Sie sind auf Seite 1von 54

Jones, Ernest: A psycho-analytc study of Hamlet.

In: Ders.: Collected papers on psycho-analysis.

The International Psycho-Analytic Press, London, Wien 1923, S. 1-98
irTr l;
.!id,' I
M. D.
t f f l A\ \ l ' t i ( t Al ' t ( ) . \ : t l YSI t l ONf f t ARTt l {l . o . . . . . . . Ff ont i Sl i cCe
f t f t t Al l , . . . ! o . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r Vl i
A I' r.1' t' ho-Anal yti c Study of Harnl et
' l )f i ng Together' , l vi th Speci al reference to Hei nri ch
\ ' ( ) nKl ei st ' sSui ci de | . . . . . . . r . . . . . , gg
Arr Unusual Case of
tDyi ng
Together' . . . . . . . . . 106
l' lrr. Syrnbolic Significance of Salt in Folklore and
St r pcr st i t i on . . . . . . . . . . . . o . t . . . . r r z
' l' lre (lod
Complex. The Belief that One is God, and
tlrt: Resulting Character Traits . q . . . . . r . ,?n4
l' lrn lrrfluence of Andrea del Sarto' s Wife on his Art . , . 227
' t' lre (l;rse
of Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland . . r . . 245
' l' lrc
Madonna' s Conception through the Ear. A Con-
tribution to the Relation between Aesthetics and
I t cl i gi on. . . . . . . . . . o r . . . . . . . . . z5r
\\tnr' ;rnd Individual Psychology . . . . . . . r . . . .
\ \ ' ; t t ' ; r nd Subl i r nat i on r . . ! . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3Br
A l ,i rrgui sti c l i :tctor i n Engl i sh Characterol ogy . . . . .
fhe. Island of Ireland. A Psycho-Analytical Contribution
to Political Psychology . . . . . . . . . . ! . .
A Psycho-Analytic Study of the Holy Ghost . . . . . .
I NDEX . . r . . t . . .
' ' '
' ' ' ' ' '
' '
t t 43I
I ' t i l i FACt r
( l nr'
l rl rl r
' rrl y
,f thi s book has previ ousl y been
;rul rfi rl rr' ,1
rn l ' rr11l i sl r. l t l ras al l been revi sed and the greater
; r r t
I I nr
; , 1' 1t '
t 1 u' r i t t t : t r .
I l rr' l rpi l rt rr' l ri t : l r
l rsycho-anal ysi s
i s capabl e of t hrowi ng
r)f f l l rr' , l . r' ; ' r. r'
l , r' rl rl t : rns
of human t hought and conduct
l r . ' r r l l ' l r cgr r r r r i r r g
t o l r r : apPr cci at ed. The f i el d over whi ch
I t I rrf r l rt ' u1r; rl i r. rl i s : rl ' rost i ndcf i ni t el y l arge. The part s
kt t f r f t crl on i rr t [ c prcscnt vol umc const i t ut e of COurSe
oi l l y n rk"r' ti orr,
1' r:t
tl rcy arc suffi ci entl y di verse: pol i ti cal
l r yr l r ohr [ Y,
t t t l i r r t r ( ' i ur ( l l i t t : r ' : r r ; ' r : r e: r t i or r , nat i onal and i ndi v-
kf $r l t l r nt ncl r ' t uhr gl . , : ul ( l t l r r . st r r r i y of super st i t i on, hi st or y,
t ohl l on, nnr l f ol h k rr r.
l et
cnhr 2 ! t ) , , . , ,
f ' ,
/ , i
N I ' I ' I - I I i I ) I ' SYCI I ( ) - ANALYSI S
( ' t
t At ' ' t ' t i t t I
A t,.\Y(' l l ( l .nNAI .Y' l ' l (: si ' l ' uDY ot- HRM-ET
Itrv, f tl rt r x,t,. t
hnve ns yct tl evoted rel ati vel y l i ttl e
I l onl rrt l o rrr, l rvr, hrnl nrt : rl 1' t i c st rrt l y of geni us and of
|l Hto
I f cnl l yrncrr, ntr,l hrtvc nuri nl y confi nt:tl themsel ves
f d5vrl knr
ol n grrtrrul orrl rr.
' l ' ht:y
s(:cm to share
i t
*fm .r rton rvr.rri otl rl i sl ,l rtl ' r' rl l ry the worl d at
h i |l fl
l rxr fi ret(' htrrg rn nrri rl vsi s <l f a thi ng of
' ,hQ1 i l t h.hq ctl rfr' +rl rl ur Kci tl s' l i ncs on the pri s-
ri l ffrr f rl rrl xrw,
' l
l tc [i ' :tr that beauty may
' t
Gf f l kxr x nrt rrrt rrrrg n
H: l z(: ,
and wi t h i t our
l tfrrr}.
h. h.r*r' vct, r' nl l ' hr
j rrsti fi cdl much depends
t f hr nf f $t c of l l rn
l rl rl urrrrr: : urt l
on t he at t i t ude of t he
' Hl t rf
, l -, rf rrrl r' rrcr l rrrr sl rcrvn t h; rt i nt el l ect ual appreci at i on
f nl t t r
ul ul i r orrl y l rr. i ul rt t : nct l by underst andhg, and t o
btfral l l rtr rrr
of tl rt: rccogni sed soci al functi ons of
Sl a' r' f l l t,' , 5urcc, nr()r(:()v(:r, i ntel l ectual appreci ati on com-
Fl fi
rfr rfnl xrrturrt p:trt of the hi gher forms of aestheti c
' I f , i r r l rnrl r. r t r l orrrrrkr<l on an essay whi ch appeared i n t he
{*t ot , . rx t . nrt , t t l , ' / / ' t t , t / t t , / t ), (. J, t
Januaf y
I 9I O, an enl af ged Vef Si On Of
$* h i . .
I ' rrl , l r' , l rcrl
i rrrrr: rn as Fl ef t l o of t he Schri f t en z; . rt
$; : rl r, l l r' l t
l . rr' l rt t ht t t t t l t : t t t t <l cr t he name ' DaS Probl em des Haml et
f r f
r t r l I t ar l r l r r t r
Kor r r l r l r x' , t 1; t t .
{ l .
' :
' l
, t
appreciation, a deepened understandittg can but increase
this also.
It has been found that with poetic creations this
critical procedure cannot halt at the work of art itself;
to isolate this from its creator is to impose artificial limits
to our understandittg of it. As Masson,
in defending his
biographical analysis of Shakespeare' justly says: 'not till
every poem has been, as it werer chased uP to the
moment of its organic origin, and resolved into the mood
or intention, or constitutional reverie, out of which it
sprang, will its import be adequately felt or understood.'
A work of art is too often regarded as a finished thing-
in-itself, something almost independent of the creator's person-
ality, so that little would be learned about the one or
the other by connecting the two studies. Informed criti-
cism, however, shews that a correlated study of the two
sheds light in both directions, on the inner nature of the
composition and on the mentality of its author. The two
can be separated only at the expense of diminished apprec-
iation, whereas to increase our knowledge of either auto-
matically deepens our understanding of the other. Masson
well says:
a man shall or can imagine, equally
with rvhat he shall or can desire, depends ultimately on
his own nature, and so even on his acquisitions and
experiences . . . Imagination is not, after all, creation
out of nothing, but only re-combination, at the bidding
of moods and of conscious purposesr out of the
materials furnished by memory, reading and experiencel
which materials vary with the individual cases.' In assert-
ing this deterministic point of viewr one characteristic also
of modern clinical psychology, Masson gives us a hint of
one of the sources of the prevailing aversion from psycho-
l{asson: Shakespeare Personally, r9r4, p. 13.
idem: op. cit., pp. r29, r3o.
A I ' S\ ' (' I I O-N NN I -Y' I ' I C STUDY OF HAMLET
Lg' , ,rl rrrr:rl ysi s nnnrr:l y, the preference for the bel i ef that
f.i -t,,
r,l r' :rs :rri sr: i n thci r fi ni shed form, perhaps from
ri ' rrra rl rr;r.,i rl i vi nc source, rather than as el aborati ons of
Jrm;' 1. urr,l f;rrni l i ar el ements devoi d i n themsel ves of
;u:stheti c beauty. Thi s atti tude becomes sti l l
Dt,l r' r' nrprcl rr:nsi bl e
when one real i ses that the deeper,
ct r. ni r' s11s1. ; nri nt l , whi ch i s doubt l ess t he act ual source of
tr h r,l r' ;rs, :rs of al l abstract i deas, i s compri sed of
t f *l rl rrl rrr; rt . r' i ; rl <l i scarded or rej ect ed by t he consci ous
l nhrrl nq l r.i rrg i ncompati bl e wi th i ts standards, materi al
rhi e h l r:rs I o be extensi vel y transformed and puri fi ed
frof,,r,' i t (' ;l n
l rt: prcsented to consci ousness. The atti tude,
tt al r rt l , i s ()nc
more i l l ustrati on of the constant resi stance
ffrot nr.ur rl i sPl ays agai nst any danger he may be i n of
f l r f , r r l r r r r l i r r g hi s i nner nat ur e.
' l
l rr' :rrti st hi mscl f has al ways avoi ded a cl osel y anal yti c
l l l ftrrrl c torr' ;rrtl s hi s rvork, evi dentl y for the same reason
m l hr r' rnun()n man. He usual l y di ssoci ates the i mpel l i ng
fl fol rvc forcc from hi s consci ous wi l l , and someti mes ascri bes
t kr f ur n. t rr: rl r: xt crnal agcncy) di vi ne or demoni c. D' An-
' -fruf
ur' , ft rr r.x:rrnJrl e, i n hi s ' Il ' l ame of Li fr
' e'
makes hi is arti ist-
. f I
hof . t l rrrrk , f ' t he cxt raordi nary moment s i n whi ch hi s
brl r, f l r*, 1 rvri rt . n : rn i mmort al vcrse t hat had seemed t o
,bl n frrt l r,r' n of hi s l >rai n, but di ctated by an i mpetuous
dgt v t ' rvl ri r: h hi s rrnconsci ous organ had obeyed l i ke a
Hrr, l t t t rl t ' t t t t rcnt ' . Norvhere i s t he i rresi st i bl e i mpet uosi t y
l I rnt rr .r' r' ;rl i orr morc perfectl y portrayed than i n the
rrl rl r'
i n
Itcce Homo' where Ni etzsche des-
f rrl ' +r
t f r, ' l rrrt l r r, [ ' Al so sprach Zarat hust ra' , and i t s i nvol un-
l t v
r l rrrr. rr I r' t ' l r; rs l rr: t : n pl ai nl y i ndi cat ed by most great
l f t l +r r, l r. rrr Sot : r' : rt r: s t o Goet he. I wi sh t o l "y speci al
l ht *' r
, f r t l rr. . i l i . ; rt rrrr: , on t he art i st ' s unawareness of t he
, *rt . t , ! h, nr(' i ' o[ l ri s crcat i on, f or i t i s cognat e t o t he
I f l wrr+l rt
r, l I l u.
; rrt . sr: nt
csst ry.
I '
t ,
Within the past few years the analytic investigation
of the workings of genius has been infused with fresh
interest by the luminous studies of Freud, who has reveal-
ed some of the fundamental mechanisms by which
artistic and poetic creativeness proceeds.
He has shewn
that the main characteristics of these mechanisms have
much in common with those underlying many apparently
dissimilar mental processes, such as dreams, wit, and
neurotic symptoms
further, that all these processes bear
an intimate relation to fantasy, to' the realisation of non-
conscious rvishes, to psychological 'repression',
to the revival
of childhoocl memories, and to the psycho-sexual life of
the individual. It was to be expected that the knowledge
so laboriously gained by the psycho-analytic method devised
by Freud would prove of great value in the attempt to
solve the psychological problems concerned with the
obscurer motives of human action and desire. In fact
it is hard to think of any other scientific mode of
approach to such problems than through the patient dis-
secting of the deeper and more hidden elements of the
mind which is the aim of this procedure. The results
already obtained by Abraham,
Freud: Der wahn und die Tr?iume in w.
rgoT;,Der Dichter und das Phantasierenr' Neae .Reoue, r9o8, Nr. to,
?16; ' Das
Motiv der Kbstchenwahl,' Itnago, I9I3, S' 257i Eine
Kindheitserinnerung des Leonardo da Vinci, Igro'
idem: Die Traumdeutung, rgoo;DerWitz und seine Beziehung zum
Unbewu{3ten, r9o5; Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie, I9o5; Samm-
lung kleiner Schriften, I9o6-t8.
Abraham: Traum und Mythus. Eine Studie zur Vtilkerpsycho-
logie, rgog; 'Amenhotep
IV. Psychoanalytische Beitrige zum Verstbndnis
seiner Perscinlichkeit und des monotheistischen Aton-Kultes" Imago,
r gr 2, S.
Ferenczi: Contributions to Psycho-Analysis (Et gl. Transl.), 1916.
Il i tschmann: Gottfri ed Kel l er, r9r9.
Hrrrl , r Si rrl ger, s mysel f , : l and ot hers are onl y a f oret oken
r{ tl rr nl rl rl i cnti ons that wi l l be possi bl e when thi s method
hs lrcerr r:rnployed over a larger field than has hitherto
l snr I l rc case.
l' lr,' p;rrticular problem of Hamlet, with which this
rt{|y r.. r'onct:rncd, is intimately related to some of the
tnr.t lr r.r;rrt.ntly recurring problems that are presented
.ff |lrc
of psycho-analytic work, and it has thus
rrrrf r.'r I possil>lc to secure a fresh point of view from
rhrr lr ;rn irnswcr might be proffered to questions that
frrvr lr;rfllr:tl attempts made along less technical lines.
*urrr. ol t ht: most competent literary authorities have
fter' ly rrcknou' ledged the inadequacy of all the solutions of
( )l )l(.nl that have hitherto been suggested, and when
Iry psychological standards their inadequacy is still
tiotn cvirlt:nt.
' l' he
aim of the present essay is to expound
rnrl lrr irrg into relation with other rvork an hypothesis
rlgl:r' .,1r:rl sontc tu' cnty years ago by F' reud in a footnote
l o l rto ' ' l ' r;rrrrrrtl ctrtung' .4 )l efore attempti ng thi s i t wi l l be
fiGccnqur'\' lo ntake a few general
remarks about the nature of
lrr,rlrh' nr
;rnrl the previous solutions that have been offered.
' l' lrr'
prol>lcm presentcd by the tragedy of ' Hamlet' is
.tF ol pcr:rrliur intercst in at least two respects. In the
' t i , rrrl i : l )t . r' I i t i nst l er. Ans: i t ze zu ei ner Sexual -psychol ogi er rWT)
f f r i l rt l rrn vr)n t l cr (i cburt
dcs Hel den, r9o9; Di e Lohengri nsage,
l gf | . I r, rr l rrzc: rt l \ l ot i v i n I )i cht ung und Sage, rgr2; Psychoanal yt i sche
bt r r g, . r ur l l vt l r r . nl i r r schung, . I 9I g.
' , . , , 1t : , ' r l ( , r 111' ; 111 I , ' cr <l i nand Meyer . Ei ne
\ t | .
l . r ' , l t r r l r r ' , l r yt l {; Ar r s cl cr n I . i ebesl eben
] 1; . h' r l r I l r l r l r r . l , t {t : o.
p athographi sch-p sycho-
Nicolaus Lenaus, Igog;
' I r rr". t
), ' rr, ' t
: l ' ; rpr. rs on l ' sycho-Anal ysi s, r9I 8; Essays i n
' . 1 l ' , t r l r n . \ r r , r l ysi s, t g) ze.
| r , r r , l l l r r .
' l ' r ' , ; r r r nr r l eut r r ng,
t 9oo, S. I 83.
qr i ,
first place, the play is almost universally considered to be
the chief masterpiece of one of the greatest minds the
world has known. It probably expresses the core of Shake-
speare's philosophy and outlook on life as no other work
of his does. Bradley
writes, for instance : 'Hamlet is the
most fascinating character, and the most inexhaustible, in
all imaginative literature. What else should he be, if the
world's greatest poet, who was able to give almost the
reality of nature to creations totally unlike himself, put his
own soul straight into this creation, and when he wrote
Hamlet's speeches wrote dorvn his own heart ?' Figgis
calls Hamlet 'Shakespeare's completest declaration of
himself' . Taine' s3 opinion also was that ' Hamlet is
Shakespeare, and at the close of a gallery of portraits,
which have all some features of his own, Shakespeare has
painted himself in the most striking of them all.' It may
be expected, therefore, that anything which will give us
the k"y to the inner meaning of the play will necessarily
provide a clue to much of the deeper workings of Shake-
speare's mind.
In the second place, the intrinsic interest of the play
itself is exceedingly great. The central mystery' in it-
namely, the cause of Hamlet's hesitancy in seeking to obtain
revenge for his father's murder
well been called
the Sphinx of modern Literature.s It has given rise to a
regiment of hypotheses and to a large library of critical
Bradley: Oxford Lectures on Poetry, r9o9, p.
Darrell Figgis: Shakespeare: A Study, rgrr, p.
Taine: Histoire de la Litterature Anglaise, 1866, t. rr, p. 254.
The desperate effort has been made, e.g. by
M. Robertson
(The Problem of ' Hamlet' , r9r9, pp. 16, r7) to deny the existence of this
delay, only, however, for it to be found necessary on the very next page
to admit it and propound a reason for it.
It is but fitting that Freud should have solved the riddte of this
Sphinx, as he has that of the Theban one.
i '
A I' 5\' (' I I0.N NAI,Y' I' I(: S' | UDY OF HAMLET
t r . f I r , nf r , , vr r : , i ; r l l i l r : r ' : r l r r r r : . No t l ct : r i l cd account of t hem
rCl l u' t , ' l rr' ; rl l r' rnl rt r: t l , l i l r t hi s i s ol >t ai nabl e i n t he wri t i ngt
C | . *' , r r r 1, , I I l or i r r g, " : r r r , l ot l r r : r s, but t hc mai n poi nt s ot
l l f l l rel l t . t vr' l rr: r' n
l l rrt
f i rt ' rvnrrl rnust be bri ef l y ment i oned.
I X t l rr nol rrt i orrs t l r; rt h: rvr: l rct : n of f cred many wi l l
l | cf nl rl v
l rr t rrrrrt t t l rt ' rt ' t l ()n
nt : r' orrrrt of t ht : i r very ext rav-
| px
Al l r , . , l r f not l r r . kr r r gi r r g t o t hi s gr oup ar e t he
l 6rrt l re. c. l l r. rl hrr' nr l l i rrrrh: t onl y al l t : g<l ri cal t endenci es
d r r l r r ur kr r r , l n,
' t l r r t .
l cr t l r l sccs i n t l r c:
l l l i r y
an el abor at e
*hx o r,l l ' r
' l
r cl rrr rl rrnt, l t ru
;rrrr l .Sl ri mi t:r(l on the contrary
I r hdcr xn , ' l l {, nr un
( ' l t l r ol i ci sr r r .
St r : cl cf cl d? r egar ds i t as
; rrrl crt
l gnrrrnf t l rr. ncr. grt i ci srrr of I \ l ont ai gne, Fei ss as one
| ; t l ml
f rrr rrryrt r nnt nrr, l l rrgot ry. A rvri t cr under t he name
d Har l rf r" f f t nut l rut ur l l r, rl t l rr'
1, l l y
i s an al l egori cal phi l o-
; l l
r{ l rdrt y I I nrrrl rt ri t l rr sl ri ri t of t rrrt h-. seeki ng rvhi ch
H| t
f rdt hhl rrl r rl l y nn
1rr' (' l : r(' l *i ,
(l l : rrrt l i us
i s t he t ype
J d *f t ri l r.
rl rr' l rn f r t l rc
(. l rrrrcl r,
I ' ol oni us i t s
l frt f r l l rda Irrgrrfrr, {rrl nrl c,rrrr, l Hr 13.
' l ' l r i s
book i s
rrro: . t cri t i cal work } t F| r }l r . nbel , f . r l l n r cr l r t r r l y t l r r .
t F
f f l
t i $
b Hr++ l l * rrrr ,l ovrl ,' rr' ,1 l ry Vrni ng (1' he Mystery
fl }ff | l i l ffanl rl r mel n.4rr r. t,, bc cxl rl :ri rrt' <l by the fact
I 5; I f*-i l rrrol l t l trorrl l hl up rr l t nt.rn. A wri ter i n the
t hf r ' r l . 1 f r . f 0l f r , r r t l f l f r ! r t ' r l 1f 141 l l ar r r l ct ' r r l t ' l ay was si mpl y
f b *f *f c*; r . f f r . l r t 11 l f t o
l r l l y
. t
l , t r r l t r l , r l r l c
l cngt hl
l f r f l l f l l f l t l cl r un l r f r t l r nr l f ( . . uc. l , l ( r t .
Qfgf lqx.rrr, r ltfr{
l *. r ,
l *l
' f ' , r ; , r r l ' l , l r l kcr l r r . . u( . r f n l l : r r r r l ct , I 89o.
Hr . l l f t . l . l l f r l r r l r ' 1, r ' r n l r r r r l r t r r r l r ur na Shakcsl l ear e' s gegen di e
l l Ft {r k
*. r r l [ . ' r r n. 11, r , l r l r , ' r l r r ' \ \ ' r ' l t . t t t r r l t ; t t t t ' t g t l t : s M. dC MOnt ai gne, f 87f .
l ' - , t
t r i l l l i
111s' 1sr r l t t r l I l , ' 111. 1sg111' , t l l t {4.
' l
he i mpor t ance of
f t | | l +r 1r *-
r . r . f l . t r f t , , , , t t
r - l t , t l . r "r t t t ' r l t ( ' ,
: t s sl t CWn i n I {aml et , WaS f i f St
t **r *r l +. f I ' y ' . l r r l r nl f r L. u, / . ' n t t nt l l l ?. t ' t t r t i t t . t ' t cr l i eui ezcr , 1838, p.
32I ) ,
f i l f
l *r o f . r - r . r r , l r ' , r r l y
1, , ' r r r l r . r t
or r t l r y
I \ l . I t ober t son, i n hi s book
I t af *i f *r e l r , i
r ; r l . r ' r l r r ' . t t r . , t l {r 17.
l l +t r r r f t ' l l . r t r l r ' 1, , 1 Sl r ; r kcspcl r r : ' s l ) hi l osophy of Hi st or y, r 8TS.
I : SSAYS l N nl ' l ' l . l l : l ) I ' SYCI I O-ANALYSI S
A$solutism and Tradition, the Ghost is the ideal voice of
Fortinbras is Liberty, and so on. Mtny writers,
including Plumptrel and Silberschlag,2 have read the play
as a satire on Mary,
of scots, and her marriage
with Bothwell after the murder of Darnley, md winstanley3
has recently made out a case for the view that the figure
of Hamlet was largely taken from that of
vI of
Scotland, the heir to the English throne, while
and others have found in it a relation to the Earl of Essex's
domestic experiences. such hypotheses
overlook a charact-
eristic of all Shakespeare's
works, and indeed those of
any great artist-namely,
the subordination
of either current
or tendencious
interests to the inspiration of the rvork as
an artistic whole.
The most important hypotheses
that have been put
forward are sub-varieties
of three main points of view' The
first of these sees the difficulty about the performance
of the task in Hamlet's temperament,
which is not fitted
for effective action of any kind; the second sees it in the
nature of the task, which is such as to be almost impossible
of performance by ar,y one; and the third in some special
feature of the task that renders it peculiarly difficult or
repugnant to Hamlet'
of these views, sometimes called the'subjective'
one, which would trace the inhibition to some general defect
in Hamlet's constitution,
was independently
than a century ago by Macken )i"ru Goethe,?
Plumptre: Observations on Hamlet, t796'
shakespeare's Hamlet
Morg'enblatt, r$furNr. 46' 47'
Lilian Winstanley: Hamlet and the Scottish Succession, lgzo'
Elze: ShakesPeare's Jahrbach,
Bd' W
Isaac z Shartespedre's Jahrbuclt,
Bd' XVI'
llenry I\Iaclienzie: The Mirroz, April 18, r78o'
(itrctlre: Wilhelm Meister' s Lehrjahre, 1795, Bd.N, Kap' )fltr'
(' ol cri tl ge: Lectures on Shakespeare' t8o8'
' , 1
A I' SY(' l l ()' ANAI-\"1' l (:
S' fLl l )Y OF t{r\Nl t-b' T
r,r,l ' .r l rl ,.ri ,.l .l l ' l rrtl y l l ccausc of i ts associ ati on wi th Goethe'
1' r,rtttrtlt;rtt:tl
the vierv as a young man when under the
.,l' I lcrrlcrs
(who, by the waY, later abandoned
rl fr,r" lrr.r.p the most widely held view of Hamlet, and he
n rrrll irlrrrost ahvays represented
on the stage in this light'
f frr,lly
:rrrv litcrary authorities, however, have held it in the
lrlll r:t:ntury, though in l8JO Gervinusa could still write:
tlris riddle has been solved by Goethe in his Wilhelm
llctatr.r, w() can scarcely cOnceive that it was one" TUrckb
remarks that Goethe's
view of Hamlet was a
account of his Own Werther. The oft-quoted
rlt:scribing Hamlet runs as follows: ' To me it is
r,lerrr t[^t Shakespeare
meant to present a great deed
irs a duty uPon a soul that is too feeble for its
Here is an oak-tree
planted in a costly
rr," tlr:rt should have nurtured only the most delicate
the roots expand; the vase is shattered. A
hi(hly moral disposition,
but without that energy of
rxrl nlrrr.[ constitutes
the hero, sinks under a load, which
I r'tfl trt:ither support nor resolve to abandon"
. 'l'lrrrs
the view is essentially
that Hamlet, for tem-
: - L^- ^- +l *' i - ^. ' nahl p nf d
ilf il(.r rt:rt reasons, was inherently
incapable of decisive
:rny kind. These temperamental
reasons are variously
r|ltcrl by different writers: by Mackenzie
as 'an extreme
rrrrrlrility of mind, apt to be too strongly impressed by its
dtrrrrt ro., and overpowered
by the feelings which that
rflrr*t rrrp cxcites
', by Goethe aS
', by
schlegel: Vorlesungen
iiber dramatische Kunst und Litteratur'
l l l . t Hr xl .
r l l cr t l cr : Vondeut scher Ar t undKunst ' 1773'
. | i t l t : nr: Auf sat zt i berShakespearei mdri t t enSt i i ckderAdrast ea, I 8ol .
| (i nus: Shakespeare,
Dri tte Aufl age, Bd. II, S' g8' Engl i sh
I t r t t "l .
