Psychology of Revenge as in ‘The Mousetrap’ – Hamlet (Act III, Scene II)
The Shakespearean tragedies are very specific about the determined thematic approach of the play. In the case of Hamlet, the theme of revenge predominates the entire approach of understanding the psychological development of Hamlet and the way he gets driven by a sense of revenge. Due to this, Hamlet undergoes the psychological transformation and meets the end in the most melodramatic way. This paper is looking into the psychological venture of Hamlet and is an attempt to comprehend the theme of revenge as led by ‘Mousetrap’. The approach is to check the relevance of this play-within-the-play in developing the storyline and character of Hamlet.
Through the ghost of his father Hamlet discovers that the death of his father was the result of a conspiracy. Being a bright university student, Hamlet plans to take revenge and thus plans a play for those people who were part of this murder. The basic objective of Mousetrap, the play within the play of Hamlet, is actually a mouse trap to expose the conspiracy led by Claudius and Gertrude in the killing of the King. Claudius, uncle of Hamlet; and Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother were in love and, in order to own the throne, Claudius plans to murder the King (Gertrude’s husband) and marry her. In this attempt, it is Gertrude who eventually poison’s the King and finally marries Claudius. This is the basic storyline of Mousetrap, and is directed well by Hamlet with an attempt to reveal the nasty deed of his uncle and his mother.
Metaphorical Representation: The approach of ‘The Mousetrap’ stands as a metaphor to the actual incident that happened to the father of Hamlet. There are still debate about this, yet the entire plot of this play actual replicates Hamlet, the play by Shakespeare. The mouse in this play is none other than Claudius and Gertrude, and the trap is the play itself that is created by Hamlet. As a matter of fact, Hamlet is very intensive in setting up this trap. His psychological sufferance caused by the discovery about murder of his father makes him very sarcastic and full of avenge. As Hamlet sets the trap to avenge the killing of his father, he even could not tolerate the existence of Ophelia, as she plays the role of Gertrude. The statement “Frailty thy name is Woman” shows the nature of troubles that Hamlet is facing within himself. He is totally disturbed as it was hard for him to believe in the theme of love. He even gets obsessed about taking revenge and nullifies the entire idea of romance and love. His mistrust grows as he continues to follow his heart and is in a state of utter confusion. He loved his mother a lot and knew how dearly his father loved her, yet she is the one who killed his father and broke the whole lot of trusting and loving feelings.
Mnemonic Passion: There is a trace of Hamlet’s mnemonic passion in this scene. The application of ‘The Mousetrap’ is the implication of conscious mode of strategy that is applied in the context of external stimuli over the memory for arising passion in Hamlet. On a clear note, Hamlet stirred the memory of Claudius and Gertrude and reminds them of the crime that they did. Since Hamlet cannot prove his talk with the King’s ghost, he is left with no other option than to give mental pressure to these convicts to accept whatever they did. Thematic approach of the play-within-the-play has the elemental aspects of igniting as well as further re-igniting the passion in Hamlet that is driven abruptly to take revenge. This is though the cause for delayed revenge, yet Hamlet is very fine with the process of creating the real scene, the expression of acceptance among Claudius and Gertrude to affirm their guilt. With the success of ‘The Mousetrap’ Claudius gets upset, and the mnemonic power that can be created by stage work gets valorise (Schiffer, 1996, p. 76). It testifies that theatre can create room for reminding people of those incidents that are stored in their memory. Things like historical representations and most essentially, distorted instances were very easily knitted by this mnemonic power.
Psychological Trap: However, there is also the other side of the coin. There is every possibility that this Mousetrap is the result of the imagination that Hamlet followed in the process of resolving the sudden death of his father. This can be a trap that is, in truth, created by the dominant psychological section of Hamlet’s mind that is trying to prove the story as created by Hamlet himself. Hamlet’s love for his father tried to add a reason and a convict to the sudden death and to the same Hamlet got none other suspect than Claudius. This is the reason that Claudius never doubted Hamlet’s idea even after he saw the dumb show and so allowed Hamlet to continue with the play. Gertrude, on the other hand, suddenly reacts as the scene in the park arrives. It is possible that she suddenly realises that Hamlet has misunderstood the entire thing and is now trying to accuse her of the death of his father.
Rage to Feminism: The psychoanalytical investigation into Hamlet’s perception towards feministic image has been explored through this scene. The representation of Ophelia in respect to her state of insanity too gets explored by Hamlet. Use of Ophelia by Shakespeare through Hamlet shows relevant notes of his mental interplay that also reflects the nature of the culture and the experiences that he has collected regarding females in his life. The construction of his psychology is very subjective and is supported by his logic, and the regular developments and real life actions (Finkelstein, 1997, p. 6). This scene is an exposure to the interiority of their life that is also represented by ‘The Mousetrap’, where Ophelia gets rude and very vigorous treatment from Hamlet. There is a sense of rage in Hamlet against women, and that is somewhere because of his mother. This rage has been utilised by Shakespeare to show his interior of disassociation with Ophelia.
