Premium Essay

Phychoanalysis of Hamlet

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By Amelika
Words 4481
Pages 18
Psychoanalysis of Hamlet’s Subconscious


In the first half of the 20th century, when psychoanalysis was at the height of its influence, its concepts were applied to Hamlet, notably by Sigmund Freud, Ernest Jones, and Jacques Lacan, and these studies influenced theatrical productions.

Freud suggested that an unconscious oedipal conflict caused Hamlet's hesitations. (Artist: Eugène Delacroix 1844).

In his The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), Freud's analysis starts from the premise that "the play is built up on Hamlet's hesitations over fulfilling the task of revenge that is assigned to him; but its text offers no reasons or motives for these hesitations".[83] After reviewing various literary theories, Freud concludes that Hamlet has an "Oedipal desire for his mother and the subsequent guilt [is] preventing him from murdering the man [Claudius] who has done what he unconsciously wanted to do".[84] Confronted with his repressed desires, Hamlet realises that "he himself is literally no better than the sinner whom he is to punish".[83] Freud suggests that Hamlet's apparent "distaste for sexuality"—articulated in his "nunnery" conversation with Ophelia—accords with this interpretation.[85][86]

John Barrymore's long-running 1922 performance in New York was characterized as "revolutionary in its use of Freudian psychology; in keeping with the post World War I rebellion against everything Victorian, he eschewed the genteel, idealized 'Sweet Prince' of 19th-century tradition, imbuing his character with danger and sexuality."[87]

Beginning in 1910, with the publication of "The Oedipus-Complex as An Explanation of Hamlet's Mystery: A Study in Motive,"[88] Ernest Jones—a psychoanalyst and Freud's biographer—developed Freud's ideas into a series of essays that culminated in

Similar Documents