P. 5 5cl .
l l t:rmann Tti rck: f)as psychol ogi sche Probl em i n der Haml et-
l l r5l l ,l tc, r ti 9n, S. 8'
t '
f i i , ,
, t
i i ' \ '
, i
' '
: 11
i l
[ ' i :
' ,
I I , ' , . '
I t:;-'
, l r , t !
r {
l r i
rl ''s'
l tlr,
ifi S;,
i [ *i
if $*:
i {/ \ f
l ' , 1' .
' {
;i '
l ' . '
' 1| l
' '
f t '
f i ' l i
,[ ,ll!i
[ . . i +
i t
: r , '
I i t.l ;
I't ,l-al l,
Ii,, *r: '
[ . . s
; i x' 1
! I' l
\ ' , , i
c'olcrir lgc as ' overbalance in the contemplative faculty ',
by Schlcgel as 'reflective deliberation-often a pretext
to cover cowardice and lack of decision', by vischerl as
'melancholic disposition', and so on; Trenchz recently
described Hamlet as 'a man of contemplation reacting only
mentally, being from the first incapable of the required
action', It will be noticed that while some of these writers
l^y stress on the over-sensitiveness of feeling, others think
rather of an unduly developed mental activity. A view fairly
representative of the pure Coleridge school,s for instance,
rvould run somewhat as follows: Owing to his highly developecl
intellectual powers, Hamlet could never take a simple or
single view of any question, but always saw a number of
different aspects and possible explanations with every problem.
A given course of action never seemed to him unequivocal
and obvious, so that in practical life his scepticism and
reflective powers paralysed his conduct. He thus stands for
what may roughly be called the type of an intellect over-
developed at the expense of the will, and in the Germany
of the past he was frequently held up as a warning example
to university professors who shewed signs of losing themselves
in abstract trains of thought at the risk of diminished contact
with extemal reality.4
Vischer: Kritische Giinge. Neue Folge. 186r, Heft z.
w- F. Trench: Shakespeare' s Hamlet: A New commentary, r9r3,
rrg, r37.
An expanded account of coleridge's view is given by Edward
Strachey: Shakespeare's Hamlet: An Attempt to find the Key to a Great
Moral Problem by Methodical Analysis of the Play, 1848.
see for instance Kcistlin: shakespeare und Hamlet, Morgenblatt,
1864, Nr.25, 26. Already in 1816 Bcirne in his Dramaturgischen Blbttern
hatl amusingly developed this idea. He closes one article with the words
' lf it had been a German who had written Hamlet I should not have
bcen at all surprised. A German would need only a fine legibte hand
f<rr it. IIc <lcscribes himself and there you have Hamlet' . FrankHarris
('l'lre Man Sh;rkcspeare and his Tragic Life-Storn r9o9, p. 26il writes
A l ' : r\ ' 1
' l
l t l . ANn l . Y' l ' l (: S' f t l l )Y OI ; I -I AMLET rr
l l t , r r . , ur . ; r t h' : r sl t hr t : t : gr avc obj cct i ons t o t hi s vi ew
r r { l f l r r r l r l ' n l r r ' . . r t ; ur ( ' \ ' r ( ) n( :
l r : r st : r l ( ) n
gcner al psychol ogi cal
f r t r l r . l t l r r l r r n' i . t nr l t l r c ol l r r t ' s or r ol l j t : ct i vc cvi dence f ur ni shed
bf l hr' t rrt ul t l rr: pl rrl ' . l t i s t ruc t hat at f i rst si ght
*t +*rmrg
rr r' grl rcrr, t n : rt t , l rr' l h' r' t i ort t t ri ght al rpcar t o weaken
*i l f t r, . l ni l rnrucl r l l r t l rr: y l ri rr : rsrt l c comnl on i l l usi ons as
h l l p vol r t r . ol n' t l r r i r r l i r r cs ol ' r : onr l r r ct
t hi s i s wel l seen,
rl m t r' f r. ' rl : t ' nt cnt I yut l : ot rt l t ri rror
l rhi l : rnt hropi c
Fl f qr
rr. nr] r ur
l rt oprf t I t ot l
l o I l t r: i t l not rnt of cl ear t hOught
; f r. ' n
l rr l f t r' arrl r; r' r' 1. l l rrt t ' I rscr cot l si t l erat i on wi l l shew
I t d l hh rl r. l rrl rl rrl r. ' sl r{ i l t l rurl i t ; rt i vc rat hcr t han a quant i -
Hl pt
rt r. : h. r r' 1' l r I nnr t rrct cl y l t : : rrl s t o i r si mpl i f i cat i on of
I l f t * h
1r. rrrol ,
rrrrl l o i l rcrl rrr: l i on i n t he number of
t f rr{wor t f t rt rf r r' l l rcucrot t s; i t l rri ngs : rbout a l ack
l o I Gf l rtl r l orrvctrl i orrul (rn(:s
r;rthcr than a
mfr h flrr qrt firgr ol sr t ton. l' .vt' ry st rrdcnt of
,Ffnti l t
l um l l rnl ntrt' rttcl t
l ,r' ttrt' :tl
rvcakeni ng
' r f
' ,- r-:i
. : , 1
t i t 1- l
f f i
I hrrl t bl y rf rr' l u ol l u' r rrurrr(' : . l l r: rrr i nt el l ect ual
Fl y. fo l | r' l r nrl l r of l rrrrrcrl i ntral s-ychi cal
tI l| fn ril llrr,ugf rl rrrrr l not be further
hG ftr r tr. lcolly tr rr' lrv;rrrt t<.r discuss the
|| lldX"r prwd nlx,rrlrn rl, :rs rvill presently be
l }t rl rf nrl o r trl
l l rr. nrgrrrncnt, then, must
, r H
r f f r i l l l x bf g ct r cl , l l o l l r osr : r yl t t l ; r l r cady appr ehend
l rrfrhr
I hxrf rt vrx rl cvr, h. nr' , . of t l rr: i nadequacy of t he
' ,
n]l ri l hc*fr
mn,frr rl rncrr,{..r, rn nl i l y bc <l btai ned from perusal
;f l tr"
;rl rV
l n tl rr' l rtsl
as \t' i ts fi rst emphati cal l y
p*rf c.l ,rrt l ,r' l l ,rr t l r.1,
' ul r.ri r
l tl t:,
there i s every reason
| | {l l l l r *"1+r
' l . r r . r nr r
o t r l r r l or ( ' \ ' ( : t ' ol ' t l r c1>hi l osopher or manof l et t er s
l l t r r bt f L. nt , n*1, f r r r l l . r l l l r e t ' ; t 1r : r t ' i t y l i r r act i on' .
f l r r l f r , y'
r , l ol 1r t g6 ' ( ) t l t l r c
( ' l t ar ac: t er
of I l aml et ' , Bl ackut ood' s
f t p+r r -
t l r r
to bclievc that, apart from the task in question, Hamlet
is a man capable of very decisive action. This could be
not only impulsive, as in the killing of Polonius, but
deliberate, as in the arranging for the death of Guildenstern
and Rosencrantz. His biting scorn and mockery towards
his enemies, md even towards Ophelia, his cutting
denunciation of his mother, his lack of remorse after the
death of Polonius; these are not signs of a gentle, yielding
or weak nature. His mind was as rapidly made up about
the organisation of the drama to be acted before his
uncle, as it was resolutely made up when the unpleasant
task had to be performed of breaking with the no longer
congenial Ophelia. He shervs no trace of hesitation rvhen
he stabs the listener behind the curtain,
when he makes
his violent onslaught on the pirates, leaps into the grave
with Laertes or accepts his challenge to what he must
know was a duel, or when he follows his Father's spirit on
to the battlements
nor is there any lack of determina-
tion in his resolution to meet the ghost:
I'll speak to it, though hell itself should gape
And bid me hold my peace,
or in his cry when Horatio clings to him:
Unhand ffir gentlemenl
By heaven ! I'll make a ghost of him that lets me;
I say, away !
On none of these occasions do we find any sign of that
paralysis of doubt which has so frequently been imputed
I find Loening's detailed argument quite conclusive that Hamlet
did not have the King in his mind when he struck this blow (op. cit.,
S. z4z-4,
Z6z-i .
IVeadows (Hamlet, I87l) considers that Hamlet' s behaviour on
this occasion is the strongest proof of his mental health and vigour.
A t , \ \ ' (' t t r l . ANn l . y' l ' l ( : s' t ' t Jt )y oh' I -t n MLh. ' f 13
kr hi r n
( ) r r
t l r r l ur r l r ; u\ ' , t r ut on( : ( : i s t l t t : r t : : I ny sor t of
hi l r ur ' r f r f r r , t r r l , r
1r l r 1, sr r . r t l
( . ( ) r t t ' : t t l ( .
t : xr . t : 1l t onl y i n t he
mr l l r - l uf l l r r ' f f ' vcnl {( ' . l l r i t , l k' y, r vl r o r ' : r l l s I I : r r nl r : t
t a
her oi c,
l r t r i l . t n l r gut e' , 1 r r r r l r r ol r l r r '
( ' ol r . r i r l gr :
vi t : r v: 2
t The
l hr r r ; , l cr r ' f t l r , ' r , l l r cr r f or r ' , l nt i l n i t r r : r . r t ; t i t t r t : sl l cct s l i ke
t ' r {ar r l go f r t t t r r r ' l f ,
( f f l
or r r r r r l r . n nr : l r r of ' gr : ni r r s, on t he
t hat r r l o, t l r n r r r l r ol n' r l l , r l r . Pkr r ; r l r l _y r vr . : r k, al ways
pl r r r r r l i nel l f t H nf r r l nv, r r r l ur g r r r r l r l r . ; r s; ur t r l r r l i r : s, anr l of t cn
I t f t r xr f r l ng l r t r r r nr ' l l r n
ynur ,
i r nr i ul , ol ) s( : r vo, who at any
b| a l l r. l rf r i l rr' I rr(' unr. rr; rrrrr' : r rvorrl rl l re rrncqual t o t he
I t l l rxxf rxrrl t u f l nnrl rt , r\ rr, l t l rrrs, I rrrrrst rnai nt ai n, i t
*| Fr. hr I I nnrL' l nrr, l t un' r' sri r. s rl rr: pl t y. I . ' or Haml et ,
I *i rr| t r{ kr rl f t l rr rrrrl r. . rrl i orrs i rr t l rt : t r: xt , was not
rf t rdl r ri l rxrl urnl l y arrr l r n rf rnn, l rrrt r' : rt l rt : r, I vent ure
I frtr|. r frfl r wfro nt nnv t,l hrt ri rrrr: rrnrl i n zrny
* rl r-rrnrftfx Gf l hut I l rorr'
r.r t s' orrl tl have
pfr$ ftpd lo htr Inrlr; mr,l rt i*, in far:t, the
l * C hn l ur l hrt l l ro r' f t rt r ol l ri s l i f c comes
* * t i l rr1p, r, rf x' n l rr. r nrrrrul rrrr. t : t i t , and
Sil ;-qe
rrlrr.f ol ltr' 11,rs11, trittt, csp.spire to
; ftt h fi a l rr1. l rul rrl hor tl rnt nl !r nuul rvl ro for
l l f t a*rt I rt rrf r{ l l t rr* l rt nrx. l f t u
t rr. r
f or rrr l ri s
Pl ai n
*r r l l r l r f r i l f o
f , k' l r r l r
i r n. r l , n1
r or . l l r r : <l t . 1r i ct ed,
f of a g+l rl l e s
' ul
r' nrl l rr. r l l rr. rrr. ; rl l r i l r. ol oss: rl t ask,
H r t r ol a r l r ong f unf t l or l r r r r . r l l r y sonl ( : t nyst cr i ous
l frCxt*rr
' r , l t ,
t n t \ . , 7 n
l r r ol r . st
\ t , ; t s r ; r i sr : r l l l y Fl er mes
{*r r r l
I r ' r t l r r . ' n r r r l r . t l r t r . l l r l t ot t r : r t t t l si r t r : t : t hcn a numbef
' . l , . r l r r . r l r f - 6r ( . . ut
I r . r gr . r l y, : r r r l . I , . r l . t ! ) o5, p. I 02.
r r l , 1r l r t ' | .
I r f . r ' r ' . l r l I . r t r r ' . r r ' , "s
l l , . r r ' l r . t r r r r <l sci nc Bcur t ei t cr , t gz7.
F; '
i . 1'
, ; '
i. '
i i i
'ili '
: ; : , 1. '
' iili
I nB
I f f i -
f , t g,
I ' ,,$
I l l ]
I l ; , '
, , r i "r . '
I .,1{''
f . l ; t '
j :1.' ' trv,.
t i , , i : ! $ I
i ; \ 11\ s, ,
' i;*ir.i
[ , t *
| ' l $X' ' ,
$l' "
, .
. Yi ' .
,. ,lt;,i
, x:
, ,
t ".
of lrypothcses have been put forward in which Hamlet's
tempcramental deficiencies are made to play a very sub-
ordinate part. The second of the group of views here
discussed goes in fact to the opposite extreme, md finds
in the difficulty of the task itself the sole reason for the
non?erformance of it; it has therefore been termed the
in contrast to the former
This view was first hinted by Fletcher,
perhaps deriving from
Hartley Coleridge, and was independently developed by Klein
and Werder.s It maintains that the extrinsic difficulties
inherent in the task were so stupendous as to have
deterred anyone, horvever determined. To do this it is
necessary to conceive thel task in a different light from
the usual one. As a development largely of the Hegelian
teachings on the subject of abstract justice, Klein, and to
a lesser extent Werder, contended that the essence of
Hamlet's revenge consisted not merely in slaying the
murderer, but of convicting him of his crime in the eyes
of the nation. The argument, then, runs as follows: The
nature of Claudius' crime was so frightful and so unnatural
as to render it incredible unless supported by a very
considerable body of evidence. If Hamlet had simply slain
his uncle, and then proclaimed, without a shred of support-
ing evidence, that he had done it to avenge a fratricide,
the nation would infallibly have cried out upon him, not
only for murdering his uncle to seize the throne himself,
but also for selfishly seeking to cast an infamous slur on
the memory of a man who could no longer defend his
Fletcher: Westrninster Reoieeo, September 1845.
Klein: 'Emil Devrient's Hamlet', Berliner ll[odensliegel, einc
die elegante Welt, 1846, Nr. 23, 24.
Werder: ' Vorl esungen i i ber Shakespeare' s Haml et' , Preufi sche
Tahrbi l cl zer r873-4; repri nted i n book form, r875. Transl ated by
E. Wi l der, rgp7, under the ti tl e of ' The Heart of Haml et' s Mystery' .
A l ' 5\ ' , (' l l () n Nn l . y' l ' l c s' l l JDy ol . HAMLF-, I - r5
l x{r , ' ur ,
' l ' l r l r
r vor r l r l l r ; r vr . r r . sr r l l t : r l i n t he sanct i f i cat i on of
f hc un, l r . , nr r r l : , o l l r r . f r r r sl r . : r l i or t oI t l r c r evenge. I n ot her
r l r , h r t r vn' 1 t l r e r l i f l i r r r l t l , not so mr r r : h of t he act i t sel f
l hr t t l r . l r ' ur r f l l ; r r r r l et 1x ol ' t l r r . si t r r ; r t i 1; n t I at wO' l d necess-
r i l ; l r r ul l f r onr t l r e ur . t .
' l
hanl r r r r ur r r l y l o Wr r , l cr ' s f r r r ci l r l e pr r : sent at i on of
f i h r l +w, r r r "r l r l
t r r ' r f f ur cnr
r r i r i r . s, i r r r : l r r t l i ng l , ' ur ness,
l l rl f rcot l l ' f rrf l rl rr,
; ,
Wrrl grr y, ' '
I l rr, l sorr,
(' l l rsr)n,
: rncl Rol f e. , 6
l r t " l l r ?. : f r
r l l f r r r r n, l l r r r f . ncr - : \ \ ' r . r ' t l r : r l r i r nscl f conf i dent l y
l f r {r ol hl r l l r cat r ' ' l ' l r nt t l r i : i
l r oi nt
f r r r a cent ur y l ong
**t t f rYeI l t nvn l rrrt t
, i f ' r' n
i s I l rr: rnost i ncomprehensi bl e
l e l f rd har rv. ' r l rrrl ' ; r(. n(. ( I i n : u: st het i c cri t i ci sm
l l | f l r r r r l y l r r ' l , r t t t r r r r ; , 1f i t s r . xi st ( : nce' . I t haS n. t ,
l nel rl , f t nm, f l t t rt r l t f , rt ' ot t r i rr I l rr: I I ; unl et l i t erat ure
. l r f hr r l r o. r r r r nl r r r r ; , 11y r r . f i r l r . r l l r y a nr r mber of
al f ar r r . i . - r r - . r r . . . 1. . . 1. , t . . . I l - - l . t - - - ? f r - . . - - - ^- ^- - r 8
; l l q. t n i l o
f rl rl rr
rrl , rrl y l , y I l r. l rk. r,
I l ; rrrrngart ,
| | kr l f l r +f . ' t l , . Ff r l f r l ,
l l
f l r n, l l r . y, t ]
' l ' ohr r : ur , t : l
| t * ki l . r l r f xr f f l . r r r l l r r r r r r r r r . r r l i or r one or
| t l f r
f i S rrrr f , e rrrror. rl t ri rt . l t rvi l l be
a l | f hi rf l *$. rr r. f ' U, rLcrl rr. r! r. , V6l s. I I I and
*I ru, *
f irfr
f r r ax. l r , r r l f r c l r r ycr l l . l l l l . r r r r l et , t 87g.
l br * hr r r l r r r yr r , n l l r r . l , r r st
( ^) r r ar t o
*{l Ar r I r t r . Ar l , r 1, f
f r cr t r l el t , . ! r r r l . I , . <1. , t 882.
t tt|.d l i l l .,l b, r1r r i l
bf t wf ax. 1pa1 f t r l l r* f ' l rgl nl r
' l ' rl rrrl ; rl i . rr
of Wcr<l cr, op.
l b| | - Aol r t t r nl mr
. i f r ol Fr l r r dr . . ,
! . Ar r r 1r . , I g74, S. z5g- / g.
I | ; r yr , t
I r , r I f l r nl r , t I r agr , l r l r r r r r r , l r l r r c t ( l . i t i k, t g77, 5. 7- zg.
l . {r *a*, a I
' .
r r *r r "r r gi r r r l r r \ r f r l r r . r t r r , . l , r ,
l \ r r ( 1. l
g9I ,
i l . S.
D, {d*, , u l l r r r r l , I r ' r , l t r . r f r r z\ r r . r l r . l : r . t . , t H9t , S.
| r , r t *nt r l , i . , l l
, r
I l . ' I I nl t r l j j f l
b *' l t t * |
. , 1, r , l
, Ar | ' l | , r nr l r . l
' .
f *
"f r r r r .
\ . . . 11 t l r . r r l I l . ur r l r . t , r t r r t ot l r cr l , i ssays, l go4.
I l , , l ' . r l s, ^ | 1, . . t , r , , l 1l j . s; 1
' f
, l l : r nr l ct ' ,
19I 9, pp. 2I - 3.
I t , r I . . SSI \ \ ' S I N NI ' I ' I , I I ' D I ' SYCI {O-ANALYSI S
.sc('n th;rt to support this hypothesis the task has in two
rcspccts to be made to appear more difficult than it really
is: first it is assumed to be not a simple revenge
in the ordinary sense of the word, but a complicated
bringing to judgement
in a more or less legal way; and
secondly the importance of the external obstacles has to
be greatly exaggerated. This distortion of the meaning of
the revenge is purely gratuitous and has no warrant
in any passage of the play, nor elsewhere where the
word is used in Shakespeare.
Hamlet never doubted
that he was the legitimately appointed instrument of
punishment, and rvhen at the end of the play he secures
hi.s revenge the dramatic situation is correctly resolved,
althgugh the nation is not even informed, let alone
convinced, of the murder that is being avenged. To
secure evidence that lvould convict the uncle in a court
of law was from the nature of the case impossible,
and no tragical situation can arise from an attempt
to achieve what is evidently impossible, nor could the
interest of the spectator be aroused for an obviously
one-sided struggle
The external situation is similarly distorted for the
needs of this hypothesis. On rvhich side the people would
have been in any conflict is clearly enough perceived by
claudius, who dare not even punish Hamlet for killing
Polonius (Act IV, Sc.
Yet must not we put the strong law on him;
Hg'. loved of the distracted multitude,
Who like not in their judgment,
but their eyes;
Loeni ng
si gni f i cance of
t hroughout hi s
qucst i oni ng.
(op. cit., Cap. VI) has made a detailed study of the
revenge in shakespeare's period and as illustrated
worksl his conclusion on the point admits of no
A l , s\ ' (
' l
l (). A Nn l . Y, l . l (
f t . l nt ' nt f l i t t l V, S, ' .
' f l rc
ot l t cr mot i ve,
\ l ' l r v f o n
l r r r l r l i r :
r . ount
I r r r i gl r t r r ot go,
l r l l r r '
I ' r r . . r l l ot , r . t l r r .
l , r . r r cr . ; r l H( . l l ( t r . r
l r t : ; r r I t i m;
\ l ' h, r , r l r ; , 1, r r r 1,
' f
f l r r r l ; r r r l t x i r r l l r r . i r : r f l i . r . t i on,
\ 1"' r r l r l , t r l . r ' r l r r n; r r nr g
r r r ; r f r r r r r r r . r t r \ r , oor r r o st one,
1' , ot *r ' t
t l r l r
[ ! t , r , r . a
f n
; , 1nr . ( . \ ;
s( ) t l r i r t pl _] ,
i t r r ows,
' 1, r ,
f r g' l r f l y l r r t r l r r t ' r l
f ur
r i ( ,
l ' r r r l ; l , *, i r . , , t
\ l ' , r ul , f l r , n r . f r . i , r . t f r . r l l o nr v l r or r , ; t g: t i n,
An, l t r r l nl r r - 1. l l r , r , l r r r r r r ' , 1 l l r r . r ' .
r t t t f f r t r l f l f
f l ; f 11t r l r . f C1; t f l d be
; -| aHf *l hf , , rergf rf
t l rr. t r' ,
Jr, n, crf ul
H }f r r l f hf hr m t t l , f f hr a l r r r , t l r r . r . .
\ Vl r cr e
Il | ffi frrl xf. I l r l rrl l rl r.l l thnt f frrrrrl r.f
, l l rr: rt;rrl i ng
r*drf l rr' n l orrrrr.
rrr *,r rr.r i l rr;rui .c the
rf fl rl rrtl rg
rl rr g,tnr, l rr.f
' ,
r. t rrr. r.rrrrt,
*. ' r d*' ' r r f r e r nf r r . r r r r . r I t r . i l s r . ; r r . r . t r . s
t r i r r : t he
$f *f r al r r r r , l f
' r .
l , r r l . r r . i t t ' ( . r l
t r , l r l r . s, t hC st af t i ng
; *dl r
f f ' rrrnrr'
rr rrr, , ' , ; ; ;
"i ; , . , ; : "; ; : : : -' rp"i l : i : ' ' : 3
, , l l * . l {, r t t f t r 1sr 1111111; r
r , f I l r r . ; r r r r l i r . p( . ( : ,
t I e r esi st l ess
f *r { I r r t f r r r t t cf t f , f
. r
r i r r r , I l l r r : i r r st : r nt
execut i on
l i l l r t r r ut , l l r r r r l r . vnl r . r l
l r r r . r r r l s)
I . r l t : . <1,
t 6e r vhol e
I 7
i ; . i , r, , r . '
Laertes episode seems almost deliberately to have been
woven into the drama so as to shew the world hOw a
pious son should really deal rvith his father's murderer'
t o* possible was the vengeance in
just these particular
and by contrast to illuminate the ignoble
vacillation of Hamlet u'hose honour had been doubly
wounded by the same treacherous villain'
The deeper meaning of the difference in the behaviour
of the trvo men in a similar situation has been aptly pointed
out by Storfer:
we compare the earlier versions
of the Flamlet theme with Shakespeare's tragedy,
great psychological intuition becomes evident.
The earlier versions turned on a political action relating to
the state: the heir to the throne rvreaks vengeance on the
usurper for the murder of the king. In Shakespeare the
family tragedy is placecl in the foreground. The origin of
all revolutions is the revolution in the family. Shakespeare's
Hamlet is too philosophical a manr too much given to
introspection, not to feel the personal and family motive
behind the general political undertaking. Laertes, on the
other hand, is blind and deaf to this etymology of feeling'
to the unconscious mind; his response to his father
Polonius' murder is a political revolt. The behaviour of the
two men rvhose fathers had been murdered well characterises
the conscious and the unconscious mind in the psychology
of the revolutionary and of the political criminal.'
