Hamlets Relationship with His Mother
Hamlet’s Relationship with his Mother Throughout William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Hamlet portrays what Sigmund Freud calls the Oedipal Complex. When the relationship between Hamlet and his mother is analyzed, Freud’s Oedipal complex theory comes to mind. The Oedipal complex is a theory created by Freud that states that the child takes both of its parents, and more particularly one of them, as the object of its erotic wishes. Because of this desire to be with the parent of the opposite sex, a rivalry is formed with the parent of the same sex.
In the play, Hamlet shows great hostility toward his uncle Claudius, his male opponent. Hamlet sees his mother’s remarriage as a disgusting act of betrayal and sees murdering Claudius as a way of freeing his mother of an incestuous marriage as well as avenging his father. Hamlet and his mother’s relationship are also shown as more sexual than the traditional mother son relationship because of Hamlet’s language and private interaction with his mother. Hamlet’s inner monologues reveal much about what he is feeling and also aids in understanding the nature of the Oedipal complex within the character.
Aspects of the Oedipal complex can be seen Hamlet’s first soliloquy where Hamlet speaks to himself, revealing his personal expression of pain and suffering. The main cause of Hamlet’s torment is the remarriage of his mother to his uncle and not the death of his father. When Hamlet says: “With such dexterity to incestuous sheets! It is not, nor it cannot come to good. / But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue” (1. 2. 157-9), he is disgusted by his mother’s affection toward Claudius because he believes it is incestuous. It can also be deduced the Hamlet is more concerned with the marriage of his mother than the death of his father.
Unconsciously, Hamlet believes that because his father is dead, all his competition is gone and Claudius marrying his mother does not fit in with what Hamlet wants – taking his object of desire away from him. In act 3, Hamlet is actually more concerned with his mother’s sexual relationship than anything else, including avenging his father. Throughout most of the scene, Hamlet concentrates on his mother’s sexual relationship with Claudius by making many sexual allusions and criticizing her with them. He states that she seeks out the “incestuous pleasure of his bed”(3. 4. l. 90).
The exploring of his mother’s erotic nature is because he is sexually concerned for her. Hamlet also makes many allusions to beds and sex. An example of this is when Hamlet says: “In the rank sweat of an enseamented bed stew’d” (3. 4. l. 93-96). It is possible that here, Shakespeare wanted to show how Hamlet’s rage brought out all his repressed sexually desires for his mother because of Hamlet’s concentration on Gertrude’s sex life. All of Hamlet’s crushed feelings come out in rage in this scene because of Hamlet’s repressed sexual desire for his mother – they surfaces due to his rage in the form of sexual allusions.
Finally, the “closet scene” proves to be essential in understanding Hamlet and Gertrude’s relationship because the location (Gertrude’s bedroom) allows Hamlet to have private a conversation with his mother. At the end of the “closet scene” it is evident that Hamlet is jealous of the attention his mother’s giving to Claudius. He tells her: “Not this by no means that I bid you do: Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed, Pinch wanton on your cheek, call you his mouse”(3. 4 l. 188-190). Because Hamlet tells his mother this with so many sexual references, he seems more like a jealous lover than a concerned son.
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This jealousy exhibits Hamlet’s desire to have all the attentions of his mother and to restrict her from interaction with Claudius. At the end of the scene, Hamlet completely abandons questioning Gertrude about his father’s death and becomes more concerned with her sexual life. It can also be inferred that Hamlet went to his mother because of other underlying reasons because of his continued focus on stopping his mother from sleeping with Claudius. Shakespeare expresses Hamlet’s relationship with his mother to fit in with the Oedipal complex.
When looking at Hamlet and Gertrude’s relationship, indicators of the Oedipal complex including Hamlet’s language and private interaction with his mother fit in with Freud’s theory that a child should take his parents as the first objects of his love. Hamlet’s attitude towards Claudius and the fact that he sees him as competition towards his mother further represent the presence of this complex. Eventually, Hamlet’s incestuous feelings towards his mother and his ruthless hatred for Claudius lead to the destruction of Denmark – a worse fate than that of Oedipus himself.