hesitations,
as he has his mother’s approval.
There are many references to Hamlet’s disgust in his uncle
throughout the play. He seems to be strangely preoccupied with the sheets and bed to which his mother shares with his uncle. Hamlet’s hatred is increased by the thought of his mother sleeping with his
uncle. When he organizes the script for the players to follow, he writes that Player Queen shall say, “A second time I kill my husband dead, when second husband kisses me in bed.” His preocupation with
his mother's sexual life is disturbing for Hamlet to think about.