Most convincing proof of all that the tragedy cannot
be interpreted as residing in difficulties produced by the
external situation is Hamlet's own attitude towards his
task. He never behaves as a man confronted with a
straightforward task, in which there are merely external
<lifficultics to overcome. If this had been so surely he
St rrr. l t : r : Lur Sonrl crst cl l ung des Vat ermordes, I 9I I , S. 14.
t' rrl r l l r onr tht: l i rst have confi ded i n Horati o and hi s other
f r*rr, l -. rr' l rr so i mpl i ci t l y bcl i cved i n hi m, as he di d i n t he
; ' r, ' sl r; rl i . s1)(: i rrcan
vcrsi ons of t he pl ay when t here real l y
$rt . r' xt . r' rr: t l di f f i cul t i cs o[ a more seri ous nat ure t han i n
l t h, rkr". 1rt ' : r' r: ' s, and woul d del i bcrat el y have set t o work
rrt l r t l r. rrr t o f ormul at e pl ans by mcans of rvhi ch t hese
' rrrrr' l r"i
rni ght l rc ovcrcome. I nst cad of t hi s. he never
fni l Lr", l ul v st:ri ous attempt to deal wi th the external
drt r, rrr, 11, ; rrrrl i nrl ccd t hroughout t he pl ay makes no concret e
f r' l ' rr' r(' r' t , i t i t s such, even i n t he si gni f i cant prayer scene
rl r. n l r, ' l r; rrl cvcry opport uni t y t o di scl ose t o us t he reason
f,rr l rr' , rrrr-:r<:t i on. There i s therefore no escape from the l rr' ,ron tl r;rt so far as the external si tuati on i s concerned
l l re l .r' ,L \\' i rs i l
l tossi bl e
one, and was regarded as such by
I f , r r t r l l t .
l f I l :rrrrk:t i s a man capabl e of acti on, and the task
rrrrn r i r;url rl t: of :rchi evement, what then can be the reason
l f rrt l r, ' rkrt ' s not exccut e i t ? Cri t i cs who have real i sed
l h' l t t . t , l r' (
l u: l (' . y
of t hc hypot hcscs ment i oned above-and
f hrr f ' t rrrr: , l ' nr: arl y al l modcrn cri t i cs-have been hard
pcr,n.rl l , :urs\\' cr thi s qucsti on. Some, struck by Kl ei n' s
el gc' qt rrn
t l rt t t he t ask i s not rcal l y rvhat i t appears t o be,
hro r, l l . r. rl novr: l i nt crprct at i ons of i t . Thus Mauerhof
t hrt nt . rrrrr t l r: rt t hr:
(i host ' s
command t o Haml et was not ,
l r *
r, r' r. r; rl l y
srrpposcd, t o avenge hi s f at her by ki l l i ng
l l .' Lr.1., I' rt l rrt:r' t.l y tcl put an cnd to the l i fe of depravi ty
l tr l rrr,r f 1j ' s \\ ;rs st i tl l cacl i ng, and that Haml et' s pi obl em
l * h,
' *
| ' : r. r' , rl rPl i sh t hi s wi t hout t arni shi ng her name
. f , a. ! , , ' i r r r '
r l r . t ' r r t l r . I ) i ct r i ch2 put f or war d t he si ngul ar
t *r r l , r r l l , r r r r l . t ' s t i r sk wAS t o r est or e t o For t i nbr as t he
h, "t . I l ' rr l r, r, I l rrrrr rrn. f rrst l y f i l chccl f rom t he l at t er' s f at her,
" f , l r , , . , r t r , , f | ' r . l r r . r . I l ; r r t r l r . t , r t , Sz.
' t
r . r r , I l , r r r r l t ' t , r l cr r ( . nst abcr
Vor sehung; ei ne Shake-
l l Ff r
l i r , . . t , , ,
1r r \ {
[ ' . i 1r
' |
. l
When straits such as these are reached it is little wonder
that many competent critics have taken refuge in the
that the tragedy is in its essence inexplicable'
and incongruous.
This view, first criticdly
sustained by Rapp in 1846,
has been developed
by a
number of writers, including von Friefen,
and k"tty others'
The causes of
the dramatic imperfection
of the play have been variously
given: by Do*d"rr
as a conscious.
of some secret, by Reichel
as the defacement
by an uneducated
actor called Shakspere
of a play by
an unknown poet callecl Shakespeare'
and so on'
Thear gument , hor vever , hasusual l yt akent hef or m
of direct criticism of the poet's capacity,
and therefore
found chiefly among rurite6 of the eighteenth
and Macken ziers i. e. a time before bardolatry
had developed,
or else at the time when this reached
acme, during the tercentenary
of 1864' by authors who
headed the revulsion against it, including
von Friefen,
md Benedix; the last-named
of these ascribes
Hamlet,s delay solely to the number of wholly superfluous
epi sodeswhi choccupyt i mei nt hepl ay. I t hasl at el ybeen
revived in a *eighiier form by
M. Robertson,
himself on the recent discoveries
the sources
the play. Robertson's
thesis is that shakespeare'
finding in
Rapp: Shakespeare's
und erliuterf
Bd. VIII, 1846.
2VonFr i ef en: Br i ef ei i ber Shakespear e' sHaml et ' 1864.
Riimelin: Shakespeare-Studien,
Benedix: Die Shakespereomanie,
Robertson: oP' cit'
l)owden: Shakespeare;
his development
in his works, 1875'
Reichel: Shakespeare-Litteratur,
Ifanmer: Some Remarks on the Tragedy of Hamle\ t7l6'
Mackenzie: oP. cit.
, \ l , s\ ' ( l l ( ) . ANAI , Y l ' l ( ' s' r Ul ) \ ' oF HAMLET 2r
l l *- r r l , l
1r l , r \
' ; r n ; r r t r on l l r : r l l o hi s t i t nc- t l i scount i ng sense
ai f r , r r f ' r , f l uu' \ pl ; uncr l r l t ' l : r y, r ' l ; t l r ont t t : t l t hat aspect ol
f t a f x. l , , nr f r , ' , l r , l ( ' \ ' ( ' r y ol l r r t ' ' , 1 ' l i r r ; r l l y r ni ssi ng ar t i st i c
ffl fHrl r f r. y qrf
nl ,l t' l rrc nul r l ottri st (' n(' y
s' ;ts :tbsol trtcl y excl uded
t t , * nr i l t . ' f r f l l ' , r l r c r ' , r nr ' l r t r L' r r t l t i r t ' l l ; r t t t l r : t ' i s
t not
f i nal l y
I fi l tl l rg,f ,l e, r l r nttrrr rn tl rl un,l ,,
' ,
t l t:rt ' t l tt: pl ay cannot
b l r l r t r r ncr l hr l f r r n' r l hr t t ' I nnr l t l r r r t ' nr ) j r r ggl er y can do
Ff t
r i l h l l r n l u t t l r ot l l r r . r ' of r nl f r r r ' l r ot r i s i nt : ol r er <: nt , and t hc
ht t ; *t f rl r
r' i l t t t ' t nl i f n. r, l l rr r, t t ; rt r ol t t krl : rt r()t l s cri t i ci sm' . i '
h f f E i l r)f r! t rrr t ' nl u, rt L, l , l ' St rort ' , t hc vi crv i s t aken
t f
h r=hrrrr, f e I t r l rn, l l y , l r nrvrrr : ul (l t l rat ' shakespeare
X r ho f t h, r f r i nr s' l f of r r l r i r l l r c nr r ' ; ur t I l ar nl ct t o be' . 6
; f l f rr kr l -, t he
l xrrrt r' n
on t l rc u' l rol c prevai l i ng at
Ff f i
r hf
l o r k' t t y l l r r '
1' , r s"t l r i l i t y
ol ' : I sol ut i on, or
h l cd *r nr +f u. ! r l l l l t r ' gr t ol r k' t t t , l t : t s: t l t v: t ys l l ccn t he
*f hrf t f rl l f r i l t ol f l rrf rt t t l y i t t sol rt l rl t : cni gma.
d thtrtrfrf l vo t' ottt' l tntott l t:tvt: <' rtnsol cd
l ** t r| i l t l l rrt I n l l rl r vf ' r! ' ol rsct t t ' i t y, so
! -n
l nl d"
[ c l l x;
; xr*
f ' t nn, | ; rt I t : u: t i vcness
l h-#r'
rr r
t*;t| rp.n. l ro n,l ,ts
,i l
l l ccomes
d nr*rnl frfl 3r;x' nri l ;,;' r ;rtrrl
l rrorl uccs
d nrr l l l fta*' rftr' , Norr' \' i l r.l l cness
f i t i l l t t ' t xr l l r i r l r , r r . r r ' l r r r sl i t : of l i f c
hl | }r y r | r t r ' f l r r t l y l r ol l l r r l t t r r l r r r t t : s o[ a
*n ${l o , f rr. rrrf f { l t rI nnr I rrrt r rrr' , rt ' l rl l y rrrr' ; rrri ngl css
Hai l }r r r
Sxr xht r
cr f l l t r r ' f l r r ' l t
' t t
t l s ; t t t t l i cnces
t l hf i l
hn r rrrl rf rrx, url y rk, rrr' l or l l rr: pl rst t hree
k*l r {" . l l , r r t
l .
l i
rtr**.' nl, r ,rl
t l | pr, *1. r ul
l .
, ;
f l *r* t i l i r , l
l r
t {,
*** , , 1- r , t
l .
t , , ,
q$i ' , . . *
' , , l l r , r l . r r l ' {. dt l ' ' r 5' <. 1f , l ( ) J( ) r
l ) .
l f ${r r r r *r
}dt r I t n
, 1r f t r l t r : i l t l f ( . r . ( . l ucl t t ( : ,
Ausgabe, f 88O.
ffY' ' ' n.,'
' r2 l ' , SSnYS l N nl ' l ' l , l l i D l ' SYCI {O-ANALYSI S
centuries. Thc underlying meaning of its main theme may
be obscure, but that there is one, and one which touches
matters of vital interest to the human heart, is empirically
demonstrated by the uniform success with which the drama
appeals to the most diverse audiences. To hold the contrary
is to deny all the accepted canons of dramatic art: 'Hamlet'
as a masterpiece stands or falls by these canons.
We are compelled then to take the position that there
is some cause for Hamlet's vacillation rvhich has not yet
been fathomed. If this lies neither in his incapacity for
action in general, nor in the inordinate difficulty of the
particular task in question, then it must of necessity lie in
the third possibility-namely in some special feature of the
task that renders it repugnant to him. This conclusion, that
Hamlet at heart does not want to carry out the task, seems
so obvious that it is hard to see how any open-minded
reader of the play could avoid making it.
Some of the
direct evidence for it furnished in the play will presently
be brought forward when we discuss the problem of the
cause of the repugnance, but it will first be necessary to
mention some of the views that have been expressed on
the subject.
The first writer clearly to recognise that Hamlet rvas
a man not baffled in his endeavours but struggling in an
internal conflict was Ulrici,z in 1839. The details of Ulrici's
hypothesis, which like Klein's originated in the Hegelian
views of morality, are not easy to follow, but the essence
Anyone who doubts this conclusion is recommended to read
Loening's convincing chapter (XII), 'Hamlet's Verhalten gegen seine
Aufgabe' .
Ulrici : Shakespeare' s dramatische Kunst; Geschichte und
der Shakespeare'gchen Dramas, 1839.
A t , s\ ' ( ' l l ( ) . n NAL, \ "I ' l ( : s' l ' t j Dy ol ; I I AMLET 23
, , f rt r' , t l rt : eont r: nt i on t hat I ' l ; rml et gravcl y
doubt ed t he
' r , ' r , r l
h' l i i t i r r r : r cy of r cvcnge. I I c wAs t hus pl unged i nt o a
rt rrryl , l l ' l rt ' t rvt : en hi s nat ural t cncl r: ncy t o avcnge hi s f at her
l rrl l rri l ri gl rl y t l cvel opcd et hi cal ant l Chri st i an vi ews, whi ch
l rrl ' , r, l r t l rr: i nrl ul gi na of t l ri s i nst i nct i ve dcsi re. Thi s hypo-
l harr' , l urs l rr.en further cl cvcl oJl ed on moral , ethi cal and
f chgr, rrr' ,
Pl ; rnr: s
t ry Li cbau,
Mczi cres,
Gcrt h,
Bau-gart , 4
l rrl , r' rr, i ' r' r, r' and Ford. 0 Kohl er? i ngeni ousl y t ransf erred t he
r' rrrffr.t to thc sphere of j uri sprudence,
mai ntai ni ng that
I l rl rrl ,' t rr:Prcsr:nted a type i n advance of hi s ti me i n
frc' ogrrrti rrg thc superi ori ty of l egal puni shment over pri vate
ftrmily vendetta and ll'as thus a fighter in the
' f
trf.l l rcss;
hc rvri tes:8
tHaml et
i s a corner-stone i n
l fro rv.l rrt i on of l aw and moral i ty' . A si mi l ar vi ew has
|rcn ,l .vr' l .pt:tl
more recentl y by Rubi nstei n.e Thi s speci al
lr:rs bcen effectually refuted by Loening
Itul ,f
l r
i t i s contradi cted by al l hi stori cal consi derati ons.
f trrf l y, s.l ri ppt:rl 2 and, more recentl y, Gcl ber13 have suggested
t , l cl t rt t : l i t udi en i i ber Wi l l i am ShakL-speares Trauerspi el Haml et .
l l | r l r , ' l r l l t r r l .
' i l r' rrl ' rcs: Sl rakespeare, ses oeuvres et ses cri t i ques, t 86o.
r or l l r o1l . ci t .
l l r r r r r r g; r r t : op. ci t .
' t : \ l l t obcr t son: Mont ai gne and Shaksper e, 1897r p. r 2g.
] r t r l Sl r l kcspcar e' s l {aml et : A Ncw' f heor y, I goo.
' X, , ht r r : Sl r akcspcar c vor dem For um dcr Jur i spr udenz, t 883; and
*f l .fff .. rr,n (tcr
l l l utrache, t885. .Sce al so Zei tschri /ti fti r oergl ei chende
l ftrl rr.r
, t.' n I t /t ,t
l l d. V, S.
3 3O.
f (, , hl r-r Sl r: rkt : sl t eare ct c. l op. ci t . , S. 189.
l {r r bl r r r t r i n: l l l r nl et al s Neur ast hcni ker , r 896.
I r,r'fturf! Zt'tl:t'ht i/t
dic' gcsante Strailrcc/ttszoissensc/taft,
I Y, ' i r r l f
" l ' r r l , l ' \ l r . r kcsl l r . ar c t r nd
r JFl t t t l : t t A' uu, / r t hi l i l , t 1, | 88, Nr
' ' a f r t f r f r r I I Sl r : r kcspcl r r c' s
die lllutrache', I)ramaturgisclt.e Blatter
. 44.
Ilamlet; :isthetische Erliiuterung des
I r. ' l hnr sl rl hcsl l t : arc' sche Probl cme, Pl an und Ei nhei t i m
hl r.
i ' , '
, . , . . l l
' r"i,f .
t '
; Ad
4I ) .
' t , r, ' r
" ls gl'
. i **. :
, $r.
i l :
, ri rtt"
i:'i '
' 1; , '
t , . ! .
' $t t ' r
' l
t ' N
. t . "
' , \ l
I i r
2. 1 l ' . SSr\ \ ' S l N nl ' l ' l -l l i l ) l ' SYCFI O-ANALYSI S
tlrat tlrc cortllir:t rvas a
intellectual oner Hamlet being
unablc to satisty himself of the adequacy or reliability of
thc Ghost's evidence. In his recent interesting work Figgis
combines these views by insisting that the play is a tragedy
of honour, Hamlet's main instinct:
striking at the King
without a full assurance of his guilt, was to him not only
to strike at the legal monarch of the realm' but also to
seem as though he rvas seizing a pretext to strike for the
throne, he being the next in succession':l 'What seems
like indecision in the early
of the play is really the
honourable desire not to let his mere hatred of the Kittg
prick him into a capital action against an innocent manr to
prove that the apparition of his father was no heated
fantasy, and, above all, not to take action till he was
assured that his action would not involve his mother '.2
The obvious question that one puts to the upholders
of any of the hypotheses
just mentioned is: why did Hamlet
in his monologues give us no indication of the nature of
the conflict in his mindt As we shall presently noter he
gave several pretended excuses for his hesitfficYr but never
once did he hint at any doubt about what his duty wzts
in the matter. He was always clear enough about what he
ouglzt to do; the conflict in his mind ranged about the
question why he couldn't bring himself to do it. If Hamlet
had at any time been asked whether it wAs right for him
to kill his uncle, or whether he really intended to do sor
no one can seriously doubt what his instant answer would
have been. Throughout the
we see his mind irrevocably'
made up as to the necessity of a given course of action,
which he fully accepts as being his bounden duty; indeed,
he would have resented the mere insinuation of doubt on
this point as an untrue slur on his filial piety.
Fi ggi s: op. ci t . , p. 2I 3.
i dcnr: op. ci t., p. 232.
ll,rrrrrrg:rrt ancl Kohler try to meet this difficulty by assuming
tlr.rt tlrt: ethical objection to personal revenge was never
, l,' rrr l_y prcsent to Hamlet' s mind; it was a deep and
urr,l,' r' t:lopcd feeling which had not fully dawned. I would
Al:r(' (' that only in some such way as this can the difficulty
fx' lot1ir:ally met, and further that in recognising Hamlet' s
of the cause of his repugnance to his
| {tk \r'c are nearing the core of the mystery. But an
tnv rrrcilrlc obstacle in the way of accepting any of the\('s of repugnance suggested above is that the nature of
flrrrrr is such that a keen and introspective thinker, as
I l,rrrrlt:t was, would infallibly have recognised some indication
,rl tlrcir presehce, and would have openly debated them
tn'.trirrl of deceiving himself with a number of false pretexts
In tlrr' \\'ay we shall presently recall. Loeningl well states
t f rrs in the sentence : 'U it had been a question of a
conllict between the duty of revenge imposed from without
rrrrl irn inner moral or juristic counter-impulse, this discord
rrrr I it s cause must have been brought into the region ot
rr'flrt'tion in a man so capable of thought, and so accustomed
fo rl , :rs Haml et was' .
ln spite of this difficulty the hint of an approachi.g
rrhrlion cncourages us to pursue more closely the argument
rl I lrrrt point. The hypothesis j.ust stated may be correct
ulf to ir certain stage and then have failed for lack of
qx'r'i;rl l<nowledge to guide it further. Thus Hamlet's hesi-
latrry rnay have been due to an internal conflict between
lhc rrrrpulse to fulfil his task on the one hand and some
qx'r'i;rl cause of repugnance to it on the other; further,
llrr cxplanation of his not disclosing this cause of repug-
,rofrlr rnay be that he was not conscious of its naturel
the cause may be one that doesn't happen to
Loening: De Hamlet-Tragiidie Shakespeares, 1893, S.
have bcen considered by any of the upholders of this
hypothesis. In other rvords, the first two stages in the
argument may be correct, but not the third. This is the
view that u'ill now be developed, but before dealing with
the third stage of the argument it is first necessary to
establish the probability of the first two-namely, that
Hamlet's hesitancy tl,as due to some special cause of
repugnance for his task and that he was unaware of the
nature of this repugnance.
A preliminary obstruction to this line of thought,
based on some common prejudices on the subject of
mental dynamics, may first be considered. If Hamlet was
not aware of the nature of his inhibition, doubt may be
felt as to the possibility of our penetrating to it. This
pessimistic thought was expressed by Baumgart
as fol-
lows: ' What hinders Hamlet in his revenge is for him
himself a problem and therefore it must remain a problem
for us all.' Fortunately for our investigation, however,
psycho-analytic studies have demonstrated
beyond doubt
tft"t mental trends hidden frorn the subject himself may
come to external expression in ways that reveal their
nature to a trained observer, so that the possibility of
success is not to be thus excluded. Loening
has further
objected to this hypothesis that the poet himself has not
disclosed this hidden mental trend, or even given any indication
of it. The first part of his objection is certainly true-
otherwise there would be no problem to discuss, but we
shall presently see that the second is by no means true'
It may be asked: why has the poet not put in a clearer
light the mental trend we are trying to discover l Strange
as it may appear, the answer is probably the same as
with Hamlet himself-namely, he could not because he
Baumgart : oP. ci t . , S. 48.
t t
l , oeni ng: oP. ci t . , S.
78' 79.
sruDy or"' HAMLET 27
\v;rs unalvarc of its nature. we shall later deal with this
in connection with the relation of the poet to
t l rr:
I)l ay.
As Trench well saysr' we find it hard, with shake-
help, to understand Hamlet: even Shakespeare,
found it hard to understand him: Hamlet himself
lr.tls it impossible to understand himself. Better able than
,llrr:r rnen to read the hearts and motives of others, he
r{ yct qtrite unable to read his own.' But, if the motive
,'f the play is so obscure, to what can we attribute its
1,.r'r:rful effect on the audience, for, as Kohlerz asks,
h*r (:ver
seen Hamlet and not fert the fearful confict that
rf ror'(:s the soul of the heroi' This can only be because the hero's
..nllict flnds its echo in a similar inner conflict in the mind
tlr. hcarer, and the more intense is this already present
.rxrllir:t the greater is the effect of the drama.
Again, it
lr c.rt;rin that the hearer himself does not know the inner
.' {r' .(' of the conflict in his own mind, but experiences
rrnly tlrr: outer manifestations of it. So we reach the appa-
that the hero, the poet, and the audience
rrrr nll
moved by feelings due to a conflict of
t hr N( | r r rcc of which they are unaware
fact, horvever, that such a conclusion should
p:rradoxical is in itself a censure on popular ignor-
rru .
the actual workings of the human mind and
Inlrr,' rr' tlertaking
to sustain the assertions made in the
cr lrrrg paragraph it will first be necessary to make a
lr* r,lrs.rv;rtions
on the prevailing views of motive and
+rrrrfrrr' t in gt:neral The new science of clinical psychology
' I r r r r cl r : op. ci t . , p. I I 5.
l t , ' l rl . r. shakespeare vor dem Forum derJuri sprudenz, t gg3, s. r95.
t t rrcrrl l rardl y be sai d t hat t he pl ay, l i ke most ot hers, appeal s
t r rh rrrrl rcn. c i n a number of di f f erent respect s. we are here con_
$l rr.r
' ,.1y
rhe rn;ri n appeal , the central confl i ct i n the tragedy.
. , '
i *
. t l
, 4
. t:1,
' t ; i
, "1,
. / :
i : '
I . ' , ' i
vr l
, l
st:urtls norvhere in sharper contrast to the older attitudes
torvard mental functioning than on this very matter.
Whereas the generally accepted view of man's mind,
usually implicit and frequently explicit in psychological
writings, regards it as an interplay of various processes
that are for the most part known to the subject, or are
at atl events accessible to careful introspection on his part,
the analytic methods of clinical psychology have on the
contrary decisively proved that a far greater number of
these processes than is commonly surmised arises from
origins that he never even suspects. Man's belief that he
is a self-conscious animal, alive to the desires that impel
or inhibit his actions, is the last stronghold of that anthro-
pomorphic and anthropocentric outlook on life which has
so long dominated his philosophy, his theology, ffid, above
dl, his psychology. In other words, the tendency to take
man at his own valuation is rarely resisted, md we assume
that the surest way of finding out why a person commits
a given act is simply to ask him, relying on the know-
iedge that he, as we ourselves would in a like circumstance, will
feel certain of the answer and will almost infallibly provide
a plausible reason for his conduct. Special objective methods
of penetrating into the more obscure mental processes'
ho,*,ever, disclose the most formidable obstacles in the
way of this direct introspective route, and reveal powers
of self-deception in the human mind to which a limit
has yet to be found. If I may quote from a former
are beginning to see man not as the
smooth, self-acting agent he pretends to be, but as
he really is, a creature only dimly conscious of the
various influences that mould his thought and action,
and blindly resisting with all the means at his command
in Every Day Life,' Jo*rnal
of Abnormal Pslclto'
/ t t . ( . / t I 9o8,
t 68.
,]i l
..,' h
! , \
.fi . ,'
. , ' r '
' h' ,'
, v'
I l ; ' . ' . ' '
. ' f a
, f i 1I
l ' .,1,' .
. [ l , .
' t l l i '
i i i -,
r i i i . i , ,
, l i S. n
, . {J, r
,":' Ul
t Yr I
, ; l {"1" "
fi i i r. "
; 1. *' ,
., ;
r4;:,. r
1r,i L
". /r,*,'
' i l : '
r\l .
, . , , 1
; {
: i i .
i... J
r l , . .
11. r 1, ")
l ' , i r ,
, i '
. . ,
r (
3da' t . - "
A I' SYCI l o-n Nnl -Y' l ' l C S' l ' tl DY OI.' HAMLET 29
tl r' f
' rr:r:s
tl rat are maki ng for a hi gher and ful l er
I u; l r , f
i t t t t Sn( : SS. '
' l ' l r;rt
Il aml et i s suffcri ng from An i ntcrnal confl i ct the
ra' rrrrt i : rl nat ure of whi ch i s i naccessi bl e t o hi s i nt rospect i on
ro rvrrk:nr:c<l by the fol l owi ng consi dcrati ons. Throughout
tl rr'
1rl ;ry
wc have the cl earest pi cture of a man who sees
hr , ' r l r r t . l ' pl ai n bef or e hi m, but who shi r ks i t at ever y
| ] l ' l xrrt rrni t y
and suf f ers i n consequence t he most i nt ense
r'f nr f r s('.
paraphrase Sir
Paget's well-known
,l r' ' ,,,' r rl rt i .n of hysteri cal paral ysi s: Haml et' s advocates say
l r. r' rrrrnot do hi s duty, hi s detractors say he wi l l not,
rl r' ' r,' ;rs the truth i s that he cannot wi l l . Further than thi s,
th. rl .fi r:i t' nt rvi l l -power i s l ocal i sed to the one questi on of
I rf f rr r 1' h is uncle
it is what may be termed a specilf c
,th,,ul ttt. Now i nstances of such speci fi c aboul i as i n real l i fe
nvnrrrrl rl y
when anal ysed, to be due to an uncons-
r t.u'r rr'pulsion against the act that cannot be performed
lor r'lqt: ;Wainst something closely associated with the act,
r' r tl rrrt tl re i dea of the act becomes al so i nvol ved i n the
tr;rul ' ,r, rrr). In other words, whenever a person cannot
Irrmrg l ri rrrs<:l f to do somethi ng that every consci ous con*
ffrfcr,rt i ,rr tcl l s hi m he shoul d do-and rvhi ch he may have
flro rt r'ngr:st conscious desire to do-it is always because
l l rr. rs some hi dden reason rvhy he doesn' t want to do
t, tl rr' , r' r:;l son he wi l l not own to hi msel f and i s onl y
rltllrlv rf :rt all aware of. That is exactly the case with
l frl nl ,' t.
