Though not everyone agrees that Hamlet is Shakespeare’s best play, it is undisputedly the most well known. In fact, it is the most widely recognized piece of literature on Earth. One of the main reasons it is so renowned is due to the fact that Hamlet is “the single most complex, multilayered and confusing character in any play.
“(Nilsen, http://img.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/ae/articles/0108shake0108hamlet.html) Not a single interpretation of his behavior is universally approved.
One of the more famous and controversial interpretations of Hamlet’s behavior is the theory that he has an Oedipus complex. While the idea that Hamlet has an Oedipus complex is an old (and some consider outdated) interpretation of Hamlet’s behavior, it has been, nonetheless, explored by Hollywood.Regardless of what many believe, there is hard evidence from the play that Hamlet has an Oedipus complex. Hamlet is despaired by the union of Claudius and Gertrude claiming that it can do no good But break his heart’ (Hamlet, 1.2.11).
This feeling would be normal for any son regarding the marriage of mother and uncle so soon after dad’s death. However, his despair will lead to suicide if not for the canon law and religious injunction that keeps him from self-slaughter’. (Hamlet, 1.
2.10) He goes on to criticize Gertrude’s sex life where he speaks of the king tempting her again to bed’ (Hamlet, 3.4.77). It is unnatural for Hamlet to be interested in her sex life let alone being jealous of Claudius. This overwhelming concern for his mother shows that Hamlet is “more moved by a corrosive jealousy of Claudius than the traditional idealistic ways of the Renaissance and kindred honor.” (Suji, http://www.
slashdoc.com/documents/61852) Furthermore, Hamlet poses his uncle as a moor’ that the queen battens’ (Hamlet, 3.4.
While Hamlet should emphasize her reason for marrying Claudius, he contrarily pays more attention to her appetite. Though many critics disagree with the Freudian view, the textual evidence from Act Three provides substantial evidence for Hamlet’s incestuous love for his mother, the Queen. By killing the successor of the throne and this father’s bride, Hamlet will have his mother’s love to himself.
In contrast to those who believe that Hamlet has an Oedipus complex, many believe that the evidence from the play does not prove such a theory. The two most recent movies, starring Kenneth Branagh and Ethan Hawke, respectively, both take a more direct interpretation of the play. They avoid all controversy dealing with the Oedipus complex. In both plays, the way Hamlet treats his mother is normal.
Not even the pickiest Naysayer can see anything wrong with their relationship. Hamlet is portrayed as a young potentially crazy, emotional wreck. However, these movies suggest nothing of an Oedipus complex. Though Hawke’s version modernizes the play to connect with a younger audience, it is still the same in concept. The fact that this movie takes place in modern day New York City is the only aspect that might raise eyebrows. Branagh’s version, however, tries to avoid all controversy by being exactly following the play. For Hamlet enthusiasts, this is a crucial aspect of this film because if they attempt following along with the play in hand, they will be “delighted by the experience” (Mikken, http://www.
greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=00AIHo). On the contrary, if the same play fanatics try to follow along with Zeffirelli’s version of the movie (Gibson), they will be greatly disappointed. This film is one of the most controversial of Hamlet films: it focuses directly on the Oedipus complex. To emphasize the illness throughout the movie, Zeffirelli takes it a little too far.
“The movie starts out with Gertrude crying over elder Hamlet’s casket and she takes one of her two hairpins and places it inside the casket with him. This sets the stage for the entire movie. Gertrude only has one remaining hairpin and Zeffirelli sets it up like both Hamlet and Claudius are vying for it.”(George, http://www.greenspun.
com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=00AIHo) Furthermore, the bedroom scene, a vital piece of evidence supporting the Oedipus complex interpretation, is a way to physically show the attraction between Hamlet and his mother. The way Hamlet assaults his mother and pushes her onto the bed clearly expresses this unnatural bond. This disturbing scene clearly shows Hamlet’s treatment of his mother as a bit too close for a mother/son relationship. Though the last two adaptations of Hamlet on the big screen exclude the idea of an Oedipus complex existing in Hamlet, it does not mean that the idea is not what Shakespeare intended. Through the evidence presented from the play and the credible Hamlet that Gibson and Zeffirelli brought to life on the big screen, it is clear why this interpretation will never be buried.
Many still may not agree that Hamlet has an Oedipus complex even with the hulking amount of evidence that the play and movie provides. However, they have to agree, it certainly does make a more interesting Hamlet.