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Hamlet And Oedipus Rex: What Is In Common?

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In the play, ¨Hamlet ¨ the main character, Hamlet struggles to deal with his father´s death and the recent marriage between his mother and uncle , causing Hamlet to spiral. This may all be to blame by Hamlet’s apparent Oedipus Complex and his unconscious verses his conscious mind. Through out the play William Shakespear proves how Hamlet’s madness leads him to his unfortunate ending.

Shakespeare’s play, “Hamlet” has very similar elements to the Greek Myth, Oedipus Rex. In the late 1800s a man named Sigmund Freud, developed a theory based on the events of the play Oedipus Rex, which has since been known as the Oedipus Complex. Ernest Jones also applied his knowledge of Freudian psychology and wrote a paper suggesting that Hamlet cannot kill his uncle, Claudius because of his repressed feelings for his mother. In the story of Oedipus Rex, Oedipus fulfills a prophecy given to him, by killing his father, Laius and by sleeping with his mother Jocasta. It is apparent that Hamlet very much admires his father and wants to be like him, so much that he sees his mother as another thing he must get once the death of his father. “…the concept is a desire for sexual involvement with the parent of the opposite sex, which produces a sense of competition with the parent of the same sex and a crucial stage in the normal developmental process”(Ahmed, Sofe). It is proven that Hamlet hates his uncle, Claudius so much, he wishes he would have killed his father first in hopes for his mothers love. In Act three scene four the full effect of Hamlet’s feelings for his mother are expressed which make the oedipal complex behaviors in the relationship apparent due to the fact Hamlet makes numerous sexuall allusions. In this scene Hamlet confronts his mother about her relationship with Claudius and her involvement in death of his father, King Hamlet. Here Hamlet is actually more concerned with his mother’s sexual relationship than anything else not even about avenging his father. In an anticipation of his later theories of the Oedipus complex, Freud suggests that Claudius has shown Hamlet the repressed wishes of his own childhood made him realize his desire to kill his father and take his fathers place. Confronted with this image of his own repressed desires, Hamlet responds with self reproaches and scruples of conscience, which remind him that he himself is literally no better than the sinner whom he is to punish.

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The psychologist, Carl Jung believed that the universe and all of its inhabitants are made up of a measureless web of thought called the collective unconscious, it’s suggests that the collective unconscious is rooted in the genetic code of every living thing. This collective unconscious is evident in an individual’s personality, which is comprised of five separate personalities blended together ;these are called archetypes. In Jungian psychology, there are five different archetypes: the shadow, anima, animus, persona and the wise old man or mana-personality. Each influences a different aspect of one’s personality. These influences vary from one individual to another depending upon the dominance of each archetype. In the play Hamlet, each one of these archetypes manifests itself as a dominant personality trait within one of the play’s main characters. It is also apparent that the collective unconscious itself is an underlying theme which exists throughout the events in the play. Although, these concepts have only recently been discussed and proposed as a psychological theory, it appears that they pre-date Jung by three hundred years. ‘To be, or not to be: that is the question.’ (Act III, Scene I). He wonders if one route is ‘nobler’ than the next. At this point in the play, Hamlet has been unable to act upon his motives for personal revenge, and this frustrates him. For Cantor, the character of Hamlet exists exactly where two worlds collide. He is in one sense drawn towards the active side of heroism by his father’s legacy and the need for revenge. Simultaneously though, he is pulled to words a religious existence and in some sense sees his father‟s return as a ghost as justification for just such a belief. The conflict is perhaps most evidence in Act-III, scene III when Hamlet has the opportunity to kill the Claudius as he is praying. He restrains himself though, justifying his further hesitation with the following lines. Now might I do it pat, now ,a is a praying;/And now I will do it –and so a goes to heaven,/And so am I revenged.” Hamlets unconscious is apparent in this scene. Hamlet doubts himself constantly, pulling himself back and forth between decisions.

Hamlet is introduced as a reflective, slow-to-act character. While he stays true to this characterization for almost the entire play, he does undergo a transformation by the end of the play. By the end, Hamlet decides that he is no longer going to deprive himself of the revenge he so badly desires against Claudius, so he kills him. At this point, Hamlet is existential. He is the only character who fights back against Claudius’s usurpation of the throne, and he accepts the consequences of his actions without a flinch. This final existential act is what qualifies Hamlet as an existential character in an existential drama at a time when existentialism did not exist in literature. So finally Hamlet does what he said he would do the whole play, kill Claudius, freeing him of his jealousy of any man that comes for his mother.

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Hamlet And Oedipus Rex: What Is In Common? (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from
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