' l ' i mc
and agai n he works hi msel f up, poi nts out
hr f,rrr' ,' ' l l hi s obvi ous drty, wi th the cruel l est sel f-reproaches
hd,,' o l rnnsr.l f to agoni es of remorse-and once more fal l s
l r oy rrrt' i nacti on. He eagerl y sei zes at every excuse
tr |' , | |rl ' f i rrrt hi mscl f wi th any other matter than the per-
*, . rn, rrr, , ' of hi s dut y, j ust as on a l esser pl ane a person
l ri c. l
rrrt l r : r ct i st ast cf ul t ask, . g. wri t i ng a di f f i cul t l et t er,
lfl wlrrttlr: urr';r1' his time in arranging, tidying, and fidgetting
. 1, ,
wi t l t l ul )' l i t t l t : occt t p: rt i on t hat may serve as a
1ri' t:tr:xt
Ilradleyl even goes so far
Irs to mitke out a case for the view that Hamlet's self-
accusation of ' bestial oblivion' is to be taken in a
literal sense, his unconscious detestation of his task
being so intense as to enable him actually to forget it
for periods.
Highly significant is the fact that the grounds Hamlet
gives for his hesitancy are grounds none of which will
stand a moment's serious consideration, and which contin-
ually change from one time to another. One moment he
pretends he is too cowardly to perform tlte deed, at
another he questions the truthfulness of the ghost, at
another-rvhen the opportunity presents itself in its naked
form-he thinks the time is unsuited, it would be better
to wait till the King was at some evil act and then to
kill him, and so on. When a man gives at different times
a different reason for his conduct it is safe to infer that,
whether consciously or not' he is concealing the true
discussing a similar problem in reference
to lago, truly observes:
proves so well how false
are the motives rvith which Iago tries to persuade himself
aS t/ze constant change in these nzotirtes'. We can there-
fore' safely dismiss all the alleged motives that Hamlet
propounds, as being more or less successful attempts on
his part to blind himself rvith self-deception. Loening's3
summing-up of them is not too emphatic rvhen he says:
'they are all mutually contradictory
they are one and all
prete*ts'. The alleged motives excellently illustrate
the psychological mechanisms of evasion and rationalisation
Braclley: op. cit., pP. I 25, rz6, 4to, 4tr-
Wetz: Shakespeare vom Standpunkt der vergleichenden Litteratur-
gcschichte, t8go, Bd. I, S. 186.
Loeni ng: op. ci t., S. z+5.
n I ' sy( : l l o. ANn l . y' l ' l ( s' l l t l ) \ , ( ) 1. '
I l n Ml - 1, : . 1.
I l r; rvr: t ' l scrvhr: rc t l t . sct ' i l , r. , l . l l r i , , nol nr. (. r. s: . i ! rt . y, l t owcver,
f , rl i scrrss t l rcrn l rr. r' r. rrrr l rr, rr t rr. ri l 1, , f
' r
L<l r: ni ng has
rr rl l t t ht : grcat est pt ' rspi r' ; rcrt l ' r t orrr. t l ri s i n f ul l {ct ai l
' rl rrl
l r:ts cffccttr:rl l y tl t:tnorrsl r' :rtr.rl
l rorv rrl l r.r' l y rrntcnabl e
t l r r . 1' : r l l ar e. s
.Sti l l , i n hi s mornents of sr:l f-rt.Jrro;u:l r Il aml t:t sces
, fr' :rr l -y cnough the rccal ci tr:rncy of hi s conrl uct :urtl rcnr:ws
h' . r' l l brts to achi eve acti on. It i s i ntcrcsti n.rg to noti cc how
hr' . .rrtbursts
of remorse arc cvokcd by cxtcrnal happcnings
rr lrring back to his mind that which he rvould so
pil,rr llr,' forget, and which, according to Bradley, he does
nl tirrrr:s forget: particularly effective in this respect are
rrr.irlt'nts that contrast rvith his own conductr 3S when the
1rl.r;' r' r
is so moved over the fate of Hecuba (Act
II, Sc. z),
| | r rr I r cn Fortinbras takes the field and
finds quarrel in
r rtr' :r.. when honour' s at the stake' (Act IV, sc.
llr. ftrrrrrer occasion, stung by the monstrous way in
whrr'lr the player pours out his feeling at the thought of
I l,' r' rrlra, he arraigns himself in words which surely should
rlf .r' t rr:rlly dispose of the view that he has any doubt
rrl rcrt: hi s duty l i es.
\\' lrat' s Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba
' l' h;rt
he should weep for herl what would he do
I l;rrl he the motive and the' cue for passion
llr:rt I have? He would drown the stage with tears,
:\ rrr I cleave the general ear with horrid speech,
mad the guilty and appal the free,
(' r' rr[<lund
the ignorant, md amaze indeed
very faculties of eyes and. ears.
Yr t I
op. ci t . , p. 16r.
Sce especi al l y hi s anal ysi s of Haml et' s pretext for non-acti on i n
f t r
1' r, rvr: r
scene. op. ci t . , S. 240-2.
:| r
l N Al ' l ' l ' tl .,D
A rlrrll ancl muclcly-mettled
of my cause'
And can say nothing i
nor not for, a kitgt
and most dear life
A damn'd
was made'
Am I a coward ?
Who calls me villain ? breaks
my pate across ?
Plucks off my beard,
and blows it in my face l
Tweaksmebyt henose?gi vesmet hel i ei ' t het hr oat '
As deep as t; the lungs ? Who does me this ?
I should
take it; for it cannot
But I am pigeon{iver'd'
and lack gall
To make opft"ttion
or ere this
I should
all the region kites
With this slave's
villain !
Remorsel ess, t reacherous' l echerous, ki ndl essvi l l ai n!
O, vengeance
what an ass am I ! This is most brave'
That I, the son of a dear father murder'd'
to my revenge
by heaven
and hell'
Must, like a whore'
with words'
And fall a-cursing,
like a very drab'
A scullion
Ther eadi nesswi t hwhi chhi sgui l t ycon. sci encei s
st i r r edi nt oact i vi t yi sagai nevi dencedont hesecond
of the Ghost'
when Hamlet
Do you not come
your tardy
son to chidet
That, lapsed
in time and passion'
lets go by
The important
acting of your dread
Oh, saY !
l Howt heessenceol t hesi t uat i oni sconveyedi nt heset our
,\ I' SY(' l lO-r\NAl,Y' fl(: S' |UDY Ol.' llnMLE' l'
' l' lre
Ghost at oncc confirms this misgiving by
nn. . r r ' r ' t ' i r t t g,
t )o not forget: this visitation
1., lrrrt to rvhet thy almost blunted purpose.
ln short, the whole picture presented lry Hamlet, his
rl .r' g, rl t:prcssi on, the hopel ess note i n hi s atti tudc towards
tlr. rvorld and towards the value of life, his clread of
,1,' ,rtl r,l hi s repeated reference to bad dreams, hi s sel l :
nllrrsirtions, his desperate efforts to get away from the
llr' rrrlrts of his duty, and his vain attempts to find an
r' \,' rrs(: for his procrastinationl all this unequivocally points
t, r ;l t ortured conscience, to some hidden ground for
rlrrr l,.ing his task, a ground which he dare not or cannot
nv. r\\' to himself. We have, therefore, to take up the
rrl:runont again at this point, and to seek for some evidence
llr;rt may serve to bring to light the hidden counter-
f t t ol i t ' r : .
extensive experience of the psycho-analytic resear-
r lr,'r r:arried out by Freud and his school duringi the
rlrrarter of a century has amply demonstrated that
e' r' rl;rin kinds of mental processes shew a greater tendency
lrr l,r' inaccessible to consciousness
technically, to be
' r,' 1,r,' sscd' ) than others. In other words, i t i s harder for
l,r' r
son to realise the existence in his mind of some
lrr.rrtnl trends than it is of others. In order therefore to
I ' l ' i cck
(Dramaturgi sche Bl i i tter, II, l 8z6) saw i n Haml et' s coward-
l 1 f , ' . rr rrf deat h a chi ef reason f or hi s hesi t ancy i n execut i ng hi s
r*l 1rr' . 1n, ' , : . I I ow wel l Shakespeare underst ood what t hi s f ear was l i ke
rr. | l rt . i nl erred f rom Cl audi o' s words i n ' Measure f or Measure' :
The weari est and most l oathed worl dl y l i fe
That age, ache, penury and i mpri sonment
Can l ay on nature i s a paradi se
To what we fear of death.
i '
gain :r
perspective it is necessary briefly to inquire
into the rclative frequency rvith which various sets of
mental processes are
Experience shews that
this can be correlated with the relation between these
various sets and their degree of compatibility with the
ideals and standards accepted by the conscious ego; the
less compatible
they are with these the more likely are
they to be 'repressed'.
As the standards acceptable to
are in a great measure derived from the
immediate environment, one may formulate the following
those processes are most likely to be
by the indiviclual which are most disapproved
of by the particular circle of society to whose influence
he has chiefly been subjected during the period rvhen his
character was being formed. Biologically stated, this larv
would run: 'That
which is unacceptable to the herd
becomes unacceptable to the individual member', it being
understood that the term herd is intended here in the
sense of the particular circle defined above, which is by
no means necessarily the community at large. It is for
this reason that moral, social, ethical or religious tendencies
are hardl y ever' repressed' ,
for, si nce the i ndi vi dual
originally received them from his herd, they can hardly
ever come into conflict rvith the dicta of the latter. This
merely says that a man cannot be ashamed of that
he respects; the apparent exceptions to this rule need not
be here explained.
The language used in the previous paragraph will
have indicated that by the term
we denote an
active dynamic process. Thoughts that are 'repressed' are
actively kept from consciousness by a definite force and
r,r,ith the expenditure of more or less mental effort, though
thc person concerned is rarely a'ware of this. Further, what
is thus kept from consciousness typically possesses an
I \ I ' Si YC. I I O-ANALY' I ' I C
S' I ' I JDY
3. 5
f ' r r r ' r
r ' \ ' 0f i r s own; hr : nce our f r equcnt
r r se of such
f ' \
l ' t
r ""' i r ) l ' l s
i l s ' t r cnd' ,
t enr l ency' ,
ct c. A l i t t l c consi der at i on
, f r l r . gr : . r : t i e
as^pcct s
of t he mat t er wi i l m; r ke i t
. . r s11' r ' , ' l r . r si l l l e
t hat t he t r cncl s most l i kcl y t o l l e
. r epr esset l ,
l f r rl r' sr: l rr: l ongi ng
t o rvhat are cal l ed t l re nat rrral i nst i nct s,
rr .,rt r;rstcd rvi th seconcl ari l y
acqui recl
onc.s. Loeni ng
..' .' rr{ \' o' y
di scerni ngl y
to have graspccl
thi s, for, i n
| , 111; 111' 1rt i ' g
on a remark
of Kohl cr' s
t o t he ef f cct t hat
' $1"' ; 1'
: r l i : eri n. q
i mpers us t o act i on or t o omi ssi on,
i t i s
l r
l rl r' r.
*' i th a hundred
reasons-wi th
reasons that arc
rr l r1' f,1
;rs soap-bubbl es,
but whi ch through
sel f_decepti on
rrrr' !f
t' rrs as hi ghl y respectabre
and compel l i ng
moti ves,
l x' '
' 111' 1'
thcy are hugel y magni fi ed
i n the (*r,"ui ")
mi rror
' l
, rl l ' ()\ vn
f eel i ng' ,
he wri t es:
' but t hi s does not hol cl
j r x rr f , ;rs l i ohl er
and others bel i eve, when we are i mpel l ecl
of which reason ap7)roues (for
these we
l rf' rrr r, oursel ves,
they need no .*"ur"),
onl y for feeri ngs
fl rtrt rrri sr: frorn our natural n ant those the grati fi cati on
n l'r lr is oy'y'oscd
by our reason'.
It only remains
to acld
l l r. r,l rvi .rrs
corol rary
that, as the herd unquesti onabry
rl .r r' r l rrl n the
tnatural '
i nsti ncts
the sexual one on whi ch
f. l i rv i ts hcavi est
ban, so i t i s the vari ous psycho_sexual
l l e' rl ' r t l r; rt are most of t en
by t he i ndi vi dual .
hrvr l r.r' t: the expl anati on
of the cl i ni tal experi ence
l he , r, r(: i nt ense
and t he more obscure i s a gi ven case of
rfee' ;r rrr.' t;l l
confl i ct the more certai nl y wi l l i t be found
rrl ..r1rr;rr. i r' :rl ;' .si s
to centre about a sl xual probl em.
ffrc rtrr
l ;r(' (" of course,
thi s does not appear Sor for, by
i u rrrr ,f r' :u' i ous psychol ogi cal
defensi ve
mechani sms,
rl el ' rq", ' , j onq
dt >rrbt , cl espai r
and ot her mani f est at i ons
of t he
+' xrt l rr' r i r(: t *rnsf crrecl
on t o more t orerabre
and permi ssi brc
t1r" n, ri rrr' l r a.s a' rxi ety about worrdry
success or fai rure.
f . r r r r f r r nf f : op. ci t . , S. 245, 246.
r,f ,'
I r '
f r
i l ;
, ; ,
, ! .
' {\
,f(l ,
(i l ri
j'f ,
. r , I . ,
ir' ,
i l ,
t'l r:. . '
, l ;
' ' l
: t 6l r SSAYSl NAl ' l ' l - t l ' l ) t ' SY( l l t ( ) - nNALYSI S
:rlr'ut irnrnortality
and the salvation
of the soul'
( : ( ) t l si dcr at i onsaboot t heval ueof l i f e, t hef ut ur eof t he
\vorldr and so on'
Bear i ngt heseconsi der at i onsi nmi nd, l et usr et ur nt o
It should
be evident
that the conflict
see Hamlet's
i mpul set owar dsr evengei nhi bi t edbyanunconsci ousml s-
gi vi ngof ahi ghl yet hi cal ki nd, ar ebasedoni gnor anceof
r vhat act ual l yhappensr nr eal l i f e, f or mi sgi vi ngsof t hi s
in i""t
to the more
of the
mind rather
than to the d""p",,
him alvare
any such misgivings
he might
havei gnor ed- t hem, i t woul dal most cer t ai nl yhavebeen
byt heai dof somepr ocessof r at i onal i sat i onwhi chwoul d
to deceive
into believing
t heywer ei t l ' f ounded; hewoul di nanycasehaver emai ned
of the nature
of them'
We have
i nvert t hesehypot hesesandreal i set hat t heposi t i vest ri vi ng
f or vengeance' t hepi oust askl ai donhi mbyhi sf at her '
wast ohi mt hemor al andSoci al one' t heoneappr oved
of byhi sconsci ousness' andt hat t he. r epr essed' i nhi bi t i ng
st r i vi ngagai nst t heact of vengeancear osei nsomehi dden
$our ce"o*""t edwi t hhi smor eper sonal , nat ur al i nst i nct s.
is manifest
in every
in which
the *utt"'
t it'" second
i;' i'o* its nature'
and has next
to be investigated'
Thi si sper hapsmost easi l ydonebyi nqui r i ngmor e
the object
of hi svengeancet Cl audi us' mdt owar dst hecr i mest hat
to b; avenged'
are *"-:]il:"|ffT:
or his brother.
it is or
grcati -po.t*cetonotetr,"p,orounddi fferencei nHaml et' s
.rf f rtrrrlt: torvnrcls thcse two crimes. Intellectually of course
lr' rrlrhrlrs both, but there can be no question as to which
rrr,)us(' s in hirn the deeper loathing.
' Whereas
the murder
r,l lris f:rther evokes in him indignation and a plain recog-
nrt ron of his obvious duty to avenge it, his mother's guilty
r.,nr lu('t awakes in him the intensest horror. Furnivall
s,' ll rcrnarks, in speaking of the
' Her disgraceful
n,lrrltcry and incest, and treason to his noble father' s
fn,.nror/, Flamlet has felt in his inmost soul. Compared to
rl1,.n' inurain die, Claudius' murder of his father-notwith-
rt.rrrrlin.q all his protestations-is only a skin-deep stain' .
Now, in trying to define Hamlet's attitude towards
lrr,, rrnclc we.have to guard against assuming off:hand that
tlrrs is a simple one of mere execration, for there is a
of complexity arising in the following way: The
rrrrr' lr: has not merely committed each crime, he has
rrrrrrnritted botlt crimes, a distinction of considerable
Irrrlrrrrt:rnce, for the combination of crimes allows the
rrlrrrit tance of a new factor, produced by the possible
lrrl.r'-rr:lation of the two, which prevents the result from
fr.rn( simply one of summation. In addition it has to be
f x
rr,: in mind that the perpetrator of the crimes is a
tr'l.rl ivt:, and an exceedingly near relative. The possible
Intcr -rt:lationship
of the crimes, and the fact that the
nrrtlror of them is an actual member of the family, gives
s'lr{) for a confusion in their influence on Hamlet's mind
nlrr,'lr rnay be the cause of the very obscurity we are seeking
t l r' l : rri [ y.
I .ct us first pursue further the effect on Hamlet of
Irr. rrrotlrcr' s misconduct. Before he even knows that his
f ,rr lr.r' has been murdered he is in the deepest depression,
1,r,1 cvitlcntly on account of this misconduct. The connection
l i rrrni val l : l ntroducti on to the
' Leopol d'
Shakespeare, p.
l i
, l t '
l , i ' '
, ' : 1, t "' . '
\ t ' I
. , t .
1 iil
. t .
, 1. ' .
r\' ;,,
t ,
. . {
: '
: t B
I , . SSAYS l N n I ' l ' l . l l ' : l ) l ' . SYCI l ( ) ' AN, \ 1, \ ' Sl S
l >etrveen the two i s unmi stakabl e i n the monol ogtl e i n Act l ,
Sc. z, in reference to which Furnivall
writcs: ' One must
insist on this, that before any revelation of his father's
murder is made to Hamlet, before any burdet'r of revenging
that murder is laid upon him, he thinks of suicide as a"
welcome means of escape from this fair world of God's,
made abominable to his diseased and weak imagination by
his mother's lust, and the dishonour done by her to his
father's memory'.
O I that this too too solid
flesh would melt'
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew;
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter I O God ! O God !
Horv weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world !
F'ie on 't I O fie ! 'tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this !
But two months dead! nay, not so much, not two;
So excellent a king; that was' to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth !
Must I remember? *hy, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on; and
rvithin a month-
Let me not think sn '1-prailty, thy name is woman!
A little month ! or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow'd my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears; why she, even she-
Furnivall: oP. cit.,
P- 7o.
Dover Wilson (Times Literary Sulplenent,May 16, l9l8) brings
forwarcl good reasons for tfuinking that this word is a misprint for
' sul l i ed' .
A I ' s\ ' ( . 1 l ( ) _AN, \ 1. \ "1' l ( : s' l . t Jl ) y ( ) l ;
I I n MLUI .
) (
iorl ! a bc:rst, that n,ants discourse of reason,
would havc mourn' d longer,-married rvith my uncle,
I\'ly father's brother, but no more like my father
I to Hercules. Within a month ?
lire yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
L{ad left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets t
It is not nor it cannot come to good;
But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue t
According to Bradley,l Hamlet's melancholic disgust
life was the cause of his aversion from
kind of
rk' <:i<led action' . His explanation of the whole problem of
I l:unlet is 'the moral shock of the sudden ghastly disclosure
,l' lris mother' s true nature' ,
and he regards the effect
.f this shock, as depicted in the play, as fully comprehensible.
llr: says:3
it possible to conceive an experience more
rlr:solating to a man such as we have seen Hamlet to be;
rrrrtl is its result anything but perfectly natural t It brings
I ,, :rv ildered horror, then loathing, then despair of human
rr;rlure. His whole mind is poisoned . . . A nature morally
lrlrrnter would have felt even so dreadful a revelation less
li.cnly. A slower and more limited and positive mind might
n't have extended so widely through the world the disgust
nntl disbelief that have entered it.'
But we can rest satisfied with this seemirgly adequate
of Hamlet's weariness of life only if we accept
the conventional standards of the causes of
rlccp emotion. Many years ago Connolly,
the well-known
Bradley: op. cit., p. r2z.
l dem: op. ci t., p. rr1.
Idem: op. ci t., p. rrg.
Connol l y: A Study of Haml et, rg63, pp. 22, 23.
IissnYS lN Al' }l)LlEl) I' }SYCI IO-ANALYSIS
psyr:lriatrist, pointed out the disproportion here existing
bc:tu'ccn cause and effect and gave as his opinion
that Hamlet's reaction to his mother's marriage indicated
in itseif a mental instability, '" predisposition to actual
he writes :
The circumstances are not such
as would at once turn a healthy mind to the contemplation
of suicide, the last resource of those whose reason has
been overwhelmed by calamity and despair.' We have
unveiled only the exciting cause, not the predisposing
cause. The very fact that Hamlet is content with the
explanation arouses our grave suspicions, for, as will
presently be expounded, from the very nature of the
emotion he cannot be aware of the true cause of it. If
we ask, not what ought to produce such soul-paralysing
grief and distaste for life, but what in actual fact does
produce it, we are compelled to go beyond tliis
explanation and seek for some deeper cause. In real life
speedy second marriages occur commonly enough without
leading to any such result as is here depicted, md when
we see them followed by this result we invariably find, if
the opportunity for an analysis of the subject's mihd
presents itself. that there is some other and more hidden
reason why the event is followed by this inordinately great
effect. The reason always is that the event has awakened
to increased activity mental processes that have been
repressed' from the subject's consciousness. His mind
has been specially prepared for the catastrophe by
previous mental processes with which those directly
resulting from the event have entered into association. This
is perhaps what Furnivall means when he speaks of the
world being made abominable to Hamlet's
imagination'. In short, the special nature of the reaction
presupposcs sonle special feature in the mental predis-
position. llradley himself has to qualify his hypothesis by
l r r nr ' f | i l t l t t l t r :
l l , r nr l r ' f l o l r r :
r vot ' t l s
t 0 i l man such as we have seen
' 1
1r , , . , , ' r vl r r l r ; r vr : t k: vot cr l much t i me t o t he st udy of
rrt r h | ' l l l rt i ' t t s
rvi l l rr: t : ogni se t ht : scl f -cl escri pt i on gi ven i n
l f rn
' ' r, ' n, l , l : n('
: l s i r \ \ ' ()n(k. rt i rl l y accrrrat c pi ct urc of a part i c-
rhl t l r. t rl nl xl ; t l c rvl ri cl r i s of l t : n t ooscl y ancl i ncorrect l y
Ghr cr l r i ", l r r r r , l , ' t r l r r : n; l nl ( : oI
t nr : r r r : r st l r eni a' .
Anal ysi s
C r r r r l r nr r r t r ' . r r r t r r , ; r ! ' s r r : vr . : r l s t hr : ol l cr at i ve act i vi t y
t { }{r ; 1- ' f r , r ; , ' , r l l r . n
}: r ( ) l r l r , l '
l r t t . r r t : r l
l ) r occsses,
r vhi ch
qr 1r r ni l r t . , f l l r r . r r i l n: l ( . ( . ( . l r l ; r l r l r : n: t t ur e have been
rl rF
+**i ' . 1' f l , rt t t l l r' r, rrl ri cct ' s r: ot rsr: i ousncss. Theref ore i f
l f f n*f l r. . l , r' . rr
l , l rr. l : , . , 1
i rrt ' l l ri s : rbnornral st at e by t hg
I f r r { hl r , r r l l l u' r
' n
r i r . r ' . l nr t r r r : r r . r - i : r gt : i t must be because
l l f i l r + hm nn , r hr ' nr . r l r r r t o : r r . l i vi t y . s( ) t nc sl umber i ng
Ft f '
r J Jt r **r t i l l l l Lr r r , l , r r l r r r . l r i s so p; r i nf ul t hat i t
f httn r.(nrr r.frfr,
* J *a }at l . r $t r l ol y r , ' f f r r l f . r r r r l r , 1s l , ' r c1<l
l l
| H f *f t | t t r{r+ r{ r rr, f l rm l , rl r f i t l r1, st t . l -i a.
f i
l | m
Fr f f a-
r . r l i ** l l , l , , r gr , , , br r i r ' r ' . r : i l . l r ayc
f **t r t d*1[ +. r 1| {. 1r r t l . r l r r l r . l
' '
Li t : 5t e
t **f t At l l r l nf r t r r t , ; ! t r r ' l r r . r r r . r sl l t t : t r i <: , a
l t nnf f 4 r . l I f l r , l | . r i l , l r r r , ur t r ( / t . t l sc/ t r .
f l f r **nn *l l *}1. . t ; , l t i {/ r , , r l 1. l ' r | 51111y1r
l f , l l ,
3r l f r I f r l r r ,
. l l , . r r , , r . l ' l t r / t t . -
t t *+* * s*i r Jl r 1r Sp f r , r r i ,
f r f , r g \ l l l
, Nr r l r , , l . ; on
| l l | | $| i t t ar *l r l l h. 11, l ' ar l l l r r r r r l t . ; r r . l r r
[ r #g** l - ar *r ++r nr d*t . h'
r r ' . f r , r ] . r hl r r , r r r . ' r
I ) t . r t t l cr l r
f r n l b*l +t . l ' l l l . *r l l +r r r r g f r - nr f nr ' t , r r r r l r , , l r . r , r r ( . t r ( . l u\ i ( ) l l
{t hi r r * r *r t 1+t / r ac , l l , , . , l et , l }t 7{r , l r . , r r t f . , t . l ( . . t l r sc. ) .
l F. l ' r t u r t , l r , ! r r , r r r r ' r r ' f r , r r i r
l r , l r t r r
r t l , r t l y, l r gt : t r i . us
f f *i l t f , i {r l . r r r r l l r l l
, . t r , t \ , . r l r r
, t f t . , l r . r r t t r g t . t kr . t t ( ) \ , ( : f
t he
i l Xn {{}i ' ' }
&, , r o. t t t . . r . . , I l r . l : . , t l r t t , , l r l r l , r . r t
l . r l r . l r i t . t I I ; r r nl Ct aS a
f *l hf bh"l r i '
i *r . r 1. , r f . r . t 1, , . 1 r , r r l t , r . nl 1, , r l l l l l r r . pr 6r t
; r t r . sr . t r t i r bl C f Of m Of
i l | f nf f i * f
i L. , , , , t r
l "r i r . j , . ,
", r . t l r , . r Ll r , 1 1 1sg
l r l "i r r ' , r , , r r r . \ . , t , 1 sx. l \ u, 1, t X; ! {, l t , t . \ : l ) : r nr l Si gi smund ( Ja/ t r _
*l *' Jc' t t , r e q \ r r r ct l t , t t r ( t r t r ! / t t
/ t t r / r , r t i 79,
Jahr g.
xvl ) al so
l S* *f f l l r . l *l . . r r f r r . l r . , \ r r l l r oql
l r r l l r t
r r l . r r i si l g t l r e f Or m Of i nSani t V.
f h
l ,
$, !
