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|GR: Hamlet and Gertrude from a psychological perspective
Written by Laraine
(5/29/2003 3:20 p.m.)
The essense of the "Oedipal" relationship idea is that Hamlet, like all sons, wants to get his father out of the picture and marry his mother. However, Claudius did that. So now he's consumed with guilt about ever having wished his father out of the picture, and he still wants to marry his mother, so his uncle really, really in the way. His Id is telling him to kill Claudius so he can have what he wants, and his Superego is telling him that it's not a great idea to go around killing kings and relatives, no matter what they did.
Please note that none of that is my idea: it's just an exceedingly brief and relatively biased summary of a school of thought that's been around for a while.
I've never really had a lot of time for the general idea, but I've recently found out about a very good essay by Janet Adelman called, "'Man and Wife Is One Flesh': Hamlet and the Confrontation with the Maternal Body." I recommend it (the edition of Hamlet that it's in is linked below).
I'll try to summarize a piece of the argument Adelman makes:
Hamlet has never been able to work out his relationship with this mother, because his father has always been in between the two of them, insisting that he worship his mother with a completely noncritical eye.
Hamlet cannot really do that. He's not built that way: he's an intellectual, a philosopher, a critic. Now that his father's dead, you'd think that perhaps Hamlet could work out the relationship, but Claudius is right in the way, and clouding the picture in lots of ways. And the ghost is still telling Hamlet to be nice to Gertrude, without fail.
In the scene in Gertrude's bedroom, Hamlet finally does sweep aside most of what's in his way and have it out with his mother. And she does listen to him and is much inclined to believe what he's saying.
Adelman says that the outcome of this scene is shown to us after Hamlet comes back from the sea. Hamlet has definitely changed. There are lots of possible reasons why, but he has. He seems to have put aside all of his melancholy, his indecision, and even his intellectualizing. All of this is because he's finally worked out his relationship with his mom.
I haven't begun to do justice to the arguments Adelman puts forth, but I'm wondering if people think the general idea is plausible. Could Hamlet be so changed by this (admittedly very emotional) conversation with Gertrude?
|Hamlet: Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism|
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