Psychoanalytic Criticism Of Hamlet Essay

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The Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet can be considered one of Shakespeare’s most complex works. Hamlet features a range of themes including revenge and corruption; however, it is through critical analysis that the greatest understanding of the text can be found. Because of the theme of insanity in Hamlet, a popular critical lens associated with the text is the psychoanalytic lens. Using the psychoanalytic lens, the reader examines the psychology of the characters and author through the author’s choices in creative writing. Analysis of Hamlet using this criticism reveals the mental states of the characters, especially Hamlet. Hamlet’s sanity, or insanity, is undoubtedly one of the most argued discussions in literature, but the psychoanalytic criticism proves one undeniable matter. Hamlet suffers from an Oedipus complex.
Hamlet and Oedipus from Oedipus the King, by Sophocles, have striking similarities which augment Hamlet’s Oedipus complex. The Oedipus complex is a psychoanalytic theory which encompasses the idea of unconsciously desiring the parent of the opposite sex, while desiring to eliminate the parent of the same sex. Theorized by Sigmund Freud, the Oedipus complex originates from the play Oedipus the King, by Sophocles, in which Oedipus fulfills a prophecy killing his father and marrying his mother. According to Freud’s theory, all children have an Oedipus complex which is resolved during the phallic stage of life (Shaffer and Kipp 548-549). Oedipus’ mother and wife, Jocasta, acknowledges this point in a dialogue with Oedipus. She states, “And as for this marriage with your mother – have no fear. Many a man before you, in his dreams, has shared his mother’s bed” (Sophocles 157). Hamlet does hold these feeling for his mother, Gertrude, but Hamlet’s situation contrasts greatly to that of Oedipus; Hamlet never fulfills his oedipal desires. Despite this fact, Hamlet is said to have one of the greatest Oedipus complexes through all of literary history, second to...

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