For some deep-seated reasonr which is to him
unacceptable, Hamlet is plunged into anguish at the thought
of his father being replaced in his mother's affections by
someone else. It is as though his devotion to his mother had
made him so jealous for her affection that he had found it hard
enough to share this even with his father and could not endure
to share it with still another man. Against this thought,
however, suggestive as it is, may be urged three objections"
First, if it were in itself a full statement of the matter,
Hamlet would have been aware of the jealousy, whereas
we have concluded that the mental process we are seeking
is hidden from him. Secondly, we see in it no evidence
of the arousing of an old and forgotten memory. And,
thirdly, Hamlet is being deprived by Claudius of no greater
share in the
affection than he had been by his
own father, for the two brothers made exactly similar
claims in this respect-namely, those of a loved husband-
The last-named objection, however, leads us to the heart
of the situation. How if, in fact, Hamlet had in years gone
by, as a child, bitterly resented having had to share his
mother's affection even with his own father, had regarded
him as a rival, and had secretly vrished him out of the
way so that he might enjoy undisputed and undisturbed
the monopoly of that affection ? If such thoughts had been
present in his mind in childhood days they evidently
rvould have been 'repressed', and all traces of them
obliterated, by filial piety and other educative influences.
The actual realisation of his early wish in the death of
his father at the hands of a jealous rival rvould then have
stimulated into activity these
memories, which
rvorrld have produced, in the form of depression and other
srrffcringr &o obscure aftermath of his childhood's conflict.
' l' lris
is at all t:vents thc mechanism that is actually found
irr tlrt: re;rl I [:unlcts who are investi.qated psychologically.
t : . ; ' ' l
"i t , ;
' .su- -.--T-
I am aware that those shakespearean critics who
Ir;rv. t:njoyed no special opportunities for penetrating into
tlr. olrscurer aspects of mental activities, and who base views of human motive on the surface valuation given
l ,y t h e agents themselves-to whom all conduct whether
)( I or bad at all events springs from purely conscious
likely to regard the suggestion put forrvard
rrlr'l't: as merely constituting one more of the extravagant
,rr r, I fanciful hypotheses of which the Harnlet literature in
t it:ular is so replete. For the sake, however, of those
rr lr.' may be interested to apprehend the point of view
Ir,rrrr rvhich this strange hypothesis seems probable I feel
l'rrslr;tined to interpolate a few considerations on two
rrr:rllt-'rs that are not at all commonly appreciated at their
Irrrt' importance-nameiy, a child' s feelings of jealousy
lrir, itleas on the subject of death.
whole subject of jealousy
in children is so cloud-
,', 1 ovcr with prejudice that even well-known facts are
.rtlr.r ignored or are not estimated at their true signif-
,r ;u r('o. stanley Hall, for instance, in his encyclopaedic
t r.rrtisc, makes a number of very just remarks on the
of the subject in adolescence, but implies that
lrr' l.r' t) the age of puberty this passion is of relatively
lrnl. consequence. It was reserved for the genetic sttrdies
research to demonstrate the lasting and
,l.rrnrl influence that infantile jealousies
may have upon
l;rl.r character reactions and upon the whole course of a
I ' r ' t , i un' s
l i f e.
A rccent example of this is afforded by
C. Fltigel' s study;
' trr l l rc
(' l r;rructcr
and l \{arri ed Li fe of Fl enry VIII,' rntuntat.
ty' '
t , t , / t , , , ' l ua/ t . r t i s, r g2o, vol . I , p. 24. See al so hi s val uabl e wor k on' I ' he
I r ' , , ! r , Ar r l l yt i c St udy of t he Fami l y ( Nn.
of t he I nt er nat . Psycho-
. \ n. r 1, , I r r . el | . i br ar r , t 9: t ) .
1. ,
.l.t l,.SSr\Y.S lN Al' l' l-llrD PSYCHO-ANALYSIS
close relation between adult jealousy and the
rlc.sirr: for the removal of the rival by the most effective means,
that of death, and also the common process of suppression of
such feelings, is clearly illustrated in a remark of Stanley
to the effect that
a noble and even great
man has confessed that mingled with profound grief for
the death and misfortune of their best friends, they were
often appalled to find a vein of secret joy and satisfaction,
as if their own sphere were larger or better.' He has
doubtless in mind such passages as the following from La
'Dans I'adversit6 de nos meilleurs amis, il
y a quelque chose qui ne nous ddplait pas.' A similar
thought is more openly expressed by Bernard Shaw
he makes Don
in the I-lcll Scene, remark:
may remember that on earth-though of course we
never confessed it-the death of any one we knew,
even those we liked best, was always mingled with a
certain satisfaction at being finally done with them.' Such
cynicism in the adult is exceeded to an incomparable
extent by that of the child, with its notorious, and to the
parents often heartbreaking, egotism, with its undevelope,C
social instincts, and with its ignorance of the dread signif-
icance of death. A child very often unreasoningly inter-
prets the various encroachments on its privileges, and the
obstacles interposed to the immediate gratification of its
desires, as meaningless cruelty, and the more imperative
is the desire that has been thwarted the more pronounced
is the hostility towards the agent of this supposed cruelty,
most often of course a parent. The most important encroach-
ment, and the most frequent, is that made on the
child's desire for affection. The resulting hostility is very
oftcn seen on the occasion of the birth of a subsequent
St anl ey' I l al l : Adol escence, r go8, Vol . I , p.
llcnralrl Sharv: Man and Superman, I9o3, p.
A l' sycHO-nNAI-yTIC
, lrrl,l, ;rrrrl i.s u.sually regarded with amusement
as an added
' r.r
r rlrrrt i.' to the general gaiety called forth by the
h' t1' 1' 1' t' vcnt. When a chi l d, on bei ng tol d that the doctor
h,r' , l r' ,rrght hi m another pl ayfel l ow,
responds wi th,the
| | \' "l' t' ll
him to take it away again' , he intends this,
Ir,rr .v(' r' not, as is commonly believedr 3S a joke
for the
' rrt' r' t:ri nnrent
of hi s el ders, but as an earnest expressi on
,,f lris intuition
that in future he will have to ,.nourr"*
lrr.viously unquestioned
in the family
r rr r lr., :t matter that to him is serious enough.
second point, on which there is also much
frr,' rrrrrk:rstandi ng,
i s that of the chi l d' s atti tude towardthe
of death, it being commonly assumed that this
t4 tr,' t:t:ssarily
the same as that of an adult. When a child
hrrr lrt::rrs of anyone' s death, the only part of its meaning
tlrrrt hc realises is that the person is no longer tltere,
| (', )nsummation
which time and again he has fervently
,lr",rr ('rl
wtren being interfered with by the persons around
hrrrr. It is only gradually that the grimmer implications
lrlrcnomenon are borne in upon him. when, thereforen
n .lriltl
expresses the wish that a given person, even
t nr';rr relative, would die, our feelings would not be so
as they sometimes
ffir were we to interpret the
* r',lr fr.m the point of view of the child. The same remark
nl,1,li1' s to the dreams or adults in which the death of
n rr(';rr :rnd dear relative takes place, dreams in which the,
rrr' 1,' r' l)' ing
repressed wish is usually concealed by an
' rr,tirn
of grief. But on the other hand the signifitance.
r,l death-wishes
is not to be under-estimated,
f,r t lrc later conflicts they may give rise
can be of
llr. rrrrn' st importance
for the person' s mental welfare,
nrr,l tlris in spite of the fact that in the vast majority of
I ir' .r"i tht:y remain merely wishes. Not that they always
r.rrr;tirl rvishcs, even in children. Some years ago (in
l ,.ssn
YS l N Al ' ,t' l -l ED I' SYCHO-ANALYSIS
. I rtrticlcs cntitled 'Infant Murderers' in the Britislt
cr l r t O[ t al
Children's Diseases, Nov. r9o4, p.
i;;' "' r' go5, P.
27a) I collected a series of murders com-
'b/ jealous young children, and, referring to the
_ t^_t
occurrence of jealousy beitween children in the
"o1tl"?j*tft, pointed out the possible dangers arising from
same l l dr t r
: '
realisation by children of the significance
of death. \r'l' *'6i'yh"
jealousies the most important, and the
one ,iin-
which we are here occupied, is that experienced
L _ - w)y torvards his father. The precise form of early
DY a
betu'een child and father is in general a matter
r .. :^rnportance in both sexes and plays a predominat-
future development of the child' s characterl
has been expounded in an interesting essay by
;--:-";- ,7here
he gives it its due importance, though to
exclusion of the mother's influence. The
that at present concerns us is the resentment
;JI of,o"
o.t towards his father. when the latter disturbs,
must, his enjoyment of his mother's exclusive
r nis feeling is the deepest source of the world-old
son, between the younger and the
the favourite theme of so many poets and
central motif of most mythologies and religions.
Wfl t9fSr
importance that this conflict, and the
breaking away of the child from the author-
parents, has both for the individual and for
,::, la
de^r1y stated in the following passage of Freud's:z
socl ety
of the growing individual from the autho-
,iy .i
parents is one of the most necessary, but also
' Die
Bedeutung des Vaters fiir das Schicksal des
u'!s2cllopathol' Forschungen' rQoQ'Bd' I'
' crsonal
communication quoted by Rank: Der Mythus von der
(i i :brrl t 4,' 2
I' Iel tl en' I9@' S' 6+'
ar f f
. . {' \ l l :
l t r l l , l l : i i
r' ..' ,' l t l rc most pai nful , achi evements of devel opment. It
* i rl r' . . l rrt r: l y necessary f or i t t o be carri ed out , and we
mr;rv r:.sunl o that every normal human bei ng has to a
rr rr rrn t ' xt cnt managed t o achi eve i t . I ndeed, t he progress
' l
rr,r' i .t)
depends i n general on thi s opposi ti on of the
| * r,
1' r. i l t : rAt i ons. '
l r \\' as Freudr who fi rst demonstrated, when deal i ng
nrtfr tl rr: subj ect of the earl i est mani festati ons of the sexual
rr' trrr.t i n chi l dren, that the confl i ct rests i n the l ast resort
' .,' xrr:rl grounds. He has shewn2 that this instinct is instinct does
nr,t , r:i is generally supposed, differ from other biological
l r t r t , l i r l t t s bv suddenl v l eani no i nf n hpi r "r ' q| +Lo
^f f a ^{
by suddenly leaping into being at the age of
j,rrlrr' 1ry in all its full and developed activity, but that like
r ,t l r . r' li r n ctions it undergoes a gradual evolution and only
rl,rrrl\' ;rttains the particular form in which we know it in
thr' ;t' lrrlt. A child has to learn how to love just
as it has
t' l,';rrn horv to walk, although the former function is so more intricate and delicate in,jts adjustment than
tlr. l:rttcr that the development of it is a correspondingly
rl, ,r\ ,'r' and more involved process. The earliest sexual
fn;rrril.stations are so palpably unadapted to what is gener-
nilv ..nsidered to be the ultimate aim of the function,
Rrr, | :rrc so general and tentative in contrast with the
rr l.rtivr: precision of the later ones, that the sexual nature
r,l tlrr.rn is commonly not recognised at all.
important theme cannot be further pursued here,
lrrrt it must be mentioned how frequently these earliest
,lrr r r :r*'akenings are evoked by the intimate physical rela-
Ir' ,rr.i t:xisting between the child and the persons of his
lircud: Die Traumdeutung, r9oo, s. 176-go. He has strikingly
r l l , r , t r , r t . r l
t he subj ect i n a det ai l ed st udy of ayoung boy:
, Anal yse
l' lr,' lrr. t' incs ftinl.yihrigen Knaben' , jahrb.
J,, fsachoanalyt.
u. psirclto-
/,0r.echi l rt,qen, IgO9, Bd. I.
[' ' rcrr<l: l)rci Abhandlungen zur sexualtheorie,
4. Aufl. rg2o.
irrrnrr.rli:rtc cnvironment,
above all, therefore, his mother'
is a considerable
variability in both the date and
thc intensity of these early sexual impressionst
this depend-
i , , gpar t l yont heboy' sconst i t ut i on. andpar t l yont l r e
the attraction
exercised by the mother is
excessive it may exert a controlling
influence over the
boy,s later destiny; a mass of evidence
in demonstration
of this, too extensive
to refer to in detail, has been
published in the psycho-analytical
literature' Of the various
results that may be cause,C by the complicated interaction
this influence
and others only one or two need
be mentioned.
If the awakened
passion undergoes an
i nsuffi ci ent' repressi on' -_an
event most frequent when
the mother il a widorv-then
the boy may remain
life abnormally
to his mother and unable
to love any other womant a not uncommon cause of
He may be gradually
weaned from the
if it is less stron$r
though it often happens
that the weaning is incomplete
so that he is able to fa[l
i nl oveonl ywi t hwomenwhoi nsomewayr esembl et he
mot her ; t hel at t er occur r encei saf r equent causeof
marriage between relatives,
?s has been interestingly
ted out by
The maternal influence may also
manifest itself by imparting
a strikingly tender feminine
side to the later charactei.2
when, on the other hand,
blatt, I9o8, S. rl5o.
This trait in Hamlet's character has often been the subject ol
see especially Bodensted:' Hamlet"
rg6i; Vining's suggestion
that Hamlet really was a woman
has been mentioned earlier itt tt
present essay. That the same trait
was a prominent one of Shakesp""re'-s
himself is well known
(see' for
institnce, l}radley,s works), a fact which the appellation of
srrffi ci cntl y rccal l s; Harri s (op' ci t' ' p' 273) even wri tes: ' ' Whenever
gct untlcr the skin, it is Shakespe-are' s
which startles uS' l
tlrr: rrr' orrscd fccling is intensely
and associated
rr rtlr slr:rrne, guilt, and similar reactions the submergence
rrr;ty lrr: so complete as to render the person incapable
f' \l)(' rir:ncing
any feeling at all of attraction for thetpposite
to him all women are as forbidden as his mother.
llris rnay declare itself in pronounced
misogyny or even,
* lr.rr combined with other factors, in actual homosexuality,
.r., S:rrl gerl
has shewn.
attitude towards the successful rival, namely
tlrr' lirther,
also varies with-among
other factors_the
' rr.rrt
to which the aroused feelings have been,repressed,.
lf tlris is only slight, then the natural resentment against
tlrr' firther may be more or ress openly manifested later on,
:r r'('lrcllion which occurs commonly
enough, though the
Ir rrr: meaning of it is not recognised.
To this iource
f rr;rry social revolutionaries-perhaps
all-owe the original
of their rebelliousness
against authorityr
dS can
,' lt.rr
be plainly traced-for
instance, with shelley ancl
The unimpeded
train of thought in the ,rrr.orrr-
I r"s logically
culminates in the idea, or rather the rvish,
th:rr the father (ot
his substitute)
may disappear from the
hr f' .(:, i. e. that he may die. shakespeare
himself provides
* r' ()o(l example of this (King
Henry IV,
IIi in the
n, (' n(.
between the dying king and his son:
I'r|,,',' [rcnry.
I never thought to hear you speak again.
Arn.1' /[enry.
Thy wish rvas fattrer, Harry, to that thought.
fl, orr thc other hand, the
is consi,Cerable, then
tlr. lr,stility towards the father will be correspondingly
S;rrl gcr:
' Fragment der
ei nes Fromosexuei l en,,
ttl t/' '
/. ser. zzai schenstqfen,
r9og, Bd. IX;
di e kontrl re, Sexual _
1' rr;rf 111rl rrrrg l rci l bari ' , zei tschr.
i f.
sexual zui ft,
Dez. l gng;
A' t r"l , ' r' i r: t l c' l <orrt r: i rcn Scxual cmpf i ndung, ,
-nf et l i z.
K/ i ni h, r9o9, Nr. z.
! !
Sr : c Wi t t cl s:
' I ' r agi sche
Mot i ve, r 9r l , S. I 53.
. 1 . 1.
t l ,
(lonc(:ilI(:(l l-rom consciousness;
this is usually
byt he<l evel opment of t hl opposi t esent i ment , namel yof
anexagger at edr egar dand' "' p"t ' f or hi m' andamor bi d
for his welfare,
which completely
cover the true
The complete
of the
wish is not
only that the
die, but that the son should
t henespouset hemot her . Thi swasopenl yexPr essedby
in speaking
of boys: ' If we were left to ourselves
and if our bodily
only came
up to that of our
we would wring our fathers'
necks and sleep with
our mothers.,
The attitude of son to parents is so trans-
in the oedipus
as developed
for instance
in Sophocles'
that the group of mental
in que'tio"
is generally known
under the name
of tn.' Oedi Pus-comPl ex"
Wear enowi naposi t i ont oexpandandcompl et e
the suggestions
offered above in connection
with the Hamlet
The story thus interpreted
would run somewhat
as follorvs.
As a child Hamlet had experienced
the warmest
f or hi smot her , andt hi s, "' i sal waysSor hadcont ai ned
el ement sof adi sgui seder ot i cqual i t y' The- pr esenceof
Die Traumdeuhrg,
r9oo, S. r8l.Valuable
of the mythologi."l
of the subj"ect are given by Abraham'
undMyt hus, r gog' andRank, op' ci t ' Rankhasal sowor kedt hr ough
i ngr eat det ai l t hevar i ou, *uy, i nwhi cht hesamet hemgi smadeuse
of in literature:
Das Inzest-Motiv
in Dichtung und Sage, |g|2, especially
Kap. vIII which contains an excellent analysis of the oedipus
Here, as throughout
this essay, I closely follow Freud's inter-
pretation given in the footnote p,el,iou,ly referred to. He there points
out the inadequacy
of the
deals with Hamlet's to*uri his' mother,
father, and uncle, and mentions
two other
mattcrs tSat will presently be discussed, the significance
of Hamlet' s
rcaction ilgainst ophelia and of the probability
that the play was written
aftcr the death of Shakespeare' s
own father'
r\ lls\' (:l lO-ANn LY' t' tC St' UDy OF HAMLET
rr' , tr.its in the
Queen' s
character go to corroborate this
,r' ,srrrrrJrtion,
namely her markedly sensual nature and her
fondness for her son. The former is indicated
rf r tro many places in the play to need specific reference,
,rrrrl is generally recognised.
The latter is also manifest;
(' l rrrrrl i us
says, for i nstance (Act
IV, sc.
i l ,
lrrs r'other lives almost by his looks'. Nevertheless
' .r' (' ,s to have with more or less success weaned himself
Ir,r'r her and to have fallen in love with ophelia. The
r:t;ise nature of his original feeling for ophelia is a little
we may assume that at least in part it was composed
,,1 ;r normal love for a prospective
bride, though the extrav-
.r';rnce of the language used (the
need for
;rlrsolute certainty,
etc.) suggests a somewhat morbid frame
mind. There are indications that even here the influence
r'l the old attraction for the mother is still exerting itself.
r\lthough some writers, following
see in bphelia
fnany traits of resemblance to the
surely more stiiking
*r't: the traits contrasting with those of the
t'rrth there may be in the many German conceptions of
t )phelia
as a sensual wanton
that have
lrr:cn confuted by Loenirg
and others-still the very fact
tlr:rt it needed what Goethe happily called the
rrr.s*nity' to reveal the presence of any such libidinous thoughts
in itself the modesty and chasteness of her
lr;rlritual demeanour.
Her naive pieg, her obedient resignation
her unreflecting.
simplicity sharply contrast with the
Goethe: wilhelm Meister, rV, r+.
whore being ho' ers in
.r)(" sweet voluptuousness' .
' Her fancy is moved, her qu[t modesty
l' r(' athes loving desire, and should the gentle Goddess opportunity shake
thr. tree the fruit would at once fall' .
For instance, Storffrich: Psychologische
Aufschliisse iiber Shake.
r| ,r' ;rrcS
Haml et, r85g, S. r3r; Di etri ch, op. ci t., S. rz9; Ti eck, Drama_
t,rrHi sche Bl 6tter, II, S.
Loening: op. iit., cap. XIII.
' charakter, und Liebe ophelias.
\ 2I i ssAYSI Nnl ' l ' >l - l t sDI ' SYCFI O- ANALYSI S
and seem to indicate that Hamlet by a
reaction towards the opposite extreme
unknowingly been impelled to choose a woman who should
least remind him of his mother. A case might even be
made out for the view that part of his courtship
not so much in .direct attraction for Ophelia as in an
runconscious desire to . play her off against his mother,
a disappointed
and piqued lover so often has resort to
of a more willing rival. It would be hard
otherwise to understand the readiness
with which he later
throws himself into this part. when, for instance, in the
play scene he replies
to his mother's request to sit by
her with the *ord, ' No, good mother, here' s metal more
attractive' and proceeds to lie at ophelia's
feet, we seem
to have a direct indication of this attitude; and his coarse
familiarity and bandying
of ambiguous
jests with the woman
he has recently ,o
jilted are hardly intelligible
unless we Ueai in mind that they were carried out under
t heheedf ul gazeof t heQueen. I t i saSt houghhi s
**," trying to convey
to her the following
give yourself to other men whom you
prefer to me. Let me assure you that I can dispense with
your favours and even prefer those of a woman whom I longer love.' His extraordinary
of bawdiness
on this occasion,
So unexpected
in a man of obviously
fine feeling, points unequivocally
to the sexual nature of
the underlYing
Now comes the father's death and the mother's
marriage. The association
of the idea of sexuality
with his
mother, buried since infancy, can no longer be concealed
from his consciousness.
As Bradleyl
well says: 'Her son
was forced to see in her action not only an astounding
of feeling, but an eruption of coarse sensuality'
l l radl eY: oP. ci t . ,
r I 8'
r,rrrk :rncl gross," speeding post-haste to its horrible
,l,' liglrt' .
I.,-eelings which once, in the infancy of long aso,
\\ r' r' (:
desires can now, because of his repressions,
r,rly lill him with repulsion. The long ' repressed' desire
|, r t:rlie his father's place in his mother's affection is
to unconscious activity by the sight of someone
r lr r r r'1 ring this place exactly as he himself had once longed
t, rl,. More, this someone was a member of the same family,
) that the actual usurpation further resembled the
one in being incestuous. Without his being in
tlrr' lcast aware of it these ancient desires are ringing in
lr'i rnind, are once more struggling to find conscious ex-
and need such an expenditure of energy again
t, 'rcpress' them that he is reduced to the deplorable
f rrr' s1[i1l state he himself so vividly depicts.
follows the Ghost's announcement that the
l.rtlrr:r' s death was a willed one, was due to murder.
ll,trrrlct, having at the moment his mind filled with natural
at the news, anslvers normally enough with the
r ' r \ ' ( Act .
I , Sc.
5) ,
Flaste me to knolv't, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
Moy sweep to my revenge.
I lr,: momentous words follow revealing who was the
rrrlty person, namely a relative who had committed the
,l,' ,' r
I at the bidding of lust.
Hamlet' s second guilty rvish
h;r, I tlr us also been realised by his uncle, namely to pro-
| ,r.
the fulfilment of the first-the possession of the
rrrr rtlrt:r--by
a personal deed, in fact by murcler of the
f rtlr.r' . The two recent events, the father' s death and the
lt is not maintained that this was by any means claudius, whole
.,,"1^' (' , llut it was evidently a polverful one and the one that most
,,r,1,r 1..;:i g{.1 I Iantl ct.
. ' r : "
mother,s second marriage, seemed to the world to have
no inner causal relation
to each other, but they represented
ideas which in Hamlet's unconscious fantasy had for many
years been closely associated.
