The Oedipus complex is a psychosexual desire where a boy has got sexual feelings for his mother while young and develops with this feeling up to teenage age. The complex can also result to a feeling of hatred towards a parent or guardian of similar sex. The complex can be explained through ones actions and thoughts towards a father or mother. Some people can misunderstand this feeling with love of a child towards a parent; however, the level of love is what is in question in Oedipus complex. Freud described that the disorder starts in young boys aged between three and five years. The boy the develops a hatred towards the father who is viewed as a rival. The boy believes that the mother’s love should not be shared with another person. If this feeling develops even after the boy has reached his teen and adulthood, then it can be referred to as an Oedipus disorder. The boy will always have hatred for the father whom he thinks is the reason why he cannot have his mother to himself.
In the play by Shakespeare, the actions that Hamlet has fit to be described through the theory of Oedipus complex. The play gives shows the development of the character Hamlet since his childhood. Hamlet’s family lives in Denmark, after he arrives from school he finds out that his father had dies while he was in school, and his uncle had married his mother. Since Hamlet had been away from home for long, the Oedipus complex might have reduced; however coming from school and finding that his uncle had already married his mother might have had a significant impact on him. He could not believe that her mother had certainly forgotten above the love that he had for his father so easily. At least he expected that it would have taken more time before his mother remarried.
Claudius and Hamlet’s mother had committed an incest, and this was hurting Hamlet. From the play one can tell from the first chapter that Hamlet was wishing that he had the opportunity to marry his mother. Even when his father was alive, he felt that he was an obstacle to him having all her mother’s love. Fraud states that the complex lead to an individual hating a member of the opposite a sex. Hamlet does not harbor any hatred for his mother. This confirms Fraud’s argument. When he was young, Hamlet hated his father, and after his death the hostility was not turned to his uncle who had taken the over the marriage. He did not even consider the first priority of his father a being his blood father, he considered him more of a king. He was a man who mostly spending times in the wars and had little time to spend with the boy. This can serve as an explanation towards understanding how Hamlet’s love for his mother was so intense. She was the only one who was there for him and spent time with him more than the father. Any child will tend to love the parents that he/she spends more time with, especially in the young age. This hatred might have even compelled Hamlet to hurt his father or even kill him.
Hatred for Claudius was more apparent than that of the father, but it brings contradiction to Fraud’s argument. If Oedipus complex affected the father and son, can it be used to explain the hatred Hamlet had for the uncle? It might be possible that he hated his uncle because he seemed to have shown his opportunistic nature. Marrying his mother just after his father’s death shows that he had no respect for the dead. Many people will react the same in such a situation. It was also an act against the religious believes in the society, there seems to be justification for Hamlet’s attitude. The level of hatred is what makes it more of an Oedipus complex, Hamlets even admits that he would have killed him. He wishes that the uncle can suffer even in death, and does not even want to kill him when he is in prayer since he would send him to heaven. The motive would not be to revenge the selfish nature of the uncle; he would have done it to have his mother to himself. According to Hamlet, no man was supposed to show any love to his mother expect him (William 94).
After his father’s ghost appears to him and reveals the truth about his father’s death, Hamlet contemplates on killing his uncle. Killing Claudius would be like acting according to his father’s will. The Oedipus complex would not allow him to do it, he hated his father, and he did not want to revenge his death. Claudius had actually achieved what Hamlet always wished to do for so long. If he killed his uncle, he would not be able to live with the guilt, what he needed to do was to scheme another plan. Both the two men were his enemies, and he was not ready to play their game. If he was going to succeed in having his mother by himself, he was ready to do it through his own means.
One thing that an individual suffering from Oedipus complex cannot tolerate is imagining the acts of love that any man can do with his mother. Hamlet goes ahead and tells his mother not to have sex with Claudius, this is quite shocking for a child to advise his mother about sex, and in this case this was the disorder that was in control. He cannot imagine his mother engaging in sexual acts that he considered being so evil. His love for Gertrude makes him forget that her mother is a human being and not a goddess. She has to move on and forget about the death of her husband, which is the only way that she can wipe her sorrow away (Galati,Frank 125).
Ophelia falls in love with Hamlet, but it is not love that one would expect. Hamlet is using this love as a form of revenge; deep in his heart he knows that he does not love her. He uses Ophelia to make his mother feel jealous and wish that she could have him as her man. This kind of thinking is weird but complies with Fraud’s argument. This disorder can only fade when the subject seizes to exist. It is only after Gertrude’s death that Hamlet is able to move on. He slowly forgets about her and focuses to do what his father’s ghost had asked him to do. After he kills Claudius he proves that he has forgotten about her mother.
Galati, Frank. Oedipus complex. Ashland, OR: Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 2004. Print.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet Prince of Denmark. A tragedy. By W. Shakespear.. Edinburgh: Printed by A. Donaldson, and sold at his shop, corner of Arundel-Street, Strand, London ;, 1770. Print.