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Psychological Analysis of Hamlet and King Lear
Transcript of Psychological Analysis of Hamlet and King Lear
Psychoanalysis Continued/ Comparisons of the plays
King Lear Psychoanalysis
(Freudian and Jungian Approach)
(Freudian and Jungian Approach)
Jung v. Freud
What is the Oedipal Complex?
Through Freud's analysis of the Oedipal Complex, the idea that Hamlet's inaction was a result of his desire to kill his father and sleep with his mother became popular; this psychological theory is known as the Oedipal Complex.
The Oedipal Complex is a psychological term coined by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud which claims that males desire to possess their mother sexually by excluding their father through different means.
How the Oedipal Complex applies to Hamlet
These pictures are from the Kenneth Branagh version of
which is notorious for exhibiting signs of the Oedipal Complex. These pictures show the deep connection between Hamlet and his mother Gertrude and show Hamlet's jealousy of Claudius. The picture on the left portrays a perhaps more questionable relationship that many psychoanalysts believe to be the cause of Hamlet's inaction and inability to have a stable relationship with Ophelia.
Having a desire to stay connected with one's mother is normal at a young age, but carrying this mental state through adulthood is abnormal and can mess with the psyche of a person just as it did with Hamlet. Many aspects of Hamlet's life embody the Oedipal Complex including: hating his step-father, having intimate desires for this mother, and becoming disconnected with his significant other, Ophelia. These aspects affect the well-being of Hamlet's sanity, and would therefore mean that Hamlet is not completely feigning his madness, as his subconscious desires thwart his cognitive development eventually causing his death.
When analyzing the play through the Oedipal Complex, it becomes clear that Hamlet's true desire is not controlled by revenge, but incest. This approach to the play redefines Hamlet's motives and his psychological journey and creates a less intense mood for the audience as murder is second priority to incestuous intentions.
By seeing Hamlet through the lens of the Oedipal Complex it provides a whole new dimension to the play and psychological journey of the audience.
Quotes that reveal the Oedipal Complex could be true in Hamlet.
Act III Scene IV is known as the "closet scene" and in modern plays this scene has taken place in Gertrude's bedroom which increases the likeliness of the presence of the Oedipal Complex. The following quotes from this scene when performed in regard to the Oedipal Complex emphasize Hamlet's supposed ulterior motives:
"Rebellious hell, if thou canst mutine in a matron's bones, to flaming youth let virtue be as wax and melt in her own fire. Proclaim no shame when the compulsive ardour gives the charge, since frost itself as actively doth burn, and reason panders will" (III.iv.82-88).
This quote exhibits indications of Hamlet's incestuous desires towards his mother because his anger at his mother's sexuality is uncommon of most children. Hamlet's anger towards his mother stems from his desire to take the place of his step-father/uncle, Claudius.
"Nay, but to live in the rank and sweat of an enseamed bed, stewed in corruption, honeying and making love over the nasty sty" (III.iv.91-93).
This quote truly reveals Hamlet's hatred of Claudius which according to the Oedipal Complex is a result of his jealousy of him.
Hamlet's madness proves to be feigned throughout the play, he puts it on as an act to help him attain his goal: revenge for his father's murder.
However there seems to be no reasonable explanation nor cause for Hamlet's feigned madness, for this feigned madness does not push him into any form of action that sanity would halt.
By looking at excerpts from Hamlet's seven soliloquies it becomes apparent that when alone Hamlet maintains a coherent outlook and remains steady in his aims regarding avenging his father.
Hamlet uses his ego and reasons through death many times. Hamlet declares that he will use a play to see if the king is guilty and many things throughout the play continue to "spur his dull revenge" even in Act 4 Scene 4 where this line is found. He is aware that villains are hiding behind smiles in Denmark and wishes to be "cruel, not unnatural", or in other words blunt but not crazy.
In Hamlet's soliloquies Ego is the most consistent psychological state with which Hamlet uses, and whenever he is in the Id he quickly returns to his Ego.
This video from the David Tennant version of
shows that Hamlet is using his madness as a cover as he pokes fun at Polonius. Hamlet even cries: "They are all fools" further proving his foolishness is a mere mask, as all of the other characters are the real "fools" (mad ones).
Ophelia is the character in Hamlet whose madness is real. No matter the production Ophelia spirals into madness as a result of the trauma she experiences from her father's death, Hamlet's neglect and madness, and because of her inability to break the constraints placed on the minds of women during Shakespearean times.
Psychological Approaches and Claims:
Oedipal Complex: males have a desire to be with their mothers sexually.