These ideas now in a moment
forced their way to conscious recognition
in spite of all
forces', and found immediate expression in his
almost reflex cry:
O *y prophetic soul ! My uncle ?
frightful truth his unconscious
had already intuitively divined
his consciousness
had now to assimilate,
as best it could'
For the rest of the interview Hamlet is stunned by the
effect of the internal conflict
thus re-awakened,
from now on never ceasesr and into the essential nature
of which he never
one of the first manifestations
of the awakening
the old conflict in Hamlet's mind is his reaction against
This is doubly conditioned,
by the two opposing
attitudes in his own mind. In the first place, there is a
complex reaction in regard to his mother' As was explained
above, the being forced to connect the thought of his
mother with sensuality
leads to an intense sexual revulsion,
one that is only temporarily
broken down by the coarse
outburst discussed
above. Combined
with this is a fierce
jealousy, unconscious
of its forbidden origin, at
ln" sight of her giving herself to another man' a man
had no reason rvhatever either to love or to
respect. Consciously
this is allowed to express itselft for
instance after the prayer scene, only in the form of extreme
and bitter reproaches
against her' His resentment
against women is still further inflamed by the hypocrit-
ical prudishness
with which Ophelia follows her father and
brother in seeing evil in his natural affectionr oo attitude
rvhich poisons his love in exactly the same way that the
love of his chilclhood,
like that of all children, must have
l l ecnpoi soned. Hecanf or gi veawomannei t her her .
rrir.ction of his sexual advances nor, still less, her alliance
rvitlr another man. Most intolerable of all to him, as
Itrrrrllcy rvell remarks, is the sight of sensuality in a quarter
f r orn rvhich he had trained himself ever since infancy
r igorously to exclude it. The total reaction culminates in the
lrittt:r misogyny of his outburst against Ophelia, rvho is devast-
;rtr:<l at having to bear a reaction so wholly out of proportion
to lrer own offence and has no idea that in reviling her Hamlet
rs rcally expressing his bitter resentment against his mother.l
I have heard of your paintings too, well enough;
io<l has given you one face, and you make yourselves
;rnotherl you jig, you amble, and you lisp, and nickname
iotl's creatures, and make your wantonness your ignorance.
t io to, I' ll no more on' t; it hath made me mad' (Act III,
.\ic. I
On only one occasion does he for a moment escape
lrom the sordid implication with which his love has been
rrnl)regnated and achieve a healthier attitude toward
)phelia, namely at the open grave when in remorse he
lrrcaks out at Laertes for presuming to pretend that his
lccling for her could ever equal that of her lover.
The intensity of Hamlet's repulsion against woman in
qcncral, and Ophelia in particular, is a measure of the
repression'. to which his sexual feelings are being
:;rrl>jected. The outlet for those feelings in the direction
of his mother has always been firmly dammed, and now
tlr:rt the narrower channel in Ophelia's direction has also
lrt:cn closed the increase in the original direction
His similar tone and advice to the two women shew plainly
lrorv closely they are identified in his mind. Cp. 'Get thee to a nun-
n(' ry: rvhy wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners ' (Act III, Sc. z) with
' licfrain to-night; And that shall lend a kind of easiness To the next
.rbsti nence' (Act III, Sc.
identification is further demonstrated in the course of the
1' lay
by Hamlet' s killing the men who stand between him and these
r' orncn (Cl audi us
and Pol oni us).
: f
, -f {
consequent on the awakening of early memories tasks all
his energy to maintain the 'repression. ' His pent up feelings
find a partial vent in other directions. The petulant irascib-
ility and explosive outbursts called forth by his vexation at
the hands of Guildenstern and Ros encrantz, and especially of
Polonius, are evidently to be interpreted in this way, as also
is in part the burning nature of his reproaches to his mother.
Indeed towards the end of his interview with his mother
the thought of her misconduct expresses itself in that
almost physical disgust rvhich is so characteristic a mani-
festation of intensely 'repressed' sexual feeling.
Let the bloart king tempt you again to bed;
Pinch rvanton on yotlr cheek; call you his mouse;
And let him, for a pair of reechy kisses,
Or paddling in your neck with his damn'd fingers,
Make you to ravel all this matter out, (Act III' Sc.
Hamlet's attitude towards Polonius is highly instruc-
tive. Here the absence of family tie and of other similar
influences enables him to indulge to a relatively unrestrained
extent his hostility towards the prating and sententious
dotard. The analogy he effects between Polonius and
is in this connection especially pointed. It is
here that rve see his fundamental attitude torvards moralis-
ing elders who use their power to thwart the happiness
of the young, and not in the over-drawn and melodramatic
portrait in which he delineates his father: 'A combination
and a form indeed, where every god did seem to set his
seal to give the rvorld assurance of a man.'
What Shakespeare thought of
behaviour towards his
<laughtcr may be gathered from a reference in Henry VI, Part III,
Act V, Sc. t. See al so on thi s subj ect Wordsworth: On Shakespeare' s
l ( non' l ct l gc r t t t t l Usc ol ' t hc l l i bl c, r 864, p. 67'
It will be seen from the foregoing that Hamlet's
:rttitude towards his uncle-father is far more complex than
is generally supposed. He of course detests him, but it is
tlrc jealous
detestation of one evil-doer towards his
srrccessful fellow. Much as he hates him, he can never
rlcnounce him with the ardent inclignation that boils straight
l'r'.m his blood when he reproaches his mother, for the
nlore vigorously he denounces his uncle the more power-
lirlly does he stimulate to activity his own unconscious
' r-cpressed' complexes. He is therefore in a dilemma between
the one hand allorving his natural detestation of his
rrncle to have free play, a consummation which would stir
st ill further his own horrible wishes, and on the other
lr:rnd ignoring the imperative cail for the vengeance that
lris obvious duty demands. His own evil prevents him
Irrrn completely denouncing his uncle's, and in continuing
t, 'repress' the former he must strive to ignore, to con-
rfrnc, and if possible even to forget the latter; his moral
/ttlc is bound up utitlz ltis uncle'sifor good or i//. In reality
lris .ncle incorporates the deepest and most buried part
r,l his own personality,
so that he cannot kill him without
;rlso l<illing himself. This solution, one closely akin to what
l''r'r:udl has shewn to be. the motive of suicide in melancholia,
r\ nctually the one that Hamlet finally adopts. The course
r ,l :rltcrnate action and inaction that he embar-ks ofl, and
I)rovocations he gives to his suspicious uncle, can lead.
other end than to his o\\rn ruin and, incidentally, to
tlr;rt of his uncle. only when he has made the final sacrifice
,rrrrl lrro.ght himself to the door of death is he free to
frrllil his duty, to avenge his father, and to slay his other
, , , ' l l
l r i s uncl e.
I' ' r.crrtl : ' I' raucr und l\{elancholie,, vierte sammlung kleiner
l r nf t ( . n, r 918, l i : r p. XX.
tsSSAYS IN nl ' PLIIl D I' SYCI l O-,\NAl ,\' Sl S
There is a second reason why the call of duty to
kill his step-father cannot be obeyed, and that is because
it links itself with the unconscious call of his nature to
kill his mother's husband, whether this is the first or the
second; the absolute
trepression' of
the former impulse
involves the inner prohibition of the latter also. It is no
chance that Hamlet says of himself that he is prompted
to his revenge 'by heaven and hell'.
In this discussion of the motives that move or restrain
Hamlet we have purposely depreciated the subsidiary ones'
r,vhich also play a part, so as to bring out in greater
relief the deeper and effective ones that are of prepon-
derating importance. These, as we have seen, spring from
sources of rvhich he is quite unaware, and we might
summarise the internal conflict of rvhich he is the victim
as consisting in a struggle of the
mental processes
to become conscious. The call of duty, which automatically
arouses to activity these unconscious processes, conflicts
with the necessity of
them still more strongly;
for the more urgent is the need for external action the
greater is the effort demanded of the
Action is paralysed at its very inception, and there is thus
produced the picture of apparently causeless inhibition
which is so inexplicable both to Hamlet
and to readers
The situation is perfectly depicted by Hamlet in his cry
(Act IV, Sc.
I do not know
Why yet I l i ve to say ' thi s thi ng' s to do' ,
Sith I have cause, and rvill, and strength, and means,
To do' t.
With greater insight he could have replaced the word' will' by
'pious wish', which as Loening (op.cit., S. 246) points ouf it obviously
means. Curiously enough, Rolfe (op. cit., p.
quotes this very passage
in support of Werder's hypothesis that Hamlet was inhibited by the
thought of the external difficulties of the situation, which shews the
straits the supporters of this untenable hypothesis are driven to.
n PSY(-I l()-nNALY' l' tC St' UDy Ot' I-IAMLET
, rf t he play. This paralysis arises, however, not from
or moral cowardice, but from that intellectual
r'.rvar<lice, that reluctance to dare the exploration of his
nrnor soul, which Hamlet shares rvith the rest of the
Irrrman race.
conscience does make corvards of
ns al l . '
we have finally to return to the subject rvith rvhiclr
\\'(: started, namely poetic creation, and in this connection
|o inquire into the relation of Hamlet's conflict to the
rnnor workings of Shakespeare's mind. It is here maintained
tlr:rt this conflict is an echo of a similar one in Shakespeare
lrirnself, as to a greater or lesser extent with all men. As
\\';rs remarked earlier in this essay, the vierv that Shake-
'it)care depicted in Hamlet the most important part of his
r r\vo inner self is a wide-spread and doubtless a correct
r urc.
Bradl ey,z who says that in Hamlet Shakespeare
rvrote down his own heart, makes the interesting comment:
\vc do not feel that the problems presented to most of
r lr t: tragic heroes could have been fatal to Shakespeare
lrimself. The immense breadth and clearness of his intellect
u'ould have saved him from the fate of Othello, Troilus,
|,r Anthony.
do feel, I think, and he himself rray
lr;rvc felt, that he could not have coped rvith Hamlet's
It is, therefore, as much beside the point to
rnrlrrire into Shakespeare's conscious intention, moral,
political or othenvise, in the play as it is vyith most works
senius. The play is simply the form in rvhich his deepest,
See especially Dtiring: Shakespeare' s Hamlet seinem Grund-
11r' tllnkcn und Inhalte nach erlliuter! 1865; Taine: Histoire de la
l rtti .rature angl ai se, 1866, t.[, p. 254: Vi scher: Al tes und Neues, rggz,
I lt' lt
Hermann: Erglnzungen und Berichtigungen der hergebrachten
\l r;rkespeare-Bi ographi e,
Bradlel' : Oxford I-ectures on
r9o9, p.
unconscious feelings find their spontaneous expression,
without any inquiry being possible on his part as to the
essential nature or source of those feelings.
It is, of course, probable that in rvriting the play
Shakespeare was not only inspired from the personal and
intimate sources we have indicated, but was also influenced
by his actual conscious experiences. For instance, there
is reason to suppose that in painting the character of
Hamlet he had in mind some of his contemporaries,
notably William Herbert, later Lord Pembroke,
Robert Earl of Essex.
Some authors
have provided us
rvith complete schemes indicating exactly which contemp-
orary figures tltey surmise to be mirrored in each one in
the play.
repeated allusion to the danger of Ophelia's
conceiving illegitimately may be connected with both
Flerbert, who was imprisonecl for being the father of an
illegitimate child, and the poet himself, rvho hastily married
to avoid the same stigma. Frank Harris,a following up Tyler's
concerning the poet's relations to M*y Fitton,
has persuasively expounded the view that Shakespeare
wrote 'Hamlet' as a reaction against his deep disappointment
at being betrayed by his friend Herbert. Many of Harris'
suggestions are easily to be reconciled with the theory
here advanced. The following passage, for instancer maY
be quoted:
'Why did Hamlet hate his mother's lechery ?
Nlost men rvould hardly have condemned it, certainly
rvould not have suffered their thoughts to dwell on it
Dci ri ng: Haml et, 1898, S. gS.
tHamlet' s
Familie' , Shafres/' s Tahrbuclt,
Bd. XW,
s' 274.
For instance, French: Shakespeareana Genealogica, r869, p.
llarris: op. cit.. See also his Shakespeare and His Love, IgIo'
and The Women of Shakespeare, I9Ir.
5 ' l ' yl cr:
Shakespeare' s Sonnets, r89o.
' I' hc
\' lan Shakespeare, I9o9, p. 269.
lrr'_1'ond the momentl
but to Hamlet his mother's faith-
l,:ssncss was horrible, shameful, degrading, simply because
I lrunlethakespeare had identified her with Miss Fitton,
;trrd it was Miss Fitton's faithlessness, it was her deception
he was condemning in the bitterest words he could find.
I Ic thus gets into a somewhat unreal tragedy, a passionate
i,rtcnsity which is otherwise u'holly inexplicable.' Indeed,
| larris considers
that 'shakespeare owes the greater part
of his renown to Mary Fitton'. As is rvell known, the
rvhole M"ry Fitton story rests on a somewhat slender
lrasis, but it is certainly reasonable to suppose that if
Shakespeare had passed through such an experience it
rvould have affected him very deeply because of his peculiar
scnsitiveness to it; one cannot forget that it was he who
If, therefore, there is any historical truth
in Harris' suggestions'we should have an excellent example
of what Freud has termed ' over-determination ', that is to
say, the action of two mental impulses in the same
<lirection. It was pointed out above that Hamlet's excessive
reaction to his mother's conduct needed some other
r:xplanation than the mere fact of this conduct, but if
part of this excess arose from Shakespeare's feeling about
Miss Fitton,
part of it arose from a deeper source still.
Gertrude may stand Mary Fitton, but behind
Mury Fitton certainly stands Shakespeare's mother.
Much light is throrvn on our subject by an historical
study of the circumstances under which the play arose'
In their judgements on this point how much nearer Bradley is
than Harris to the fount of feeling.
Harri s: op. ci t., p. 23r.
The fact is certainly noteworthy 'that throughout the great
tragic period of Shakespeare's
one of the prevailing notes towards
the whole sex-question is of absolute nausea and abhorrence' (Figgis:
op. cit., p. 284).
though such a study also raises some further questions
that have not yet been satisfactorily answered. The exact
source of Shakespeare's plot and the date at which he
wrote the play are two of the knottiest problems in the
history of English literature, and we shall see that they
both possess a considerable interest for our purpose. To
knorv precisely what versions of the Hamlet story were
accessible to Shakespeare before he wrote his play would
tell us what were his own contributions to it, a piece of
knorvledge that would be invaluable for the study of his
personality. Again, to know the exact date of his com-
position might enable us to connect the impulse to write
the play with significant events in his own life.
As far as has been at present ascertained, the facts
seem to be somewhat as follows. Shakespeare must cer-
tainly have taken not only the skeleton of the plot, but
also a surprising amount of detail, from earlier writings.
It is not absolutely known, however, which of these he
had actually read, though it is probable that most of the
follou'ing sources were available to him, all derived from
the Hamlet legend as narrated early in the thirteenth cent-
ury by Saxo Grammaticus. This was printed, in Latin, in
translated into German by Hans Sachs in r
5 5
and into French by Belleforest in r
It is very pro-
bable that a rough English translation of Belleforest's ver-
sion-we say version rather than translation, for it
contains numerous modifications of the story as told by
Saxo-was extant throughout the last quarter of the
sixteenth century, but the only surviving copy, entitled
' The Hystorie of Hamblet', actually dates from r 6o8,
Belleforest: Histoires tragiques (156+), t. V. r17o. This may
have bccn derived directly from Saxo, but more likely from another
j ntermcdi ary
now unknown.
;trrrl lJlzer has given reasons for thinking that whoever
r.rsucd it had first read an English 'Hamlet', possibly
Slr:rlicspeare's own. For at least a dozen years before
Shakcspeare wrote his 'Hamlet' there was a drama of
thc same name being played in Englandl references to it
\\' crc made in 1589 by Nash2 and in 1596 by Lodge.s
suggestion, first made by Malonea in r82 r, that this
is from the hand of Thomas Kyd has been strongly
confirmed by later researchs and may now be regarded
;rs almost certainly established. There is contemporary
cvidenceo shewing that it was played at Newington Butts'
;rlrout rSg4 by the Lord Chamberlain's company, of which
.shakespeare was at that time a member. Henslowe inci-
r lcntally makes ic plain that it was a very common practice
lirr dramatists to avail themselves freely of the material,
rvhether of plot, character, or even language, supplied by
t heir prddecessors or Contemporaries, md, apart from the
rnoral certainty that Shakespeare must have been familiar
rvith this play and drawn on it for his own, there is good
rt:ason for thinking that he incorporated actual parts of it
i n hi s
Haml et' .?
Now unfortunately no copy of Kyd's play has sur-
vived. We can compare Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' with the
liclleforest translation of Saxo's prose story and also with
Elze: William Shakespeare, 1876.
Nash :
the Gentlemen Students of both Universities', pre-
tixed to Greene' s Menaphon, or Arcadia, 1589.
Lodge: Wits miserie, and the Worlds madnesse, r
Malone: Variorum, r8zl, Vol. II.
See Widgery: op. cit., pp. roo et seq; Fleay: Chronicle of the
l rngl i sh Drama, r89l ; Sarrazi n: Thomas Kyd und sei n Krei s, t89z;
orbi n: The El i zabethan Haml et, r895.
I{enslowe's Diary, rfu9, reprinted by the Shakespeare Society,
r t {45.
See Sarrazin: op. cit.
and Robertson: The Problem of ' Hamlet' ,
t ( - ) r 9, pp.
34- 4I .
the English modification of this, the 'Hystorie of Hamblet',
both of which he probably used; but not with the
E,lizabethan play, which he almost certainly used. We
therefore cannot tell with surety which of his deviations
from the original story originated with Shakespeare and
rvhich of them were merely taken over from Kyd. And it
is just from deviations such as these that we can learn
much of the personality of the writerl they are unmistak-
ably his own contributions, whether they consist in
positive additions or in negative
Still the case is not quite so desperate as it seems.
In the first place we have a copy-late, it is true, being
printed only in r
r o-of a German play,
Brudermord oder Prinz Hamlet aus Dinemark,' which was
played at least as early as t6z6 in Dresden, and which
intrinsic evidence proves to emanate, at all events in great
part, from a very early and probably pre-Shakespearean
version of 'Hamlet'.l The differences between it and Shake-
speare's 'Hamlet' u'ill be discussed later. In the second
place a comparison can be instituted between 'Hamlet'
and the surviving plays of Kyd, for instance 'The
Tragedy' where there is also the theme of motiveless
hesitation on the part of a hero who has to avenge his
next-of-kin's murder. The characteristics of the two
writers are so distinct that it is not very difficult for expert
critics to tell with rvhich a given passage or part of a plot
is likely to have originated. The third consideration is a
purely psychological one. It is in the last resort not of
such absorbing interest whether Shakespeare took only
part of a plot or the whole of it from other sources; the
Bernhardy,' Shakespeare' s Hamlet. Ein literar-historisch kritischer
Versuch,' llanburger literarisch-hritisclze Bldtter, ISST
Cohn: Shake-
speare i n Germany, 1865; Latham: Two Di ssertati ons, 1872.
esscntial point is that he took, or made, a plot of such
a kind as to enable him to express his deepest personal
fcelings and thoughts. The intrinsic evidence from the play
tlccisively shews that Shakespeare projected into it his
inmost soul; the plot, whether he made it or found it,
trccame his own, inasmuch as it obviously corresponded
rvith the deepest part of his own nature. One has only
for a moment to compare the treatment of the similar
themes in 'Hamlet' and in ' The Spanish Tragedy' to
realise how fundamentally different was Shakespeare's and
l(yd's reaction to them.
In addition to these definite sources ruder accounts
of the old Amleth story, of Irish and Norse origin, were
widely spread in England, and the name Hamlet itself, or
some modification of it, was common in the Stratford
district.l As is well known, Shakespeare in I
his only son Hamnet, a frequent variant of the name;
the boy died in I
5 9
6. For all these reasons it is plain
that the plot of the tragedy must have been present in
Shakespeare's mind for many years before it actually took
form as a new composition. When this happened is a
matter of some uncertainty and considerable bearing. Many
arguments, which need not be repeated here, have been
{iven in favour of various dates between 1599 and t6oz;
tnore authorities can be cited to the effect that it was
rvritten in the winter of t6ot-z than at any other time.
On the basis of this Freud has made the highly interesting
srrgeestion that it followed as a reaction on the death ot
.Shakespeare's father; this event, which may well be sup-
to have had the same awakening effect on old
death-wishes as the death of Hamlet's father-
Elton: William Shakespeare. His Family and Friends, r9o4,
l f .
ESSr\YS l N Al ' l ' l -l L,l ) PSYCHO-ANALYSIS
had with Hamlet, took place in September 16o r. It is
certainly noteworthy that the only other play in which he
depicted a son's intimate relation to his mother, 'Corio-
lanus', was written just after the death of Shakespeare's
mother, in r 6o8 (though Frank Harris would doubtless
retort that this was also the year in which M"ry Fitton
finally left London).
Hamlet' was actually registered at Stationer's Hall
26, 16oz, with the words added 'as it was lately
acted.' In r 6o3 appeared the notorious pirated edition in
quarto, the official version (Q. z) following in 16o4. In a
recent remarkable textual study of the two quartos Dover
Wilsonr comes to the following conclusions. The first,
pirated quarto and the second, definitely Shakespearean
one were derived from the same source, an actor's copy
used in the theatre from 1593 onward. He dates Kyd's
play as being before t
and thinks that Shakespeare
partly revised this about I
S9r-2 ;
this revision was mainly
confined to the ghost scenes. The Elizabethan 'Hamlet '',
therefore, used by the Lord Chamberlain Players in the
sixteen-nineties would be a combination of Kyd's and
Shakespeare's work, possibly recast by these and even by
other dramatists from time to time. It is evident, however,
that Shakespeare countered the 16oz piracy by issuing
what was practically a re-written play, and the dates go to
confirm Freud's suggestion that this was done while he
was still under the influence of the thoughts stirred by his
father's death, an event u'hich is usually the turningaoint
in the mental life of a man.
If Dover
conclusions prove to be correct,
as seems probable, then we may have an answer to the
l)over Wilson: The Copy for ' Hamlet' , 16o3, and the ' Hamlet'
' l ' r anscr i pt
r 593; r gr 9.
r irklle provided by Harvey's marginal comments in his
of Speght's Chaucer, rvhich were presumably w-ritten
lx:forc February r 6o t
&S fixed by the date of Essex'
r lcath
in these he refers to Shakespeare's 'Hamlet
R cnewed interest in the point has been aroused by Moore
discovery of the copy in question which had
lx:cn missing for over a century. The passage in Harvey
:rnd also the inferred dates are by no means unequivocal,
lnrt even if the conclusion is accepted that it proves Shake-
speare's 'Hamlet' to have been in existence a couple of
before the date usually allotted to its composition
t lrcre is left the possibility that the reference is to the
r::rrly acting version only, which may well by that time
Ir:rve become more associated with Shakespeare's name
than with Kyd's, and not to the play that we know as
Shakespeare's Hamlet'.
The play that Shakespeare wrote next after
wirs probably 'Measure for Measure', the main theme of
rvhich Masson
considers to be 'mutual forgiveness and
about the some time, more likely before
tlran after
rvas written
Caesar', a play
t h at calls for some special consideration here. Here we
have a drama apparently devoid of any sexual problem
or motive, and yet it has been shewn, in Otto Rank's
.xcellent analysis,
that the inspiration of the main theme
is derived from the same complex as we have studied in
I lrrmlet. His thesis is that Caesar represents the father,
;rncl Brutus the son, of the typical Oedipus situation.
I'sycho-analytic work has shewn that a ruler, whether king,
president or what not, is in the unconscious
Moore Smith: Gabriel Harvey's Marginalia, r9r3, pp. viii-xii
. r r r , l z3z.
Masson: op. ci t . , p. r 33.
Rank: op. cit, S. zo4g.
! . ,
, , ;
' -i I
. l.l,
mind a typical father symbol,
and in actual life he tends
to draw on to himself the ambivalent attitude characteristic
of the son's feelings for the father, On the one hand a
ruler may be piously revered, respected and loved as the
r,r'ise and tender parentl on the other he may be hated
as the tyrannical authority against whom all rebellion is
justified. Very little experience of life is enough to she'ut'
that the popular feelings about any ruler are always
disproportionate, whether they are positive or negativel
one has only to listen to the different opinions expressed
about any actual ruler, e. g. Wilson, Lloyd George, or
Clemenceau. The most complete nonentity ffiaY, if only
he finds himself in the special position of kingship' be
regarded either as a model of all the virtues, to whom
all deference is due, or as a heartless tyrant rvhom it
would be a good act to hurl from his throne. We have
pointed out earlier the psychological origin of revolutionary
tendencies in the primordial rebellion against the father,
and it is with these that we are here mainly concerned.
In Hamlet the two contrasting elements of the normal
ambivalent attitude towards the father were expressed
towards two sets of people; the pious respect and love
towards the memory of his father, and the hatred, con-
tempt and rebellion towards the father-substitutes, Claudius
and Polonius. In other words, the original father has been
transformed into two fathers, one good, the other badn
corresponding with the division in the son's feelings. With
Caesar, on the other hand, the situation is simpler. He is
still the original father, both loved and hated at oncel
even by his murderer. That the tyrant aspect of Caesar,
the Caesar who has to be killed by a revolutionary'
in Shakespeare's mind associated with'Polonius, another
Sct' [nrcst
Papers on Psycho-Anal ysi r, 1918, p. r43-
father who has to be killed, is indicated by . curious
i tl cnti fi cati on of the two i n the' Haml et' pl ay: pol oni us
u'hen asked what part he had ever played answers (Act.
.Sc. z)
'I did enact
caesar : I was killed i' the
o.pitoll Brutus killed me.' Those who always underestimate
the absolute strictness vyith rvhich the whole of our mental
life is determined will pass this by; to those, however,
rvho are accustomed to trace out the determining factors
in unsparing detail it serves as one more example of horv
line are the threads connecting our thoughts.
rnight have quoted any other part on the stage, but it is
irn unescapable
that he chose just
this one.
