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Portrayal of Oedipus Complex and Displacement in Hamlet: Analytical Essay

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In order to approach and analyze any literary texts using any cultural theory to make sense of the text in question, the School of Psychoanalysis, for example, we need to have some cultural and literary tools that help mediate between literature and culture. we can use two different devices and mediation tools that are used to deal with any chosen text. Oedipus complex and displacement are two examples of the mediating tools, a psychoanalyst can use to approach Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

The first tool in the school of psychoanalysis is the ‘Oedipus Complex’, a psychological complex that calls on the male who loves his mother and becomes in a relationship with her and becomes jealous from his father which leads him in the end to hate him. In the theory of psychoanalysis, the term Oedipus complex refers to the feelings and thoughts that remain suppresses in the subconscious mind for the child toward his mother. The second tool in the school of psychoanalysis is ‘Displacement’. Which is the neutrality from the primary goal, for example when one goes directly and faces a problem, from a bigger side of him or his boss, the one directly cannot face him with anger. Anyways, the one directly goes to someone less than him perhaps, at the same level or at a level lower than that one.

Oedipus complex is a tool based on which William Shakespeare’s Hamlet can be analyzed with a psychoanalytic eye. Hamlet is thinking about his mother, and he is seemingly, too busy with her. The evidence of this is when Hamlet’s uncle ‘Claudius’ get married to his mother ‘Gertrude’. We can see how Hamlet is feeling with anger and nervousness, indicating that it is a marriage that Hamlet is supposed to be in his place. Hamlet often recalls Claudius’ sexual acts toward his mother, which indicates that Hamlet is obsessed with the idea of his mother’s sexuality. Often, we see Hamlet treating his mother as if she is a goddess.

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Some critics believe that Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia is only an alternative to the relationship he wants with his mother. That is, Hamlet cannot get his mother so, he chose a different road close to his mother, which is Ophelia. Hamlet often acts like a jealous which indicates love rather than being a son, by asking his mother about her relationship with his uncle in a jealous way. What causes Hamlet’s intense hate toward his uncle Claudius is that Hamlet is suffering from the Oedipus complex, secretly, attracts to his mother and wishes her not as a mother but as a lover. Hamlet is carrying the desire to be a king and to get married to his mother. So, his feelings are hidden in his subconscious. The idea of retaliation against Claudius is really not because he kills his father, but to take his place as a king and a husband to his own mother, it’s the dream that Hamlet has dreams of in his mind is hiding inside his subconscious.

Finally, before Hamlet’s death his last words are ‘Farewell to the wretched queen’ and this reveals that he is still somewhat fixed with his mother. That is to say, he remains related to his mother until his death, and this is the biggest evidence of the ‘Oedipus complex. Freud applies and represents successfully this tool in Hamlet’s scenario.

A psychoanalyst may approach Shakespeare’s Hamlet using another mediating tool, which is displacement. An example, on displacement, is when Hamlet goes to Ophelia to return the ‘remembrances’ he has given to her when he is in love with her. Hamlet becomes upset with her because she totally rejects him by returning his gifts. But, what really bothers Hamlet was that Ophelia spies on him for her father’s sake. The significance here is that Hamlet cannot speak to Ophelia’s father because he is not in a good relationship with him, but Hamlet pours his full anger on Ophelia because she is spying on him but he cannot face ‘the father’, so, he turns to another Person, which is facing ‘the daughter’. Another scene in which displacement can be noted is when Hamlet kills Ophelia’s father thinking that he is his uncle. In fact, Hamlet cannot kill his uncle at that time. So, when he stabs Ophelia’s father, he thinks that he is the king, but it is not him.

In conclusion, We can see how the two tools, ‘Oedipus Complex’, and ‘Displacement’ are defined by Hamlet’s analysis. And how the two tools are analyzed on the method of psychoanalysis. we see that the Psychoanalyst Freud contributes to the understanding of self and the unconscious, and because of his explanation, we are able to understand the dimensions of Hamlet’s play of psychoanalysis.

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Portrayal of Oedipus Complex and Displacement in Hamlet: Analytical Essay. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 2, 2022, from
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