Id: (pleasure principle) Source of all our aggressions and desires; lawless, asocial, and amoral.
Ego: (reality principle) The conscious mind that stands for reason and regulates the id.
Superego: (morality principle) Moral censor agency, always acts with moral perfection.
Psychological Approaches and Claims:
Individualism: collective unconscious
Shadow: (dark side) Evil parts of the unconscious self; holds the primitive, negative, socially or religiously depreciated human emotions. Claudius works in his Shadow when he murders his brother.
Anima: (the soul) The spirit of man's energy that produces something positive. Gertrude works through her anima because she is unable to see her husband's sins.
Persona: (the mask) Between the shadow and the anima; mask that is put on to show the world, a personality quite different from ones true self. Hamlet puts on a persona in the play when he masks his true feelings with insanity.
Freud's theory works best when analyzing
. The idea that the unconscious bleeds through and affects real-life behavior is present in
through the Oedipal Complex. Similarly, Freud's idea of the id, ego, and superego are affirmed in
through the actions and intentions of the characters, especially Hamlet, Ophelia, Claudius, and Gertrude,
According to Freudian philosophy Hamlet fits the bill for the Oedipal Complex and most of his actions are a result of his incestuous love for this mother.
Hamlet's jealousy is what fuels his anger throughout the play.
Hamlet mediates between his Id (when he plays into his subconscious desires) and his Ego (when he reasons through situations.
From Freud's perspective without the Oedipal Complex, Hamlet's Id is a byproduct of his want for revenge and his true character is shown through his Ego.
According to Freudian ideology Ophelia committed suicide and was driven by the death of her father. She replicated death because of the trauma she experienced.
Ophelia acts from her id because she no longer has control of her Ego or Superego as a result of the repeated trauma in her life.
The id overshadows the other subconscious principles and is the reason she died.
According to Freud Claudius acts from within his id when he murders his brother, takes the crown, and his wife.
The id controls Claudius's aggression, guilt, and secrets.
As a result of murdering Old King Hamlet, Claudius is conflicted with his superego.
Claudius's ego tries to balance the division between his id and superego and therefore leads him to reflect on his actions and defensively hide his wrongdoings.
Gertrude struggles with balancing her id, ego, and superego.
Gertrude acted from her id when marrying her late husband's brother, and again when her denial keeps her from seeing the truth about her late husband's death.
Gertrude strives for perfection with her superego but her guilt impedes her morals, and her ego causes her added guilt.
As a result of her ego trying to balance her subconscious she goes into denial.
In Act 4 Scene 5 of
, Ophelia plummets into trauma-induced insanity. Though she goes mad, her madness is a consequence of the actions of others and reveals deeper insight into the roles of women and religion in Shakespearean times. During her ramblings Ophelia plainly contributes her madness to her father's death, but she also alludes to religion which she relies on for comfort, an the underlying tone of her songs connote a sense of conflict with the expectations placed on females to act and remain virtuous. The sly comments from Ophelia's brother Laertes about remaining virtuous earlier on in the play foreshadow the affects that gender constraints have on Ophelia; these constraints are a secondary cause of her madness next to her father's death and lovers neglect (Chapman).
"Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donned his clothes,
And dupped the chamber door.
Let in the maid that out a maid
Never departed more" (IV.v.48-55).
This song from Ophelia reveals the powerlessness of women who are belittled because of having their virtue stolen from them. It shows the inability of women to play a leading role in society and emphasizes the degrading status they held.
Though Ophelia may unintentionally be making a stand for women's rights in the following song she makes it clear that her father's death is what triggered her downward spiral.
"Say you? Nay, Pray you mark. /He is dead and gone lady,/He is dead and gone;/ At his head a grass-green turf,/ At his heels a stone" (IV.v.28-32).
In this short clip from the David Tennant version of Hamlet, Ophelia attributes a portion of her insanity to mankind's degrading and unfulfilled promises as they take advantage of young women and then leave them helpless and therefore unworthy for a noble man.
Through the songs of Ophelia it can be concluded that Ophelia's madness is a result of 1)Her father's death and her not being able to be truthful with him 2) Hamlet's neglect 3) and finally losing her purity, which is the only thing that her father said to give her worth, to Hamlet who now rejects her in pursuit of his own mission.
Social Madness is apparent in King Lear right from the beginning. In the very first scene, Lear is seen dividing up his kingdom and power to his 3 daughters. By doing so, Lear deviates wildly from the set tradition and his actions were seen as sacrilege. Lear went against the natural order of society and that in turn creates further chaos.
