Monthly Archives: May 2008
Note: Essay written for an assessment for a unit at Deakin University Term 1, 2008. Not my best stuff, although my trademark turn of phrase and humor shine through on occasion.
So much has been written about Shakespeare’s Hamlet that it behooves me to beg the reader’s indulgence in any claim I may make that I have something new to say regarding the mystery of a play which has been described as akin to the Mona Lisa, or “the Sphinx of modern literature” (Jones,1949,22). No doubt the reader is far more advanced in his scans of critical interpretations than I. Nevertheless, like most everyone else who reads Hamlet seriously and passionately, and owning that such readings may be through a personal system of interpretive filters built up over a lifetime of my own tolerated ‘slings and arrows,’ I will attempt in these next several pages to tie down and ‘interrogate’ (think Abu Ghraib, if it helps you picture my intentions) some of my own concerns regarding Hamlet’s character development that have come out of my many readings of the play, in and out of academia. And, in accordance with the requirements of the course, and freely acknowledging their benefit to this study, I will attempt to differentiate my own views by comparing them to some degree with a few core aspects of the so-called psychoanalytical approach to Hamlet. Namely, I will review the Freudian approach to Hamlet’s dilemma, while acknowledging that there are other ways of reading Hamlet that don’t necessitate his secret desire to sleep with his mother, including many post-modernist disobfuscations. My own reading, for instance, will look at Hamlet’s three dispositions developed in the play, namely his melancholy disposition, his antic disposition and his fatalistic disposition. My own thesis, no doubt shared by many, is that Hamlet’s malaise went beyond a simple Oedipal complex, though it may have included that, but was also quite likely the first existentialist creative work ever written, deeply and necessarily imbued with moral relativism and the terror of true agnosticism.