Appropriate estimates disclose the curious fact, first
out by craik,
that Shakespeare made more
fr'cquent allusions to Caesar in his works than to any
other man of all past time; of all men in the range of
lristory caesar seems to have been the one who most
lir.scinated his imagination. There are so many passages
rrrocking at Caesar's hook nose and tendency to brag that
concludes these must have constituted special
lcatures in Shakespeare's
recollection of him. These exhi-
lrit-ionistic symbols accord well with the fact that the boy's
antipathy towards his father always centres
:rlrout that part of his father whose functioning most
c xcites his envy and jealousy.
That the two noble characters of Hamlet and Brutus
Irrve a great deal in common has often been remarked.
resemblances and differences in which the
:rttitudes torvards the
come to expression in the
t\\'o plays are of very great interest. In 'Julius caesar'
tlrt:y arc expressed by being incorporated in three different
Crai k: The Engl i sh of Shakespeare,
Ed., 1g64.
Masson: op. ci t . , p. r 77.
s"., for i nstance, Il rancl cs: wi l l i am shakcspeare, rg96, s.
l ' . 5S; \ \ ' S l N Al ' l ' l . l l i l ) I ' S\ ' ( . 1 l o- n Nn LYSI S
' s(xrs' .
' l' hus,
as Rank points out,
Brutus represents thc
son's rcbclliousness, Cassius his remorsefulness, and Anthony
his natural piety,2 the
father' remaining the same person.
ln 'Hamlet', on the other hand, the various aspects of
the son's attitude are expressed
by the device of describ-
i.g them in regard to three different
the love
and piety towards his actual father, the hatred and con-
tempt towards the father-type Polonius, md the conflict
of both towards his uncle-father, Claudius (conscious detest-
ation and unconscious sympathy and identification, one
paralysing the other). The parricidal wish in Shakespeare
is allowed to come to expression in the two plays by
being concealed in two different ways. In 'Hamlet' it is
displaced from the actual father to the father-substitutes.
In 'Julius Caesar' there is supposed to be no actual blood
relation between the two men, the
But a highly significant confirmation of the interpretation
here adopted is the circumstance that Shakespeare in
composing his tragedy entirely suppressed the fact that
Brutus was the actual, though illegitimate, son of Caesar;
this fact is plainly mentioned in Plutarch, the source ot
Shakespeare's plot, one which he almost literally followed
Even Caesar's famous death-cry 'Et tu, mi fili,
Brute !' appears in Shakespeare only in the weakened form
'Et tu, Brute!'. Rank comments on the further difference
between the two plays that the son's relation to the
Rank: op. cit., S. zog.
Against our treating Brutus, Cassius, and Anthony as tlpes in
this way it may be objected that they were after all actual historical
personages. But we are discussing them as they appear in Shakespeare,
to whom they owe most of their life; what we know of them histori-
cally is colourless and lifeless by comparison.
That is, in the main. As is indicated elsewhere in the text,
certain 'son' aspects are also depicted by, for instance, Laertes,
Delius:' Cisar undseineQuellen' Shakeslearc-Jahfiucl2, Bd. XVU.
r\ l ' SYCI t O-r\ Nnl -Y' l ' l c S' l ' t l DY OI HAMLET
nrother, the other side of the whole Oedipus complex, is
omitted in
Caesar', whereas, as we have seen, it is
strongly marked in 'Hamlet'. Yet even of this there is a
faint indication in the former play. In his great speech to
the citizens Brutus says
that I loved Caesar less, but
that I loved Rome more' (Act. III, Sc. z). Norv it is not
without interest in this connection that
cities, just like countries, are unconscious symbols of the
being an important source of the cons-
cious feeling of patriotism-so that the passage reads as
if Brutus, in a moment of intense emotion, had revealed
to his audience the unconscious motive from which his
action sprang.
Besides Shakespeare's obvious interest in Caesar, noted
above, there is another set of considerations, some of
rvhich were certainly known to Shakespeare, connecting
Brutus and Hamlet, and it seems likely that they consti-
tuted an additional influence in determining him to writb
the one play so soon after the other. They are these.
pointed out some striking resemblances between
Saxo's story of Amleth and the Roman legend of the
younger Brutus (Lucius
Brutus), and it is probable
that Saxo derived much of his story from the Latin
sources.s Both Plutarch and Belleforest were certainly
accessible to Shakespeare. In both cases a son has to
avenge a father who had been slain by a wicked uncle
who usurped the throne-for the usurper Tarquinius
Superbus had slain his brother-in-law, Brutus' father, as
See, for instance, Rank: 'Um Stadte werben', Interflationale Zeit-
Psyclzoanal1tse, Bd. II, S.
I quote from York Powell in Elton's translation of Saxo's Danish
I l i st ory, 1894, pp.
4o5 et seq.
Saxo' s two mai n sources \t' ere the Roman one and the Icel andi c
l l r r i l i ' Saga.
r .
t :
l . : ssn \ ' . s l N Al ' l ' l , l l i l ) l , . SYCI I O-ANALYSI S
\\' (:ll :rs lh' rrtus' l>rotherr -and in both cases the young
nlull fciencd madness in order to avoid arousing the suspic-
ions of the tyrant, whom in both cases he finally over-
threw. Of further incidental interest, though of course not
known to Shakespeare, is the fact that the name Hamlet2
has the same signification as that of Brutus, both words
meaning 'doltish', 'stupid'; the interest of this fact will be
pointed out presently.
There are numerous other indications of the influence
of his Oedipus complex throughout Shakespeare's works,
especially in the earlier ones-there are actually son-
father murders in Henry VI and Titus Andronicus-but
as this subject has been dealt rvith so exhaustively by
Rank in his rvork 'Das Inzest-Motiv in Dichtung und Sage'
it is not necessary to repeat his discussion of it here.
It is for two reasons desirable at this point to inter-
polate a short account of the mythological relations of the
original Hamlet legend, first so as to observe the personal
contribution to it made by Shakespeare, and secondly
because knowledge of it serves to confirm and amplify
the psychological interpretation given above.
Up to the present point in this essay an attempt has been
made on the whole to drive the argument along a dry, logical
path and to shew that prior to that given by Freud all
the explanations of the mystery end in blind alleys. So far
as I can see, there is no escape from the conclusion that
the cause of Hamlet's hesitancy lies in some unconscious
source of repugnance to his task; the next step of the
argument, however, in which a niotive for this repugnance
l)ionysius Halic: Antiquitates Rontanae, 1885, Vol. tV, pp.6L
Sce l)etter: Zeitschrift
deatsches Altertum, t8gz, Bd. VI,
S. I ct st . t 1.
r:i srrlrplicd, is avowedly based on considerations not
r3r:nt:r;rlly appreciated, though I have tried to minimise the
rlifiicrrlty by assimilating the argument to some commonly
:rcccpted facts. Now, there is another point of view from
rr'hich this labour would have been superfluous, in that
l,'rt:ud's explanation would appear directly obvious. To
:rnyone familiar with the modern interpretation, based on
psycho-analytic researches, of myths and legends, that
t:xplanation of the Hamlet problem would immediately
occur on the first reading through of the play. The reason
rvl'ry this strong statement can be made is that the story
of Hamlet is merely an unusually elaborated form of a
vast group of legends, the psychological significance of
rvhich is now, thanks to Freud and his co-workers, well
rrnderstood. It would exceed our purpose to discuss in
detail the historical relationship of the Hamlet legend to the
other members of this group
and I shall content myself here
with pointing out the psychological resemblences
; Jiriczekz
:rnd Lessmann
have adduced much evidence to shew that
the Norse and Irish variants of it are descended from the
ancient Iranian legend of Kaikhosrav and there is no doubt
o[ the antiquity of the rvhole group, some members of
rvhich can be traced back to the beginning of history.
The fundamental theme common to all the members
o[ the group
is the success of a young hero in displacing
See Zinzow: Die Hamlet-Sage an und mit verwandten Sagen
crliutert. Ein Beitrag zum Verst?indnis nordisch-deutscher Sagen-
di chtung, r877.
Hamlet in Iran', Zeitschrift des Yereins
r9oo, Bd. X.
Lessmann: Die Kyrossage in Europa. Wissenschaftliche Beilage
der stbdtischen Realschule zu Charlottenburg
In the exposition of this group of myths I am largely indebted
to Otto Rank' s excellent volume, ' Der Mythus von der Geburt desHelden' ,
rgog, in which most of the original references may also be found.
i 4
t rival fathcr. ln its simplest form the hero is persecuted
lry ir tyrannical father, who has usually been warned of his
approaching eclipse, but after marvellously escaping from
various dangers he avenges himself, often unwittingly, by
slaying the father. The persecution mainly takes the form
of attempts to destroy the hero's life just after his birth,
by orders that he is to be drowned, exposed to cold and
starvation, or otherwise done away with. A good example
of this simple form, illustrating all the features just
mentioned, is the Oedipus legend, from which of course
is derived the technical term 'Oedipus complex' so familiar
in modern psychopathology. The underlying motive is openly
betrayed by the hero marrying his mother
having slain his father. This incestuous marriage also takes
place in the same circumstances in the many Christian
versions of the legend, for example, in those pertaining to
Iscariot and St. Gregory.
The intimate relation of the hero to the mother may
be indicated in other ways than marriage, for instance by
their both being persecuted and exposed together to the
same dangersr ?S in the legends of Feridun, Perseus, md
Telephos. In some types of the story the hostility to the
father is the predominating theme, in others the affection
for the mother, but as a rule both of these are more or
less plainly to be traced.
elaboration of the more complex variants of the
myth is brought about chiefly by three ;factors, namely:
an increasing degree of distortion engendered by greater
psychological 'repression', complication of the main theme
by subsidiary allied ones, and expansion of the story by
rcpetition due to the creator's decorative fancy. In giving
a clcscription of these three processes it is difficult sharply
to separ:rtc them, but th"y are all illustrated in the follow-
i ntI exartrnl r:s.
and most important disturbing factor, that
r,l more pronounced
repression,' manifests itself by the
s:une mechanisms as those described by Freud in connection
rvith normal dreams,l psychoneurotic symptoms, etc. The
rrrost interesting of these mechanisms of myth formation
is that known as 'decomposition,' which is the opposite of
t hc ' condensation ' so characteristic of dreams.
t lrc latter process attributes of several individuals are fused
to.qether in the creation of one figure, much as in the
production of a composite photograph, in the former process
varrious attributes of a given individual are disunited and
scveral other individuals are invented, each endowed with
one group of the original attributes. In this way one person
of complex character is dissolved and replaced by several,
cach of whom possesses a different aspect of the character
rvhich in a simpler form of the myth was combined in one
Ireing; usually the different individuals closely resemble one
:rnother in other respects, for instance in age. A great
part of Greek mythology must have arisen in this way. A
{ood example of the process in the group now under
consideration is seen by the figure of a tyrannical father
lrecoming split into two, a father and a tyrant. We then
have a story told about a young hero's relation to tw'o
older men, one of whom is a tender father, the other a
hated tyrant. The resolution of the original figure is often
not complete, so that the two resulting figures stand in a
close relationship to each other, being indeed as a rule
members of the same family. The tyrant who seeks to
rlcstroy the hero is then most commonly the grandfather,
:rs in the legends of the heroes Cyrus, Gilgam, Perseus,
and others, or the grand-uncle, as in those of
Iiomulus and Remus and their Greek predecessors Amphion
Cp. Abraham: Traum und Mythus, rgo8.
' ; r,
l ' .SSr\\' .5 l N nl ' l ' >Ll E[) I' SYCFIO-ANALYSIS
:ur( I Zcthotl. l-css often is he the uncle, as in the Hamlet
:urtl llrutus legends, though there is an important Egyptian
cxample in the religious myth of Horus and his uncle Set.l
When the decomposition is more complete the tyrant
is not of the same family as the father and hero, though
he may be socially related, as with Abraham whose father
Therach was the tyrant Nimrod's commander-in-chief. The
tyrant ma1r however, be a complete strangerr 4s in the
examples of Moses and Pharoah, Feridun and Zohdk,
and Herod, and others. It is clear that this scale of
increasing decomposition corresponds with, md is doubtless
due to, further stages of
repression' 1 the more
is the idea that the father is a hateful tyrant, the more
completely is the imaginary figure of the persecuting tyrant
dissociated from the recognised father. In the last two
instances, and in many others, there is a still higher degree
repression,' for not only are the mother and son, but
also the actual father himself, persecuted by the tyrant;
it will be recalled how
Jesus, Joseph
and Mary all fled
together to Egypt from Herod, and when we think that
the occasion of the flight was the parents' desire to save
their son from the tyrant it is impossible to conceive a
more complete dissociation of the loving, solicitous father
from the figure of the dreaded tyrant.
There is a more disguised variant yet, however, in
which the loving father is not only persecuted by the
tyrant, typically in company with the son and mother, but
is actually slain by him. In this variant, well represented
by the Feridun legend, the son adores his tather and
avenges his murder by killing their common enemy. It is of
special interest to us here because it is the original form
of the Hamlet legend as narrated by Sa:<o Grammaticus,
lilindcrs Pctrie: The Religion of Ancient Eg' ypt, I9o8, p.
rvlrcrt: Iieng (Claudius)
murders his brother Horrvendil
:urrl marries the latter's wife Gerutha, being slain in his
lrrrn by Amleth. The dutiful Laertes springing to avenge
lris murdered father Polonius is also an example of the
sarne stage in the development of the myth. The picture
Irr:re presented of the son as avenger instead of slayer
o[ the father illustrates the highest degree of psychological
repression,' in which the true meaning of the story is con-
ccaled by the identical mechanism that in real life conceals
' repressed' hostility and jealousy in so many families,
rramely, the exactly opposite attitude of exaggerated solic-
itude, care and respect. Nothing is so well calculated to
conceal a given feeling as to emphasise the presence of
its precise opposite; one can imagine the bewilderment of
an actual Feridun, Amleth, or Laertes if they were. told that
their devotion to their father and burning desire to avenge
his murder constituted a reaction to their otvn buried
tleath-wishes !
could be no more complete repu-
diation of the primordial hostility of the son.
Yet even in this form of the legend the
death-wish does after all come to expression
the father
is really murdered, although at the hands of a hated
tyrant. Myths are like dreams in being only products of
the imagination, and if a man who was being psycho-
analysed were to drearn that a third person murdered his
father he would not long be able to blame the third
person for the idea, which obviously arose in his own
rnind. The process constitutes psychologically what Freu d.
has termed
return of the repressed' .
' In
spite of the"
most absolute conscious repudiation of a death-wish the
rleath does actually come about. From this point of view
it must be said that the 'tyrant' who commits the murder
is a substitute for the son who repudiates the idea : Zoh?tk,
rvho kills Feridun's father Abtin, is a
for Feridun,,
, ,
t ' l
t ;
, / r
licng for Amleth, and, in the Polonius section of Shake-
spcare's drama, Hamlet for Laertes. So that the figure of
the ' tyrant' in this exceedingly complex variant of the
myth is really a compromise-formation representing at one
and the same time the hated father and the murderous
son. On the one side he is identified with the primordial
father, being hated by the young hero who ultimately
triumphs over him; on the other with the young hero
himself, in that he kills the hero's father.l
In Shakespeare's modification of the Hamlet legend
there is an even more complicated distortion of the theme,
the young hero now shrinking from playing the part gf
the avenging son. Psychologically it betokens not a further
degree of
trepression' ,
but rather a ' regression' .
The son
really refuses to repudiate the murder-wish; he cannot
punish the man who carried it out. Claudius is identified
with the son almost as much as with the primary father-
figure of the myth. Shakespeare's marvellous intuition has,
quite unconsciously, penetrated beneath the surface of the
smooth Amleth version. He lifts for us at least one layer
of the concealing 'repression'
and reveals something of
the tumult below.z
Not only may the two paternal attributes mentioned
above, fatherliness and tyranny, be split off so as to give
rise to the creation of separate figures, but others also.
For this reason Claudius should always be cast as midway in
age between the two Hamlets, linking both together psychologically; in
a recent London production, bY William Poel, this was done, Claudius
appearing about ten years only older ttran Hamlel
One or two friends have made the reproach to me that my
work on Hamlet diminished their aesthetic appreciation of the play.
On the contrary I cannot but think that a fuller understanding of
Sllrlicspcare' s work, its profound truth, its psychological correctness
tlrr1lrrg6out, thc <lepth of its inspiration, must enormously heighten our
apl l rt:ci ati ol t rtl ' i ts wonder.
l' ' or instancc, the power and authorify of the parent may
lr. incorporated in the person of a king or othe r distin-
qrrishccl man, who may be contrasted rvith the actual
l;rthc:r.l In the present legend, as has already becn intlic-
:rtt:rl, it is probable that the figure of Polonius m:ry bc
t lrrrs regarded as resulting from ' decomposition' of tht:
gxrtcrnal archetype, representing a certain group of qualitir:s
rvhich the young not infrequently find an irritating featurc
in their elders. The senile nonentity, concealed behind :r
show of fussy pomposity, who has developed a rare capac-
ity to bore his audience with the repetition of sententious
in which profound ignorance of life is but thinly
rlisguised by a would-be worldly-wise air; the prying busy-
lrody whose meddling is, as usual, excused by his
meaning' intentions, constifutes a figure that is sympathetic
only to those who submissively accept the world's estimate
of the superiority of the merely decrepit. Because of his
sreater distance from the original Oedipus situation, not
lreing a member of the royal family, he draws on to
himself the son-hero's undisguised dislike, untempered by
any doubts or conflicts, md Hamlet finds it possible to
kill him without remorse. That he is but a substitute for
the step-father, i. e. a father imago, is shewn by the ease
rvith which the two are identified in Hamlet's mind: after
stabbing him he cries out 'Is it the king I '
The second disturbing factor in the primary Oedipus
scheme is that due to the interweaving of the main theme
of jealousy and incest between parent and son with others
of a similar kind. We noted above that in the simplest
form of decomposition of the paternal attributes thc
tyrannical r6le is most often relegated to the grandfirther.
It is no mere chance that this is sor and it is by no
Thc best example of this is to be found in the
nroans fully to be accounted for by incompleteness of the
rlccomposition. There is a deeper reason why the grand-
f:rther is peculiarly suited to play the part of tyrant and
this will be readily perceived when we recollect the large
number of legends in which he has previously interposed
all manner of obstacles to the marriage of his daughter,
the future mother. He opposes the advances of the would-
be suitor, sets in his way various conditions and tasks
apparently impossible of fulfilment-usually these are
miraculously carried out by the lover-and even as a last
resort locks up his daughter in an inaccessible spot, as in
the legends of Gilgam, Perseus, Romulus, Telephos and
others. The underlying motive in all this is that he grudges
giving up his daughtcr to another mAn, not wishing to
part with her himself (fathcr-daushter complex). We are
here once more reminded of events that may be observed
in daily life by those who open their eyes to the facts,
and the selfish motive is often thinly enough disguised
under the pretext of an altruistic solicitude for the daughter's
Gretna Green is a repository of such complexes.
In tu'o articles giving an analysis of parental complexesl
I have sher,r'n that they are ultimately derived from infantile
ones of the Oedipus type, the father's complex in regard
to his daughter, called by Putnam2 the 'Griselda complex',3
being a later development and manifestation of his own
original Oedipus complex for his mother.
When this grandfather's commands are disobeyed or
circumvented his love for his daughter turns to bitterness
1 rThe
Significance of the Grandfather for the Fate of the Indiv-
idual' and 'The
Phantasy of the Reversal of Gdnerations', Ch. XXXVIII
and XXXIX of my Papers on Psycho-Anal ysi s, r9r8.
Putnam: 'Bemerkungen iiber einen Krankheitsfall mit Griselda-
I' l rantasi cn' , Internal i onal e Zei tschri ft
fi r
Psychoanal yse, r9I3, Bd. I,
S. ro5; rt ' pri nt c<l i n hi s Addresses on Psycho-Anal ysi s, r9zr.
: r
l t i rnk : ' l )cr Si nn dcr Gri sel daf abel ' , I mago, t gr2, Bd. I , S.
l +
' - . i L - ' | ,
. I "'
:rntl hc pursues her and her offspring with insatiable hate.
wlrcn the grandson in the myth, the young hero, avenges
lrimsclf and his parents by slaying the tyrannical grand-
lirther it is as though he realised the motive of the
for in truth he slays the man who endeavoured
to possess and retain the mother's affections, i. e. his orvn
rir,'al. Thus in this sense we again come back to the
primordial father, for whom to him the grandfather is but
:rn imago, and see that from the hero's point of view the
betrveen father and grandfather is not so radical
:rs it might at first sight appear. we perceive, therefore,
that for two reasons this resolution of the original father
into two persons, a kind father and a tyrannical grand-
father, is not a very extensive otle.
The foregoing considerations throw more light on
the figure of Polonius in the present pray. In his attitude
towards the relationship between Hamlet and ophelia are
many of the traits that rve have just
mentioned as being
characteristic of the father-daughter
complex displayed bt
the grandfather of the myth, though by the mechanism of
rationalisation they are here skilfully disguised under the
suise of worldly-wise advice. Hamlet's resentment against
him is thus doubly conditioned, in that first
through the mechanism of
personates a
of obnoxious elderly attributes, and secondly presents
the equally objectionable attitude of the dog-in-the-manger
father who grudges to others what he possesses but
cannot himself enjoy. In this w"y, therefore,
represents the antipathetic characteristics of both the father
:urd the grandfather of mythology, so we are not surprised
to find that, just
as Perseus 'accidentally' slew his grand-
l';rther Acrisios, who had locked up his daughter f)anae
so as to preserve her virginity, so does Hamlet
sl:ry l)olonius, by a deed that resolves the situation
lfz lissnYs lN APPLIED
t:on't:r:tly from the dramatic as from the mythological point
o[ victr'. With truth has this act been ca11e,C ttre turning-
point of the play, for from then on the tragedy relentlessly
proceeds with ever increasing pace to its culmination
the doom of the hero and his adversary.
The characteristics of the father-daughter
complex are
also found in a similar one, the brother-sister
analytic work shews every duy, this also, like th; former
one, is a derivative of the fundamental
oedipus complex.
when the incest barrier develops early in the life of the
young boy it begins first in regard to his relationship with
the mother, and only later sets in with the sister as well;.
indeed, erotic experiences between brother and sister in
early childhood are exceedingly common. The sister is
usually the first replacement of the mother as an erotic
object; through her the boy learns to find his way to other
women. His relationship to his sister duplicates that of the
two parents to each other, and in life he often plays a
father-part in regard to her (care,
etc.). In the
present play the attitude of Laertes torvards his sister
Ophelia is quite indistinguishable
from that of their father
Hamlet's relation to Laertes is, mythologically
a double one, a fusion of two pri-ary
o"aip,r, ,]"h.-.r,
one the reverse of the other. on the one hand Laertes,
being identified with the old Polonius in his attitude towards
Ophelia and Hamlet, represents the tyrant father, Hamlet
being the young hero; Hamlet not only keenly resents
Laertes' open expression of his devoted affection for
ophelia -
in the grave scene -
but at the end of the
play kills him, as he had killed
in an accurate
of the mythological
motive. On the other
h;urtl, howcver, as was remarked
earlier, from another point
,l' vicrv \\'c cAn rcgard Hamlet and
as trvo figures
rcsulting from 'decomposition' of Laertes' father, just
\r'c did with the elder Hamlet and Claudius in relation to
I lamlet. For in the relationship of the three men Hamlet
l<ills the father Polonius, just
as the tyrant father kills the
{ood father in the typical Feridun ,form of the myth, and
l,aertes, who is from this point of vierv the young hero,
:rvenges this murder by ultimately slaying Hamlet. An
interesting confirmation of this viel that the struggle
between the two men is a representation of a father-son
contest has been pointed out by Rank.
It is that the
curious episode of the exchange of rapiers in the fatal duel
is an evident replacement of a similar episode in the original
saga, where'it takes place in the final fight between Hamlet
and his step-father, when Hamlet kills the latter and escapes
unwounded. From this point of view we reach the interesting
conclusion that Laertes and Claudius are psychological and
rnythological equivalents or duplicates. Each represents
aspects of both generations, the father who is to be killed
:rnd the revolutionary, murderous son, thus differing from
I'olonius, the Ghost, and the elder Hamlet himself, who
irre all pure father-figures. The equivalence of the two men
is well brought out dramatically. Not only does the King's
srvord of the saga become Laertes' rapier in the play, but
in the duel scene it is evident that Laertes is only a tool
in Claudius' hand, carrying out his intention with u,hat was
lris own weapon. Throughout the play, therefore, we perceive
t lrc theme of the son-father conflict recurring again and
:r.qain in the most complicated interweavings.
That the brother-sister complex was operative in the
ori.qinal Hamlet legend also is evidenced in several lvays.
l"rom a religious point of view Claudius and the
stootl to each other in exactly the same relationship as do
ll,arrk: I)as Inzcstmotiv in Dichtung und Sage, rgr2, S. zz6, zz7.
. , j
lrrotlrcr' :urtl sistcr, which is the reason why the term
' inccstuous' is always applied to it and stress laid on the
firct that their guilt exceeded that of simple adultery.r Of
still more interest is the fact that in the saga -
stated in Saxo and indicated in Belleforest
Ophelia (ot
rather her nameless precursor) was said to be a foster-
sister of Amleth; she bore here no relation to
this being an addition made by the dramatist with an
obvious motivation. This being so, we would seem to trace
a still deeper reason for Hamlet's misogynous turning from
her and for his jealous
resentment of Laertes. This theme
of the relation between siblings, however, is much less
promincnt in thc Hamlct legend than in some others of
the samc group, e. g. thosc of cyrus, Karna, etc., so that
it will not be drvelt on further herc.