It is generally understood that "age is allied with Nature: It has a certain position to which a certain response is obligatory ...--respect and loving-kindness" (Heilman 42). The majority of the characters adhere to this view of age, except for Goneril, Regan, Edmund and Cornwall. When Lear decides to head out into the storm in outrage, Regan advises " to willful men/The injuries that they themselves procure/Must be their schoolmasters. Shut up your doors" (2.4.346-349). In a violent example of this disregard for age, Cornwall viciously puts out Gloucester's eyes and leaves Gloucester to fend for himself.
The principle source of social chaos in King Lear is"the destructive, the ultimately suicidal character of unregulated passion" and "its power to carry human nature back to chaos" (Goddard 12). This unchecked human passion is what leads to much of the tragedies in King Lear. Goneril poisoning Regan and then committing suicide herself came about because of their lust for Edmund. Edgar's disowning was a result of Edmund's greed and Lear's downfall was a consequence of his thirst for love and Goneril and Regan's lust for power. Left unhampered, "the predestined end of unmastered human passion is the suicide of the species" (Goddard 12).
As the social situation deteriorates in
, nature itself begins to mimic this madness. After Lear splits up his kingdom and Goneril and Regan refuse their father, a great storm descends on the characters, signifying the deviation from the natural order of society.
Lear himself often invokes nature as a parallel to his own plights.
Blow winds and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks
You sulph'rous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head.
He calls upon nature's wrath as a reflection of his own inner turmoil. His anger and anguish is mimicked in the raging of the winds, the thunder and lightning. Soon the storm is no longer confined to the external world. Lear feels the storm within himself and slowly begins his descent into madness.
This tempest in my mind
Doth from my senses take all feeling else
Save what beats there
From a Freudian perspective in Act 1 Lear is acting primarily with his id. He demands love from his daughters and when Cordelia fails to provide that immediate satisfaction Lear lashes out and not only disowns her but also demeans her in front of her, telling Burgundy "I would not from your love make such a stray/To match you where I hate. Therefore beseech you/T'avert your liking a more worthier way"(1.1.240-242). Any opposition to Lear's actions is also dismissed with the same impulsivness, as Kent soon learns.
At Goneril's castle, Lear and his men act with the same need for immediate gratification. They are disruptive in her castle and when Goneril demands that Lear dismiss half of his men to control the riotous behavior, he reacts by cursing Goneril with sterility.
In Act 2 Lear is still acting with his id when he arrives at Gloucester's castle and is enraged by seeing Kent in the stocks. His anger is further inflamed by Regan and Cornwall's refusal to see him when he first enters the castle. When he finally meets with them, Lear reinforces the notion of filial loyalty to Regan: "if thou shouldst not be glad,/I would divorce me from thy mother's tomb,/Sepulch'ring an adultress."(2.4.146-148). He then denounces Goneril's actions and seeks affection from Regan.
As it becomes apparent to Lear that Regan holds the same position as Goneril, he retreats into his ego. After hearing Regan's condition of only 25 knights allowed to remain, Lear decides to return to Goneril, a rational decision made to try and maintain as many of his men as possible. When Goneril also lowers her limit until both Regan and Goneril wish Lear to dismiss all of his men, Lear tries to reason with them again.
Thou art a lady;
If only to go warm were gorgeous,
Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear'st,
Which scarcely keeps thee warm.
Eventually Lear falls back to his id and leaves the castle in anger, preferring to brave the storm instead.
By Act 3, Lear's id has descended him into insanity. His anger has so overtaken him to such a degree that it almost overpowers his ego and superego. He dares nature to destroy him and only goes toward shelter after the fool begs him to.
During the imaginary trial that Lear concocts, he is using his ego and superego to determine the cause of his daughter's actions. He is trying to rationalize their coldness to him and wonders how they could act in such opposition to his own morals. Ultimately Lear finds the fault within his daughters, his id shielding him from the part he has played in his own demise.
Lear's superego and ego are finally overtaking his id in Act 4. He recognizes his fault in asking for love the way he did and expounds on the sins of humanity to Gloucester. In Lear's apparently mad ramblings, there is an undeniable current of reason.
Through tattered clothes small vices do appear,
Robes and furred gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks,
Arm it in rags, a pygmy's straw does pierce it.
Lear sees the failings of mankind and the trappings of power and money. When Lear and Cordelia are reunited, he tells her that he would not blame her if she did not love him. That Regan and Goneril had done him wrong but he himself had wronged Cordelia.
By Act 5 Lear has recognized his follies and realized the wrongs of humanity, however, Cordelia's death moves Lear to despair once again. He attempts to disprove her death by asking for a mirror and a feather to test for breathing. When those fail, Lear falls to his superego and decries the morality of allowing "a dog, a horse, a rat have life" while permitting Cordelia to be murdered.
