The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0652  Tuesday, 5 March 2002

From:           Martin Steward <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 4 Mar 2002 17:52:37 -0000
Subject:        Oedipal Hamlets

David Wallace begs, "let me revive that old chestnut: Hamlet with an
Oedipus Complex. Actors/Directors who pursue this 'interpretation' might
well have Gertrude offer Hamlet a wet kiss on the mouth when Hamlet
agrees to stay in Denmark. Hamlet might mock-hump Gertrude through the
sheets during the closet scene. Those of us in-the-know might nod sagely
and remark: ah! the Oedipus angle. The rest might sit bemused and a
little annoyed. Such an interpretation requires a collaboration between
actor and audience".

I would certainly be bemused by such a performance, not because I am
sceptical of the Freudian reading (which I am), nor because I am
ignorant of the play, the psychoanalytic approach to the play, nor
indeed Freud's work on this particular complex. I would be bemused
because "mock-humping" Gertrude would be extraordinary behaviour that is
hardly symptomatic of a sufferer with an Oedipus Complex. Similarly, why
make Gertrude act on a complex which is supposed to be Hamlet's? That,
dare one say it, would be a conspicuous lack of an "objective
correlative". On the other hand, drawing the audience's attention to the
truly "Oedipal" behaviour exhibited by the text's Hamlet (his strange
reluctance to kill his uncle) more subtly (as in Olivier's film, say)
would achieve the same end without disturbing the sense of the play for
spectators unaware of the psychoanalytical critical heritage.


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Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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