The tlzird factor to be considered is the process
technically known to mythologists as ' doubling' of the
principal characters. The chief motive for its occurrence
seems to be the desire to exalt the importance of these,
and especially to glorify the hero, by decoratively filling
in the stage with l"y figures of colourless copies rvhose,
neutral movements contrast with the vivid activities of the
principals; it is perhaps more familiar in music than in
other products of the imagination. This factor is sometimes
hard to distinguish from the first one, for it is plain that
a given multiplying of figures may serve at the sarne time
the function of decomposition and that of doubling; in
general it may be said that the former function is more
often fulfilled by the creation of a new person who is
related to the principal character, the latter by the creation
of one who is not, but the rule has many exceptions. In
l t tnrty bc noted that Shakespeare accepted Bel l eforest' s al terati on
of ' l l rc ori gi nrt l saga i n mal <i ng t he
Queen commi t i ncest duri ng t he l i f e
ol ' l r r . r ' l i r st l nr sbl nr l .
thc present legend Claudius seems to subserve both functions.
It is interesting to note that in many legends it is not the
l':rther's figure who is doubled by the creation of a brother,
lrut the grandfather's. This is so in some versions of the
l'erseus legend and, as was referred to above, in those of
Itomulus and Amphion; in all three of these the creation
of the king's brother, as in the Hamlet legend, subserves
the functions of both decomposition and doubling. Good
cxamples of the simple doubling process are seen with the
maid of Pharaoh's daughter in the Moses legend and in
nrany of the figures of the Cyrus one.t Perhaps the purest
cxamples in the present play are the ccjlourless copies of
Hamlet presented by the figures of Horatio, Marcellus and
I3ernardol the first of these was derived from a foster-
brother of Hamlet's in the saga. Laertes and the younger
Iiortinbras, on the other hand, are examples of both
doubling and decomposition of the main figure. Laertes is
the more complex figure of the trvo, for in addition to
representhg, as Claudius also does, both the son and
father aspects of Hamlet's mentality, in the way explained
above, he evinces also the influence of the brother-sister
complex and in a more positive form than does Hamlet.
Hamlet's jealousy of Laertes' interference in connection
s'ith Ophelia is further to be compared rvith his resentment
at the meddling of Guildenstern and Rosencrantz. They are
therefore only copies of the Brother of mythology and,
like him, are killed by the Hero. Common to Hamlet,
l-aertes, and Fortinbras is the theme of revenge for murder
or injury done to a dead father. It is notervorthy that
neither of the latter two shew any sign of inhibition in the
performance of this task and that with neither is any
rcference made to his mother. In Hamlet, on the other
This is very clearly pointed out by Rank: Der Mythus von der
l t' burt rl cs l :Icl dcn, I9@, S. 84, 85.
h:urrl, in rvhom ' repressed' love for the mother is at least
as strong as 'repressed' hostility against the father,
inhibition appears.
The interesting subject of the actual mode of origin
of myths and legends, and the relation of them to infantile
phantasies, will not here be considered,l since our interest
in the topic is secondary to the main one of the play of
'Hamlet' as given to us by Shakespeare. Enough perhaps
has been said of the comparative mythology of the Hamlet
legend to sherv that in it are to be found ample indications
of the rvorking of all forms of incestuous fantasy. We may
summarisc the forcgoing consideration of this aspect of
tlre sulrjcct lry saying that tltc main themc of this story is
a lti.gltly claboralcd and disguiscd accotntt o/ a boy's loae
ltis ntother and consequent jcalousy o/ and lzatred
tozsards his
father ;
the allied one in which the brother and
sister respectively play the same part as the father and
mother in the main theme is also told, though with sub-
ordinate interest.
Last of all in this connection may be mentioned a
matter which on account of its general psychological
interest has provoked endless discussion, namely Hamlet's
so-called ' simulation of madness' . I do not propose to
review the extraordinarily extensive literature that has
gro\4/n up over this matter,2 for before the advent of the
new science of psychopathology such discussions were
bound to be little better than guesswork and now possess
only an historical interest. There is of course no question
of insanity in the proper sense of the rvord
I 'fhose
who wish to pursue the subject from the psycho-analytical
poi nt of vi cw are referred to the wri ti ngs of Freud, Rank and Abraham.
3 ' l ' l rc
c: t rl i cr part of t hi s wi l l be f ound i n Furness' Vari orum
Sl r: rkt . s1rt ' : rrt . , ' I I arnl ct ' , Vol . l I , pp. rgi -235; See f urt her Del bri i ck :
I t bcr
I l ; r r r r l cl s \ Vl t r nsi nn, r t t g3.
behaviour is that of a psychoneurotic and as such naturally
aroused the thought on the part of those surrounding him
that he was suffering from some inner affliction. The traits
in Hamlet's behaviour that are commonly called 'feigning
madness' are brought to expression by Shakespeare in
such a refined and subtle manner as to be not very
transpicuous unless one compares them with the corre-
sponding part of the original saga. The fine irony exhibited
by Hamlet in the play, which enables him to express con-
tempt and hostility in an indirect and disguised form-
beautifully illustrated, for instance, in his conversations
rvith Polonius-is a transmutation of the still more cotr
cealed mode of expression adopted in the saga, where
the hero's audience commonly fails to apprehend his meaning.
He here' combines a veiled form of speech, full of obvious
equivocations and intent to deceive, with a curiously
punctilious insistence on verbal truthfulness. Saxo gives
many examples of this and adds:t ' FIe was loth to be
thought prone to lying about any matter, and wished to
be held a stranger to falsehood; and accordingly he mingled
craft and candour in such wise that, though his words did
not lack truth, yet there was nothing to betoken the
truth and betray how far his keenness went'. Even in the
saga, howeverr w read
some people, therefore,
rleclared that his mind was quick enough, and fancied that
hc only played the simpleton in order to hide his under-
standing, md veiled some deep purpose under a cunning
ft:int'. The king and his friends applied all sorts of tests
to him to determine this truth, tests which of course the
Irt:ro successfully withstands. It is made plain that Amleth
rlt:liberately adopts this curious behaviour in order to
Saxo Grammaticus: Danish History, translated by Elton, 1894,
I r
I ( xJ.
Saxo: op. ci t . , p. l o8.
. ' - +. '
t .
, t
frrrthcr his scheme of revenge, to which-thus differing
frcm Hamlet-he had whole-heartedly devoted himself.
actual mode of operation of his simulation here is
very instructive to observe, for it gives us the clue to a
deeper psychological interpretation of the process. His
conduct in this respect has three characteristics, first the
obscure and disguised manner of speech just referred to,
secondly a demeanour of indolent inertia and general
purposelessness, and thirdly conduct of childish and at
times quite imbecillic foolishness (Dummstellen); the third
of these is well exemplified by the way in which he rides
into the palace seatcd backwards on a donkey, imitateJ
a cocl< crowin.rg and flapping its wings, rolling on the
floor, and similar asininitics. I Iis motive in so acting was,
by playing the part of a harmless fool, to dec'eive the
king and court as to his projects of revenge, and un-
observed to get to know their plans and intentionsl in this
he admirably succeeded. Belleforest adds the interesting
touch that Amleth, being a Latin scholar, had adopted
this device in imitation of the younger Brutus: as was
remarked earlier, both names signify ' doltish ', ' stupid '1
the derived Norwegian word
amlod' is still a colloquialism
for ' fool '.1 Belleforest evidently did not know how usual
it was for famous young heroes to exhibit this trait;
similar stories of 'simulated foolishness' are narrated of
David, Moses, Cyros, Kaikhosrav, William Tell, Parsifal,
and many others besides Hamlet and Brutus.2
The behaviour assumed by Amleth in the saga is
not that of any form of insanity. It is a form of syndrome
well-knorvn to occur in hysteria to rvhich various names
havc been given:
simulated foolishness' (Jones),
' Dumm-
st cl l cn' , ' Mor i a' ( Jast r owi t z) , ' ecmn6si e' ( Pi t r es) ,
t r et our
Asscn: Nor sk
( ) r r l bog,
Sr . r . I i l nk: l ) us l nzcst - Mot i v, S. 264, 265,
I I'enfance'
ilisme mental' (Duprd), md so on. I have published
t:lsewherel a clinical study of the condition, with a descrip-
tion of a typical casel Rank2 has reached similar con-
clusions from his extensive mythological studies. The
complete syndrome comprises the following features :
foolish, witless behaviour, an inane, inept kind of funniness
and silliness, and childishness. Now, in reading the numerous
examples of Amleth's
foolish' behaviour as narrated by
Saxo one cannot help being impressed by the clzildish
characteristics manifested throughout in them. His peculiar
riddling sayings, obviously aping the innocence of childhood,
his predilection for dirt and for smearing himself r,r'ith
filth, his general shiftlessness) and above all the highly
characteristic combination of fondness for deception as a
thing in itself (apart from the cases where there is a
definite motive) with a punctilious regard for verbal truth,
are unmistakably childish traits. The whole syndrome is an
cxaggeration of a certain
of demeanour displayed at
one time or another by most children, and psycho-analysis
of it has demonstrated beyond any doubt that their motive
irr behaving so is to simulate innocence and often extreme
childishness, even
foolishness', in order to delude their
t:lders into regarding them as being 'too young to
rrnderstand' or even into altogether disregarding their
The purpose of the ar'tifice is that by these
ntcans children can view and overhear various private
thinss which they are not supposed to. It need hardly be
'Simulated Foolishness in Hysteria ', American Journal
l nsani y' , IgIo; repri nted as Ch. XXIV of my Papers on Psycho-
. \ n: r l ysi s, l gt 8.
I {ank: Di e Lohengri n-Sage, rgl r; ' Di e Nacl ct hei t i n Sage und
I ri t ' l rt rrng
rmago, I 9I 3
numerous passages i n hi s ot her works
; rrt : vi ousl y
quot c<I , especi al l y: f )as I nzest mot i v, Der Myt hus \ ' -on der
i r. l rrrrt rl cs I I cl rl cn, ct c.
' i l
s:rirl tlr;rt thc curiosity thus indulged in is in most cases
c0nt:crncd r,vith matters of a directly sexual naturel even
marital embraces are in this way investigated
by quite
young children far oftener than is generally suspected or
thought possible. The core of Amleth's attitude is secrecy
and spying: secrecy as to his own thoughts, knowledge,
and plans; spying as regards those of his enemy, his
step-father. These two character traits are certainly
derived from forbidden curiosity about secret, i. e. sexual
matters in early childhood. So is the love of deception
for its own sake, a trait rvhich sometimes amounts to what
is called pathological lying; it is a defiant reaction to thp
lies almost always told to the chilcr, and alu,ays detected
by him. In so behaving thc chikl is rcally caricaturing the
adult's behaviour to himself, as also in the punctiliousness
about verbal truth that is sometimes combined with the
tendency to deceive; he is pretending
to tell the truth as
the parent pretended to teil it to him, deceiving going on
all the u'hile in both cases. That the theme of the Amleth
motif is derived from an infantile and sexual source can
easily be shervn from the material provided in the saga
itself. The main test applied to him by Feng in order to
discover rvhether he was really stupid or only pretending
to be so was to get a young girl (the prototype
ophelia) to seduce him away to a lonely part of the woods
and then send retainers to spy on them and find out
whether he knew how to perform the sexual act or not.
Then follows a long story of how Amleth is warned of
the plot and manages to outwit the spies and also to
attain his sexual goal. This passager So obviously inappro-
pr iate if taken literally as applying to a man of Arnleth's
agc ancl previous intelligence, can only be understood by
corrt' l:rting it rvith the unconscious source of the theme,
antl this alrvays cmanates from trre impulses of childhood.
' Iinorvlcdg"' is often felt to be synonymous with
It rrorvlcdge ', the two terms being in many contexts inter-
clr;rngeable: for instance, the legal expression ' to have
linorvledge of a girl' , the Biblical one ' and Adam knew
llvc his wife' (after eating of the tree of knowledge), and
so on. If a child has mastered the great secret he feels
t lr:rt he knows what matters in life
if he hasn't he is in
t lrc dark. And, as in the Amleth saga, to prove that
someone is ignorant of this fundamental matter is the
supreme test of his stupidity and
innocence' .
Spying and overhearing play such a constant part in
thc Amleth saga as to exclude the possibility of their
lrcing unconnected with the central theme of the story.
.\fter the plot just mentioned had failed Feng's coun-
sellor, the prototype of Polonius, devises another in which
r\mleth is to be spied on when talking to his mother in
hcr bedroom. During the voyage to England the king's
rctainers enter Amleth's bedroom to listen to his convers-
ation. Before this Amleth had spied on his companions
and replaced their letter by one of his own. In the later
part of the saga, not utilised by Shakespeare, two other
instances of spying occur. In ' Hamlet' Shakespeare has
rctained these scenes and added one other. The first time
is when the interview between Hamlet and Ophelia, doubt-
less taken from the test described above, is overlooked
lry the king and Polonius
the second when Hamlet's
interview with his mother is spied on by Polonius, who
thereby loses his life; and the third when the same inter-
view is watched by the Ghost. It is appropriate to the
rrnderlying theme of sexual curiosity that trvo out of these
should take place in the mother's bedchamber, the original
scene of such curiosity; on both occasions the father-
srrbstitute comes betu.teen Hamlet and his mother, as though
to separate them, the reversal of a theme common in
. . . . ,
, i
'ci. ,
r.i.s \
' : t r. .
J' r i r
. t .
1, 4, .
l : : ' : ' . .
. ai
, : ! ":
l r ' '
E, i
t r ?
: '
t :
l ,.SS,\\' S
r)rir)itivt: cosmogonies.
The most striking
' I l:rrnlet ' of a spying scene is the famous
pr"y within a
play ', for in a very neat analysis Rank
has shewn that
this play scene is a disguised
of the infantile
curiosity theme discussed
From this point
of view we can specify more nearly
the precise
aspect of the father
that is represented
the 'decomposed'
It is clearry the spying,
'all-knowing' father,
who is appropriatery
by the cunning youth.
Nor.v it is interestirrg
that, apart
from Falstaff
and the subordinate
names of Reynardo
is the only person
name Shake_
in any of his prays,
and one naturaily
why he did so. In the r<ia play and also in the
Quarto the name was corambis.
The plausible
stion has been made
that the name
was taken
from Polonian,
the name for a
in Elizabethan
for the reason
that even at that date
was the rand
in policy and intrigue.
Amleth's feigned
in the saga is very crudely
is quite evident. The use shake_
speare made of this unpromising
and the way in
which he made it serve his aim of compretely
the old story, is one of the master-strokes
of the drama.
acting, for a quite deriberate
into a delicately
drawn character
trait. Merciless
satire, caustic irony, ruthless penetration
with the
old habit of speaking
in riddres:
alr these betray
simply the caution of a man who has to keep his secret
,Das ,,Schauspiel ,,
in Hamlet,, Intago, Bd. IV, S.
4r. 3
T'e story of the Gorrrugo pray is taken from a murder by a
r' .' ,f that name of a duke whi ch was commi tted i n r53g by means
of' poru' i ng poi son i nto hi s ear.
l fy l i rrnrcss:
op. ci t.,
n I'sYCFlo-ANAL\"r'rc
sruDy oI.' FIAMLET
' .r'
those around him, as with Amrcth, but the poignant
srrll' crings
of a man who is being torn and within
lri.s own mind, rvho is struggling to escape from l<norving
t lrc horrors of his own heart. with Amrctrr trrt: fcisncd
strrPidity was the weapon used by a single-hc;rrtcd
rr:ur i.
lris fight against external difficulties and crelibcrate
r'ith Hamlet it - or rather what corresponcls
to it, his
behaviour - was the agent by rvhich the sccr<:t
,I' a man torn by suffering u,as betrayed to a prcviousl_v
foet and increasing difficulties *"r" creatccl
in his path rvhere none before existed. In the issue Amleth
Hamlet was destroyed. The different use made
this feature in the story symbolises more finely than
:rnything else the transformation
effected by shakespeare.
.\n inertia pretended for reasons of expediency
:r1 inertia unavoidably
forced on the hero from the depths
,f his nature. In this he shews that the tragedy of man
is within himself, that, as the ancient saying goes: character is
liate. It is the essential difference between pre-historic
r:ivilised man; the difficulties with which the former had
t, contend came from without, those with which the latter
lr:rve to contend really come from within. This inner
<:onflict modern psychologists
know as neurosis, and it is
,nly by study of neurosis that one can learn the funda-
rncntal motives and instincts that move men. Here, as in
so many other respects, shakespeare was the first modern.
It is highly instructive now to review the respects in
w hich the plot of ' Hamlet ' deviates from that of thc
,riginal saga. we are here, of course, not concernecl with
t lrc poetic and literary representation,
which not merely
On the way i n whi ch Ffaml et' s conduct i nevi tabl y l ed hi m i nto
t ' l ' cr i ncreasi ng danger see Loeni ng, op. ci t . , S.
et seq.
rcvivilicd an old story, but created an entirely new work
o[ gcnius. The changes effected were mainly two and it
can be said that Shakespeare was only very slightly
indebted to others for them. The first is as follows: In the
saga Feng (Claudius) had murdered his brother in public,
so that the deed was generaly known, and further had
with lies and false witnesses sought to justify the deed
by pretending it was done to save the
from the
cruel threats of her husband.
This view of the matter
he successfully imposed on the nation, so that, as Belle-
forest has it, ' son p6chd trouva excuse e l' endroit du
peuple ct fut reputd comme justice envers la noblesse-et
r1u' zru reste, cn lieu dc le poursuyvre comme parrieide
inccstueux, chacun dcs courtisaurs luy applaudissoit et le
flattoit en sa fortune prospcrc' . Now was the change
from this to a secret murder effected by Shakespeare or
by Kyd l It is of course to be correlated u'ith the intro-
duction of the Ghost, of whom there is no trace in either
Saxo or Belleforest. This must have been done early in
the history of the Elizabethan 'Hamlet', for it is referred
to by Lodge3 in r
and is also found in 'Der bestrafte
Those acquainted with psycho-analytic work will have no
difficulty in discerning the infantile sadistic origin of this pretext (See
Freud: Samml ungkl ei ner Schri ften, Zrvei te Fol ge, I9o9, S. 169). Young
chi l dren commonl y i nterpret an overheard coi tus as an act of vi ol ence
i mposed on the mother and they arc i n any case apt to come to thi s
concl usi on whi chever way they are enl i ghtened on the facts of sex.
The vi ew i n questi on i s certai nl y an aggravati ng cause of the unconsci ous
hostility against the father.
This point again confirms our conclusion that Claudius partly
i ncorporates Haml et' s ' repressed' wi shes, for we see i n the saga that he
not onl y ki l l s the father-ki ng but al so gi ves as an excuse for i t j ust the
r' cuson that the typi cal son feel s.
S: rxo : rl so has ' parri ci di um
' , whi ch v' as of course occasi onal l y
rt st ' rl l o rl t : not c t hc rnur<l cr o[ ot her ncar rel at i ves t han t he parent s.
l , or l gc : l ot . . ci t .
Ilrudermord', though neither of these reasons is decisive
for excluding Shakespeare's hand. But purely literary con-
siderations make it likely enough, as Robertson
has pointed
out, that the change was introduced by Kyd, who seems
to have had a partiality for Ghost scenes.
the saga
there was delayed action due to the external difficulties
of penetrating through the king's watchful guard. Kyd
seems to have retained these external difficulties as an
explanation for the delay, though his introduction of the
Ghost episode for reasons of his own-probably first in
the form o[ a prologue-somewhat weakened them as a
since to have the Ghost episode the murder
had to be a secret one-otherwise there would be nothing
for the Ghost to reveal and no reason for his appearance.
But his Hamlet, as in the saga, had a quite single-hearted
attitude towards the matter of revenge; he at once
confided in Horatio, secured his help, and devoted himself
entirely to his aim. There was no self-reproachingr flo
doubt, and no psychological problem. Shakespeare, however,
saw the obvious advantages of the change in the plot-if
he did not introduce it himself-for his intention of trans-
forming the play from an external struggle into an internal
tragedy. The change minimises the external difficulties of
Hamlet's task, for plainly it is harder to rouse a nation
to condemn a crime and assist the avenger when it has
been openly explained and universally forgiven than when
it has been guiltily concealed. If the original plot had
been retained there would be more excuse for the Klr:in-
Werder hypothesis, though it is to be observed that cven
in the saga Hamlet successfully executed his task, herculcern
:ts it !vas. The present rendering makcs still more
conspicuous Hamlet's recalcitrfficl, for it disposes of the
l tobertson: op. ci t., pp.
44, 55, 56.
only justifiable plea for delay. That Shakespeare saw the
valuc of the change thus unwittingly and ununderstandingly
introduced by Kyd is proved by the fact that later on he
took steps to remove the last traces of even a relative
publicity concerning the murder. In the first
secures his mother's promise to help him in his plans of
revenge, md later Horatio in an interview with the
speaks with knowledge of Hamlet's plans of revenge and
learns from the
that she sympathises with them.
Both these passages were omitted in the second
The omission unmistakably indicates Shakespeare's intention
to depict Hamlet not as a man dismayed by external
difficulties and naturally securing the cooperation of those
he could trust, but as a man who could not bring himself
to speak to his best friend about his quite legitimate
desire for revenge, simply because his own mind was in
dire conflict on the matter.
The second and all-important respect in which
Shakespeare, and he alone, changed the story and thus
revolutionised the tragedy is the vacillation and hesitancy
he introduced into Hamlet's attitude towards his task,
with the consequent paralysis of 'his action. In all the
previous versions Hamlet was throughout a man of rapid
decision and action wherever possible, not-as with Shake-
speare's version-in everything except in the one task of
vengeance. He had, as Shakespeare's Hamlet felt he should
have, swept to his revenge unimpeded by any doubts or
scruples and had never flinched from the straightforrvard
path of duty. With him duty and natural inclination went
hand in hand; from his heart he wanted to do that which
he believed he ought to do, and thus was harmoniously
impcllcd by both the summons of his conscience and the
cry of his blood. There was none of the deep-reaching
<:orrllir:t tlr;rt \vas so disastrous to Shakespeare' s Hamlet.
I t is as though Shakespeare, on reading the story, had
realised that had lre been placed in a similar situation he
rvould not have found the path of action so obvious is
was supposed, but would on the contrary have been torn
in a conflict which \r,as all the more intense for the fact
that he could not explain its nature. Bradley, in the
passage quoted earlier, might r,vell say that this was the
only tragic situation to which Shakespeare himself would
not have been equal, and we nolv know the reason must
have been that his penetration had unconsciously revealed
to his feeling, though not to his conscious intelligence,
the fundamental meaning of the story. His own Oedipus
complex was too strong for him to be able to repudiate
it as readily as Amleth and Laertes had done and he
could only create a hero rvho was unable to escape from
its toils.
In this transformation Shakespeare exactly reversed
t he plot of the tragedy. M/hereas in the saga this consisted
in the overcoming of external difficulties and dangers by
;r single-hearted hero, in the play these are removed and
the plot lies in the fateful unrolling of the consequences
that result from an internal conflict in the hero's soul.
lirom the struggles of the hero issue dangers which at
lirst did not exist, but which, as the effect of his untorvard
loom increasingly portentous until at the end they
r'lose and involve him in final destruction. NIore than this,
action he so reluctantly engages in for the fulfilment
, rl' his obvious task seems half-wittingly to be disposed in
:rr rr:h :r way u.' to provoke destiny, in that, by arousing
tlrt: srrspicion and hostility of his enemy, it defeats its own
l )rrrl )ose
and hel ps to encompass hi s own rui n. The confl i ct
irr lris soul is to him insoluble and the only steps hc can
rrr:rl i t: :rrc thcl sc rvhi ch i ncxorabl y cl rarv hi m l tcarcr anrl
nr' : u' (: r t <l hi s t l oom. I n hi m. as i n evcry vi ct i m of l r
e{} liss,\\"s IN APPLIED
conflict, the will to Death is fund-
:rmcntally stronger than the will to Life, and his struggle
is at heart one long despairing fight against suicide, the
least intolerable solution of the problem.
Being unable to
free himself from the ascendency of his past he is necess-
arily impelled by Fate arong the only path he can travel_to
Death. In thus vividly exhibiting the desperate
but unavailing
struggle of a strong man against Fate shakespeare
the very essence of the Greek conception of tragedy, but
he went beyond this and shewed that the real nature of
man's Fate is inherent in his or,vn soul.
There is thus reason to believe that the new life
which shakespcare
poured into the old story was the
outcome of inspirations
that took their origin in the
deepest and darkest regions of his mi' d. He- responded
to the peculiar appeal of the story by projecting
into it
his profoundest
thoughts and emotions in a way tt ot has
ever since wrung wonder from all who have heard or read
the tragedy. It is only fitting that the greatest work of
the worldaoet
should have had to do with the deepest
problem and the intensest conflict that have occupied the
mind of man since the beginning of time-the revolt of
youth and of the impulse to love against the restraint
imposed by the jealous
Irrt a recent interesting monograph on Heinrich von Kleist
has called attention to a number of considerations
lrearing on the psychology of the impulse to die together
with a loved one, to share death in common. As it is
in a special journal
to pursue an analysis more
lieely than in writings intended fo5 a lay audience, I wish
to comment here on two points in this connection which
sadger-I assume, rvith intention-left untouched.
of the general psycho-sexual significance of the idea
of death nothing need be added here. Freud, Stekel, and
.thers have fully described the masochistic phantasies in
rvhich the idea may become involved, and this is also
clearly illustrated in Sadger's monograph. The common
rnythological and folk-loristic conception of death as a
slririt that violently attacks one mainly originates in this
sol l rce.
The question of ' dying together' is, however, more
cornplicated, the tendency being determined by several
rrrotives. The most obvious of these is that underlying a
l'ublished in the Zeatralblatt
sr ; r r ,
Jahr gang
I , S.
Sadger: I{cinrich von Kleist. Eine pathographisch-psychorogische
l i t r r r l i c, r 9I o.