Throughout the entire play Cordelia acts primarily with her ego and superego rather than succumbing to her id. Lear's demands for love from his daughters are done with the tone of a business transaction and Cordelia's response is structured in the same way. "For her part Cordelia's real transgression is not unkindness as such, but speaking in a way which threatens to show too clearly how the laws of human kindness operate in the service of property, contractual, and power relations"(Dollimore 81). She recognizes the folly in the way Lear asks for affection and responds in a way to reveal the impersonal nature of Lear's requests.
Even when Lear publicly disowns Cordelia, she remains calm and rational. Her response to Burgundy, "Since that respect and fortunes are his love,/I shall not be his wife"(1.1.288-289) reveal the morals that her superego holds in value. She recognizes how Burgundy places value more on wealth and power rather than her as a person. Cordelia's superego was also in play earlier in the scene when she tells Lear, "A still-soliciting eye and such a tongue/That i am glad I have not, though not to have it/Hath lost me in your liking"(1.1.266-268). Even though her id is telling her that succumbing to Lear's wishes would be a benefit to her in monetary and social status, her superego restricts that impulse because she values speech that holds sincerity.
From a Jungian standpoint, Cordelia is the anima of the play. She is the feminine ideal, a balance to the shadows and personas of the other characters. When Lear disowns her and sends her off with France, he upsets the balance Cordelia provided.
Since Cordelia acts as the anima and superego of the play, the upholder of morality, her absence allowed the other aspects of the human psyche to run rampant. When her and Lear are reunited, Lear regains his moral and rational principles. Her reappearance also marks the reemergence of morality in the rest of the characters as well, Edmund's last act of penance for example.
However, her reappearance was too late. Cordelia's absence was so prolonged and the shadow and the id of the characters were so prominent that she was doomed to die. Without her morality for so much of the play, corruption ran rampant.
The Fool acts as a "kind of external conscience, but it is not Lear's injustice but his folly that the fool harps on"(Bennett 51). He keeps the characters, Lear especially, from keeping their shadows hidden. He exposes the faults that the characters refuse to acknowledge.
He also provides a rational voice to Lear's madness. It is the Fool who begs Lear to return to his daughters rather than die out in the storm, who foretells the consequences of Lear's dismissal of Cordelia as well as Goneril and Regan's superficial answers.
With Cordelia's absence from the play, the Fool acts as a "representative of Cordelia, appealing to Lear's affections by his doglike devotion, depending on him for protection, and so keeping lear human in that part of the play where Cordelia cannot appear"(Bennet 51). He provides a temporary balance to the chaos that Cordelia's absence caused. The Fool is the ego that counters Lear's id.
Goneril and Regan are motivated primarily by their id throughout the whole play. They also employ their ego to rationally obtain the desires that motivate their id but their superego, the morality, is often absent from their actions.
When Lear makes the request that each daughter quantify the love they feel for him, Goneril and Regan put on their personas to satisfy this condition. It is evident in Act 2 that the love they profess in Act 1 is not sincere, in fact, both daughters have a rather derogatory view of Lear.
The use of their egos becomes apparent in their negotiations with Lear over his army. Their arguments against Lear retaining any of his men are made with a cold and calm rationale. Both are also aware of the power Lear still holds over the people. As Regan cautions, "he is attended with a desperate train,/And what they may incense him to, being apt/To have his ear abused, wisdom bids fear" (2.4.350-352). While Goneril and Regan are spurred on by their ids, their egos reign in any impulisve and rash decisions.
However, even though their egos are at work, Goneril and Regan are still prey to their violent passions. When Gloucester is captured by Cornwall, both sisters advocate violence to be done against Gloucester. Regan even gets physical and plucks Gloucester's beard. Edmund also becomes another source of this unmitigated temperament. In their attempts to win Edmund's affections, Goneril and Regan engage in a fierce competition that ends with Goneril murdering Regan then committing suicide. These instances showcase the devolution from ego, reason, to their id and shadows, the unregulated passions and faults of character that Goneril and Regan had previously hidden.
In the first scene of the play, Kent provides reason to Cordelia's morality. He is the ego balancing out the superego of Cordelia and the id of Lear. Kent recognizes the emptiness in Goneril and Regan's response, "nor are those empty-hearted whose low sounds/Reverb no hollowness" (1.1.172-173) and attempts to persuade Lear to rethink his decision and recognize the foolishess in his actions. After Lear banishes Kent, Kent is forced to put up a persona to be near Lear again, however his intentions are still pure. Kent's persona is in identity only and his actions demonstrate the loyalty he still holds for Lear.
