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Psychology in Hamlet

English 640 Dr. Fike

Todays Topics
Two strands of psychology relevant to Hamlets situation:
Elizabethan psychology Psychoanalysis

Main point: Psychology adds another dimension to Hamlets uncertainty and hesitation.

Elizabethan Psychology
What is up with this passage?
1.5.107-9: my tables? What is Hamlets point here?

Being a student contemplation, inability to melancholy act; hesitation

POINT: A life of contemplation makes Hamlet ill-suited to the decisive action that that ghost demands (U of M story). REASON: He is too concerned with the consequences of his actions (cf. the way he considers the consequences of suicide and of dispatching Claudius during prayer). Excellent source on melancholy: Lawrence Babb, The Elizabethan Malady

Being a Student
This in itself is not conducive to action, but there is more. Study leads to melancholy, which also makes action difficult. Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy: study weakens [scholars] bodies, dulls their spirits, abates their strength and courage; and good scholars are never good soldiers (I.2.3.15). Hamlets melancholy is our first major topic for today.

Analogy Chart, First Slide

OIL REFINERY Propane Gasoline Kerosene Diesel Lubricants Semi-solids

Lightest and most volatile

Heaviest and least volatile

Analogy Chart, Second Slide: See Bedford 254-55

Hot and drycholer (choleric) Hot and moistblood (sanguine) Cold and moist phlegm (phlegmatic) Cold and dryblack bile (melancholy): a.k.a. the scholars disease Hotspur Falstaff

Antonio (MV)

The mixture of elements determines your personality. Drers Melancholy: m

Examples of Hamlets Melancholy

1.2.133-34: lethargy 2.2.296: joylessness 2.2.602: cant express his feelings and is subject to demon affliction; melancholy makes the ghosts identity dubious

Other Characteristics
Brooding Despondency Suicidal impulses Cynical satire Mood swings Fits and starts of rash activity (like stabbing Polonius)

Hamlet obviously has some of these characteristics, but he is also playing the role of a nut job:
1.5.181: As I perchance hereafter shall think meet / To put an antic disposition on. 2.2.378: I am but mad north-north-west (i.e., only partly). 3.4.194-95: I essentially am not in madness, / But mad in craft. POINT: Theres method in his madness. He will attempt By indirections [to] find directions out, in the words of Polonius (2.1.67).

Still, Hamlets soliloquies reveal genuine melancholy characteristics.

How do you cure melancholy?

Remember: Hamlet is a student, he has lost the throne, and his dad is dead: good reasons to be bummed out. 3.1.165-77: The king proposes a cure. Typical cures:
Taking the air, travel, change of scene Stress reduction Analogy: going to Miami beach for spring break

Does it work?
5.2.220: the readiness is all (Zen-like) Something about Hamlets sea voyage transforms him. Sea change: wimpologist man of action (epic hero?).

The Second Strand of Psychology

Freudian Psychoanalysis

Major source: Ernest Jones, Hamlet and Oedipus Major principles of the Oedipus Complex:
Hatred of the father Love of the mother The boy represses these feelings into his unconscious mind, hence the development of the superego and the further hesitation to act on the repressed urges.

Fathers and Father Figures Ghost Claudius Polonius Old Fortinbras Fortinbrass uncle Priam Player king Jephthah (2.2.403) Sons and Son Figures Hamlet Laertes Fortinbras Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Lucianus Pyrrhus/Neoptolemus Horatio Claudius

How many mothers and mother figures are there?

Gertrude, Hecuba, and the player queen Of these, only Gertrude is an actual character.

Remember, of course, that there were no female actors in Shakespeares day. Fatherhood is dispersed among a number of characters; therefore, the Oedipal hatred finds multiple objects. Hostility toward the father is reflected in the proliferation of father figures. Motherhood is centered on one character: Gertrude. The Oedipal love is intensely focused because it is exclusively focused. Condensation of the mother into one figure suggests the intensity of love of the mother.

But wait: theres more!

Claudius is both a father figure to Hamlet and a son figure to Hamlet, Senior (cf. Oliver in AYLI). As a son figure, Claudius has done the thing that Hamlet wishes to do but has repressed into his unconscious mind, the result being the superego. But mentally, Hamlet has committed the same crime (killing Hamlet, Sr.). How, then, can he punish Claudius for doing the thing that he himself wanted to do? So he delays. Claudius is also a father figure to Hamlet (I am too much in the sun, he puns at 1.2.67). He doesnt kill Claudius because doing so is too close to the taboo Oedipal act of father killingthe desire Hamlet has repressed into his unconscious mind. Again, Hamlets superego is very strong.

Another Possibility
Maybe Claudius is Hamlets biological father. Maybe if he kills Claudius, he kills his REAL FATHER! Again, Hamlet is too close to acting out the repressed Oedipal fantasy. The Pyrrhus stuff in 2.2 is a Freudian act of compromise: like Hals decision to reject Falstaff rather than his father. And a further remove: One speech in t I chiefly loved: twas Aeneas tale to Dido, and thereabout of it especially when he speaks of Priams slaughter (2.2.445-48).

Summary of Key Points

Hamlets melancholy leads to uncertainty and hesitation. The conflict between Hamlets Oedipal feelings and his superego leads to hesitation.

Jungian Psychology--Typology
Hamlet Thinking Introversion Gertrude Feeling Extraversion

Jungian Psychology
Characters represent parts of Hamlets psyche:
Ophelia = rejected anima (this leads to negative anima, as in the references to prostitution) Laertes = the shadow Polonius = father, fool, scapegoat Rosencrantz & Guildenstern = tricksters Horatio = reason Gertrude = the terrible mother Ghost = the warrior father or the racial father (connection to instinct) Claudius = shadow of Hamlet, Sr. Fortinbras = the warrior

Possible Jungian Interpretations

The sea voyage furthers Hamlets psychic integration (the individuation process): his encounter with the pirates = an encounter with his own shadow. The fight with Laertes in the graveyard = acknowledgement of his shadow. Ophelias death ends the possibility of properly integrating his feminine side. My position: Hamlet does do a lot of work with his shadow, but he runs out of time and does not integrate his anima.

The Graveyard Scene

A probably too-optimistic reading by Elizabeth Oakes: Hamlet can leap into Ophelias grave and emerge, an action that not only graphically illustrates his rebirth but also foreshadows his spirits victory over death at the end of the play (112). See 5.1.246ff.

My Take
The only trouble here is that it is her brother Laertes, rather than erstwhile suitor Hamlet, who leaps into Ophelias grave. Regarding this detail, there is wishful thinking afoot among the plays Jungian critics. Rogers-Gardner also claims that Hamlet jumps into Ophelias grave (14), and Porterfield has Hamlet leap into it with Laertes (94). The stage directions have Laertes grapple with Hamlet a few lines later and do not say whether Laertes leaps out of the grave or whether Hamlet leaps in. Although directorial license permits Hamlet to join Laertes in Ophelias grave, the text does not support this interpretation. Instead Hamlets statementthat Laertes attempts To outface me with leaping in her grave suggests that he himself does not do so (5.1.280). As a result, a statement about Hamlets grave-leaping in connection with symbolic rebirth is simply not accurate. --Dr. Fike