Jungian Perspective: It is in this scene that Hamlet emerges as Jungian ideology of "universal experience of parental discovery" (Porterfield, 1994, p. 74). Use of ‘The Mousetrap’ by Hamlet is a way of creating the ray of hope and positive vibe of seeing things through. Elements of surprise and avenge are though integral to this play, yet it is just not only about killing but also about redeeming people like Claudius. It is the means to discover and again rediscover goodness that has been power stricken and is searched by Hamlet so desperately. However, out of his nature Hamlet is part of violence, as inspired by Shakespearean dramatic structure. He still creates the element of courage that a person can own and can use in the real life situation to let go the suppressive and repressed sufferance. Being an inspiration to people in general, Hamlet emerges as a real hero in this scene and is a subject to get idealised by his spectators.
Theme of Revenge
In Hamlet, structure of play-within-the-play, ‘The Mousetrap’; is entitled to create the radical suspense story about the murder of the King, Hamlet’s father. Through the means of offering the storyline, Hamlet tries to reveal that he came to know about the conspiracy and the murder arranged against his father. Here is a constant trauma noted in Hamlet and the same is well established by his initiation of ‘The Mousetrap’. The trauma in this scene gets insights that stand pertinent Hamlet’s sufferance and trouble of being victimised by the oscillating experiences of remaining numb and to get overwhelmed by the emotional pressure. For him, it gets hard to differentiate things that are in real and things that are element of fantasy. He gets preoccupied with a continuous sense of unreality, and that leads him to the plot of this play-within-the-play, a mirror image to his revengeful attitude and the key to clarifying his reasons for vengeance in public. His revenge created a profound ground of mistrust and he acts as the scapegoat who knows nothing more than the theme of being into the aura of revenge and get satisfaction (Simon, 2001, p. 712). It is the intellectuality in Hamlet that makes him a hero who is allowed to kill people and to establish his fantasy with logically supported evidences. This might sound weird but is the way this drama attains success and justifies the acts of Hamlet, generation after generation.
The application of Freudian ideology of maintaining ‘superego aggression’, Hamlet is found to subvert adequate amount of logical context to justify his revenge. Here his revenge gets represented as a kind of inward tragic incident that has been reinforced by experiences with mistrust, frailty, destructive relationships. Hamlets distorted personality tries to get the woven properly by the thread of revenge, and that has been utilised to see through his psychic developments in this particular scene (Byles, 1994, p. 118).
Eventually, it can be noted that the power in Hamlet has been well utilised through ‘The Mousetrap’. Though he is the sufferer, yet it is through this play-within-the-play, that Hamlet could put all his efforts of exposing the murder of his father and unveil the hideous crime of his uncle and his mother to the world. This particular piece is also very important as it is the tool through which Hamlet could release his frustration and could justify himself about the revenge that he is going to have soon. The theme of revenge comes parallel to the psychological exposition of Hamlet’s frustration. Shakespeare could use no other tool better in such a situation and that is the reason that this play-within-the-play is considered as the key thread to lead Hamlet to his destiny or the heroic fall. There is the rise in Hamlet that is noted in this scene and the same justifies him as one of the leading Shakespearean heroes ever.
Byles, Joanna Montgomery. “Tragic Alternatives: Eros and Superego Revenge in Hamlet.” New Essays on Hamlet. Ed. Mark Thornton Burnett and John Manning. Hamlet Collection 1. New York: AMS, 1994. 117-34.
Finkelstein, Richard. “Differentiating Hamlet: Ophelia and the Problems of Subjectivity.” Renaissance and Reformation 21.2 (Spring 1997): 5-22.
Porterfield, Sally F. "Oh Dad, Poor Dad: The Universal Disappointment of Imperfect Parents in Hamlet." Jung's Advice to the Players: A Jungian Reading of Shakespeare's Problem Plays. Drama and Theatre Studies 57. Westport: Greenwood P, 1994. 72-98.
Schiffer, James. “Mnemonic C ues to Passion in Hamlet.” Renaissance Papers, 1995. Ed. George Walton Williams and Barbara J. Baines. Raleigh: Southeastern Renaissance Conference, 1996. 65-79.
Simon, Bennett. “Hamlet and the Trauma Doctors: An Essay at Interpretation.” American Imago 58.3 (Fall 2001): 707-22.