Albany is one of the few characters who does not put up a persona nor disguise his true intentions. His folly lies in ignorance of his wife and his friend's true personalities. Albany is shown to have a strong superego, he openly confronts Edmund about the various assassination plots ongoing but when Edgar wounds Edmund in battle, Albany tells Edgar to spare Edmund's life. Albany would have provided the balance to Goneril, Regan, Cornwall and Edmund had he not been unaware of their plots.
Like Goneril and Regan, Cornwall is primarily moved by his id and shadow, his quest for power. However, he is shown to be less rash than the sisters. When Glouscester was captured, Cornwall was the one to calm down Regan and Goneril. Cornwall was rational enough to question Gloucester first before any punishment. Cornwall also seems to have a greater connection to his superego, evidenced by him sending away Edmund before gouging out his father's eyes.
In the beginning Gloucester acts as the mediator between Lear's group and Edmund's. He is very trusting and loyal, blind to Edmund's deception because he believes that his children are as loyal and open as he is. Gloucester is another character with a strong superego, a strong moral principle which is what causes him to leave the castle in search for Lear. When Gloucester decides to align his loyalties with Lear, he puts up a persona towards Cornwall, Goneril and Regan.
Gloucester is also prone to acting based solely on emotion rather than reason. When Edmund came with 'evidence' of Edgar's treachery, Gloucester was quick to believe the deceit, acting on his id and condemning Edgar to death. After having his eyes gouged out and learning the truth of Edmund's lies, Gloucester finally sees the faults in his shadow and is moved to attempting suicide.
Lear presents an innocent persona for the majority of the play. He is "a man/More sinned against than sinning"(3.2.62-63), preferring to stay unconscious of the faults found within his shadow. This persona that he has built up and presented to the world is what keeps Lear from realizing the faults in his actions at the beginning of the play, instead he "anatomizes" his daughters to see where the fault lies in them. It is not until Act 4 when Lear begins to let down this persona and really examine his own actions.
Edmund is found to be alternating between his id, ego and superego throughout the play, though he primarily uses his id and ego. His id is what drives him to concoct the plot against his half-brother Edgar and to betray his father when Edmund learns of the letter Gloucester received. Edmund is fixated on gaining power and land that he normally would not be able obtain due to his illegitimate status. So, Edmund puts on the persona of a loving son and brother in order to gain the status he seeks.
Edmund uses his ego to gain the power he desires through subversive means. His rationality is what allows him to carry out his deceit as efficiently as he does without anyone finding him out.
While Edmund does live primarily within his id, persona and ego, his superego makes occasionally appearances also. In Act 1, Edmund questions the justice in awarding only legitimate sons:
Why "bastard"? Wherefore "base,"
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous and my shape as true
As honest madam's issue?
He doesn't believe in the morality of his present social situation and that, in part, drives him towards the course of action he takes.
In the last act of the play, Edmund is mortally wounded by his brother Edgar. As Edmund lay dying, Edgar reveals his true identity, leading Edmund to the revelation that his plot against his brother has come full circle with Edmund the one dying in the end. However, it is not till Edmund learns of the murder-suicide of Goneril and Regan, that his morality is seen again. Moved by the actions of the sisters who sought Edmund's love, Edmund reveals his plot to kill Lear and Cordelia. In this final scene Edmund is able to relinquish his persona and succumb to his true personality because he realizes that Goneril and Regan loved him for his true self.
Similar to Cordelia, Edgar acts as the superego for his family. He is loyal to his family and acts as a moral compass. When Gloucester disowns him, Edgar is forced to put on the persona of Poor Tom and is ready to live out his life in poverty. Meeting Lear's group made Edgar's situation dangerous, especially since Gloucester ends up joining them, but Edgar's compassion has him stay with the group, becoming Lear's 'philosopher'. Later on when Gloucester's eyes are put out and he has lost the will to live, Edgar tricks Gloucester into staying alive and gives him a reason to live. In the final act of the play, Edgar is reunited with Edmund and is able to reveal all of Edmund's lies and deception.
Madness in King Lear
As opposed to Hamlet, Lear is facing the genuine deterioration of his sanity from the beginning. As a man of very old age, Lear must deal with his mind floating away rather than choosing to feign madness as Hamlet does. Lear is aware that his sanity is going, but as he grows crazier, he does not seem to notice.
"O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven!
Keep me in temper. I would not be mad!" (I.v.45-46)
This shows Lear does not want to lose his sanity, but he knows it may happen soon as he reflects upon his actions at the end of Act I. While he does not take back Cordelia and Kent's banishment, he knows that he was not in the right mind when he did such things.
The amount of characters affected by madness is different in
as well. While both Hamlet and Ophelia are impacted by madness, feigned or genuine, Lear is the only character who is visibly struggling with the decline of their mental state. Lear's madness affects those around him as they choose whether to help him or use his growing insanity against him.
Cordelia and Kent are two of the people that tried to help Kent as he grew madder. Ironically, these are the two people that he banished in a fit of madness. Regardless, they find their way back to his side whether it be by disguise or giving him solace in a different country.
"My mourning and importuned tears hath pitied.
No blown ambition doth our arms incite,
But love, dear love, and our aged father incite,
Soon may I hear and see him." (IV.v.29-32)
While Lear had indeed banished his favorite child, Cordelia shows no hard feelings towards him and exhibits her excitement after hearing she will be able to see him. This stems not only from her undying love for him in all situations, but also that she knows that her manipulating sisters can't do anything to him while he is with her.
"I do profess to be no less than I seem, to serve
him truly that will put me in trust, to love him that
is honest, to converse with him that is wise and says
little to fear judgement, to fight when I cannot
choose, and to eat no fish" (I.iv.14-18)
This is Kent's first interaction with Lear after being banished and shows that he still shows undying loyalty towards Lear despite the previous events. While his actions could come off as shady considering the situation, Kent shows later on that he just wants what is best for Lear and for England even if he has to disguise himself to do so.
As satirical as it sounds, the Fool at some points becomes Lear's voice of reason. In the jumbled mess that is his mind, Lear finds not only amusement, but also clarity in the words of the Fool. Like Cordelia and Kent, the Fool has pure intentions in sticking around Lear and Lear entrusts him to keeping him from madness.
As opposed to the rest of Lear's inner circle, Regan and Goneril, the older daughters, are very much working against their father. Their greed for the throne lets them stop at nothing to take over as much of their father's kingdom as they can despite being less favorable than Cordelia, their younger sister. They use their father's condition to their own advantage by labeling him a traitor and force him to fend for himself.
Madness in Hamlet
As opposed to Lear, Hamlet's madness is originally feigned as a ploy to distract people from his plan for revenge. While the other characters are not aware that Hamlet is faking, the audience is mindful of Hamlet's feigned insanity. When Hamlet does begin to show signs of actual madness, it is more of an extension of his feigned madness than senility as in Lear's case.
While Ophelia's madness is authentic like Lear's, rather than it being from the collapse of an old mind, but from the stress of the events around her. Upon her father's death, Ophelia truly believes that Hamlet went mad and killed Polonius because she rejected him. Her mindset causes her to be convinced that anyone, even her, can become unhinged.
Another difference between Hamlet and Lear is that only Hamlet was advised not to actually go insane. In his conversation with his father's ghost, the two conditions in his revenge were to leave his mother be and to maintain his sanity. While Lear tried to keep himself from losing his mind, he was the one to advise himself to keep his sense. As Hamlet moves further along on his plan for revenge, he finds himself disobeying his father and grows to be more and more truly insane and goes as far as hurting his mother in the process.
Gender and the Shadow
Shadow in Males (Hamlet)
The shadow is the black side of someone's personality, or the less pleasing aspects of our personality we try to hide.
, the shadow is mainly seen in male characters, while it is seen in female characters in
"My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
May one be pardoned and retain th' offense?
In the corrupted currents of this world,
Offenses's gilded hand may shove by justice," (III.iii.59-63)
In this soliloquy, Claudius admits that he indeed murdered his own brother and cites his ambition as one of the driving factors. Up until this point, Claudius has been able to mask his murderous side from those around him, excluding Hamlet, but is visibly shaken from viewing Hamlet's mousetrap ploy. From this point forward, Claudius shifts between persona and shadow depending on who he is around. He maintains his composure around Gertrude, representing his persona, but openly plots Hamlet's death with Laertes, representing his shadow.
"Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be
a breeder of sinners?" (III.i.131-132)
While Hamlet's harsh treatment of Ophelia can be seen as an act of protection, it could also just be plain harsh depending on how the production displays Hamlet and Ophelia's relationship. Hamlet has no qualms against using his relationship with Ophelia to the advantage of his revenge.
By not considering the consequences, Hamlet shows a pattern of mistreatment toward the females close to him while in his state of pretend madness. Not only does he attack Ophelia while knowing his uncle and her father are watching, he disobeys his father's ghost and verbally attacks his mother as well.
Shadow in Females (King Lear)
Regan and Goneril act in their Shadow for most of the play. One distinct difference in Hamlet and
is the amount of dominance and strength the females hold. The females in King Lear have a lot more authority than the females in Hamlet. In the case of Regan and Goneril, they both show their manipulative personalities from flattering their old, senile father to plotting the deaths of their husbands and even each other.
Freud's Death Drive
Freud describes the "death drive" as the body's primitive and most inhuman element, but possesses intriguing connections between this most archaic and automatic impulse and that which we understand to be most cultured, creative, and human. Freud derives both pleasure and discomfort from his idea of the "death drive".
In terms of Freud's "death drive", Lear childishly rejects death for most of the play and relates to his angry rejection of Cordelia as a form of regression. However, he comes to a level of mature acceptance of death with his final union with Cordelia upon her death.
In contrast to Lear, Hamlet is very much accepting of his impending downfall. As a revenge hero, Hamlet knows things will not end well for him since his revenge involves killing a king that no one suspects of any wrongdoing. Unlike Lear, Hamlet acts upon a mix of the id and ego to fuel his actions and behavior well aware of the fact that death may come to him soon.
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In the beginning of the play Hamlet is in his persona, his mask. He is hiding his anger towards his mother because of her new marriage. He is also hiding his hate for Claudius for marrying his mother so shortly after his father's death.
When Hamlet confronts his father's ghost and learns of his murder we see his shadow take over. He turns to the shadow because of his vow to avenge his father's death against Claudius. Later on he makes a plan to murder Claudius if he is guilty of murder.
Hamlet decides to start acting mad in order to learn more from those around him. He goes back to the persona in order to deceive everyone in his life. We know he is in his persona because the audience knows he is not actually mad. This can be drawn from his words and well planned actions, such as his preparation of the Mouse Trap.
Hamlet is sent to his mother's chambers and accidentally kills Polonius. While Hamlet is normally a rational person and would not murder so impulsively, his strong subconscious desire overwhelms his rational side. Hamlet is in his shadow during this altercation, but his anima emerges for a moment as he says "For this same lord I do repent" (III.iv.172-175).
In the last scene Hamlet is dying from a poisonous wound. His last act is to make Claudius drink the poison so he will die as well. This is Hamlet acting in his shadow again because he has taken someone's life and feels no remorse at all, for he believes it is the proper revenge.
In the beginning of the play Hamlet is balancing between his id, ego, and superego. He is acting rationally even with the events going on around him; the "rottenness" in Denmark.
When he learns of his father's murder he is falling into his id because he promises to seek revenge, but feels the need to prove the wrongdoings of Claudius before acting on this revenge. The presence of the id grows stronger because Hamlet has some faith in the ghost, but he remains well-balanced between his ego and superego.
In one of his most famous soliloquies, "To be or not to be", Hamlet is mostly in his ego, but his id makes subtle appearances. He contemplates suicide playing into the id. However he reverts back to the ego by reasoning through his morals.
Hamlet begins to act crazy in order to fool everyone and gain more information. He is still acting in his ego though because he has not actually lost his mind. The audience knows he is faking it because he carries out strategic plans.
The murder of Polonius is reflective of Hamlet in his id state. Hamlet is in his ego when he commands Gertrude. Hamlet touches on his superego when he repents for murdering Polonius.
In the final act Hamlet acts within his id, forcing Claudius to commit suicide. However, Hamlet is not completely in his id as is proven by his conversations with Horatio before his death which reveals his ego.
Lear's disowning of Cordelia a reflection of his shadow because he wants complete affection but acts on this want in the wrong way. He is not thinking rationally and disowns his favorite and only true daughter. His irrational actions caused him to disregard the anima that lies in Cordelia.
As Lear goes from castle to castle his shadow becomes much more prevalent. His darker tendencies start to show themselves in the form of cruelty and defiance. He feels entitled to the absolute affections of his daughters and doesn't understand why they don't show him that affection.
Lear goes completely mad when he is stuck out in the storm, because he is stuck in his shadow. He imagines Regan and Goneril and puts them on a mock trial. Lear has no idea what is reality and what is delusional.
Lear comes out of his shadow when he is reunited with Cordelia. He begins to act rational and stops imagining things. He also rekindles his relationships with her and recognizes the mistake he made in disowning her.
At the end of this play Lear has reached his anima because he cares more about Cordelia then himself. When Cordelia dies so does his anima so there is nothing to hold him in the physical world.
In the beginning of this play Lear is acting on his id because he is doing whatever he wants. He banishes Cordelia even though she is the best daughter. Then he banishes Kent for trying to help him realize he was making a huge mistake.
After Lear gives away his land he goes to Goneril and Regan in the castle. He is acting in his id at this time because he is doing whatever he wants whenever he wants. He has no respect for Goneril's servants or property. He makes fun of her favorite servant and laughs when he trips. He also is bringing his knights everywhere with him. Together they are wrecking Goneril's house. When she kicks him out he scorns her and doesn't realize how awful he was being. Immediately he makes plans to go to Regan's castle and enraged when she doesn't let him in.
When the storm is raging on Lear spirals into insanity. He falls completely into the id and blames everything on other people. Inside the tiny cave he imagines Goneril and Regan. This is the separation of reality from madness. Lear falls into his ego during the trial as he reasons through the mistreatment from his daughters.
Lear returns to his ego when he is reunited with Cordelia. He begins to act rational again and his delusions cease. He goes into his super ego when he apologizes for disowning her and realizes his mistakes.
When Cordelia is killed, Lear is grief stricken. He goes into his id by claiming there is nothing worth living for and wants to die. He is in his id because he is thinking impulsively and dies with Cordelia in his arms.
His father's death
Hamlet losing his father put a strain on his mental health. Even though his father was older is it still difficult to lose one's father regardless of age. He was grieving for his father the entire play which could have led to his madness.
Mother's New Marriage
In this clip from the Mel Gibson version of
the audience can see how hurt Hamlet is by his mother's re marriage. It is very difficult to deal with the death of a parent especially on your own. Hamlet feels that he cannot look to his mother for comfort because she already moved on. He hates her for this and quotes "frailty thy name is woman".
In the clip below is Act 1 Scene 4 right after the ghost of Hamlet's father leaves. From this scene the audience can see how unbalanced Hamlet is after talking to his father. The news of his death being a murder is a lot for Hamlet to handle.
Hamlet loved Ophelia despite acting crazy towards her. He is extremely upset that the only person he somewhat confided in is now gone. He cared for her very much and feels partly responsible for her death.
Hamlet starts going crazy within minutes of ;earning about her death. He jumps into her grave in front of the entire funeral party. After he gets out her gets into a fistfight with Laertes for no good reason. Hamlet obviously can not deal with another death in his life and starts to deteriorate.
Lear disowns his favorite daughter Cordelia for being defiant. He doesn't realize the mistake he made until later in the play. However when he does realize his mistake he is deeply sorry and as an audience we see the pain it has caused him.
Goneril kicked Lear out of her home when he was being to crazy for her liking. She has no respect for him and lied about loving him to receive his lan
Regan also lied to Lear in order to get land from him. She wouldn't allow him into her home and sent him out into the dangerous storm. We know how cruel she is because she helps to gauge out Glouster's eyes.
Lear and Cordelia are finally reunited and he apologizes. Sadly she is killed by guards at the prison for being a traitor.
Lear is so distraught over her death he says he is done living. He believes he has nothing to live for any more now that she is gone. Shortly after Lear dies while holding her in his arms
By: Emmie Utchel, Rochelle Shih, Emily Dillon, Melissa Lacro
The deaths of both Ophelia and Cordelia affect the way Hamlet and Lear react.
Parental relationships in both plays are similar because the relationships between parent and child instigate the madness of Hamlet and the three daughters.
In both plays, there are subplots occurring with minor characters that further the insanity of the major characters. For example, in
the subplot between Edgar and Edmond affects Lear's madness as Edmond kills Lear's one true daughter, Cordelia which instigates his downward spiral.
In both plays women contribute to the madness of the main characters, Hamlet and Lear. Gertrude's hasty marraige and Ophelia's death result in Hamlet's madness, and Regan and Goneril's betrayals and Cordelia's death contribute to King Lear's spiral into madness.
Similarities and Differences of Setting
The main similarity between the settings of the two plays is a many of the actions take place within a castle, however the main actions in
take place outside with nature as a driving force, and the main actions in
take place within the isolated rooms of the castle in Denmark.
Lear has a bigger presence, because he takes up more space with his settings so expansive, i.e. inside and outside. While Hamlet portrays a smaller presence within confined, secluded areas of the castle.
The main characters, Hamlet and Lear, act within their id through most of the plays.
The anima of both plays are portrayed by women (Cordelia and Ophelia/Gertrude).
In both plays the majority of the characters put on a persona, they mask their true identities. For example, Hamlet's feigned madness is a mask, Claudius's insincere cordial relationship with Hamlet is a mask, and Kent and Edgar put on a persona when they embody other characters (Caius, Poor Tom).