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Courtney Amick
Mrs. Carter
AP Literature and Composition
6 February 2014
A Mothers Love and a Nephews Scorn
In Shakespeares Hamlet, Hamlets extreme love for his mother and his desire for
revenge for the death of his father are the driving forces behind his quest throughout the
tragedy. These Oedipal son and revenger complexes are revealed in his soliloquies and develop
his character all the way until his imminent death.
Shakespeare reveals Hamlets Oedipal son complex in Hamlets description of his
mother in his soliloquies. He is obsessed with the idea of her and his father being together. He
describes their relationship as Why, she would hang on him/ As if increase of appetite had
grown (H. I. ii. 147-148). He feels that she simply could not have enough of him and he cannot
imagine how she went from loving him so fiercely to falling in love with his own brother who
murdered him. He is distraught over her betrayal of his father.
Hamlet also reveals his desire to protect his mother from harsh treatment, even though
she betrayed him and his father. When he goes to speak to her, he expresses this desire when
he resolves to let me be cruel, not unnatural (H. III. ii. 428). However, he has to pray for the
strength to even speak to her and stay firm. It is clear that he is so sensitive towards her and
her feelings, that it truly pains him to speak to her with any scorn. His love for her is deep.
Comment [01]: Dont underline
Comment [02]: Insert ,
Comment [03]: Any harshness
Comment [04]: Because he simply cannot stand
to hurt or offend her.
Comment [C5]: Delete comma
Comment [C6]: Delete, unnecessary
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In addition to emotional love, Shakespeare hints at a physical attraction by Hamlet to his
mother. He accomplishes this through subtle phallic symbols. Hamlet says when he speaks to
his mother he will speak daggers to her, but use none (H. III. ii. 429). He has to talk himself
into not using his dagger on his mother, which could be construed as talking himself out of a
sexual advance on her. This unnatural attraction and love for his mother serves to prove his
Oedipal complex. His love for his mother is not indicative of a normal mother-son relationship.
Though Hamlet has an unnatural love for his mother, the revenger side of his character
allows him to seek revenge on the man she now loves, regardless of how it will hurt her. He put
everything, including his own life and the fate of his immortal soul, in jeopardy just to seek
revenge on King Claudius. He says that he will wipe away all trivial fond records (H. I. v. 106).
He made everything in his mind disappear in order for him to focus on his ultimate goal.
Nothing can be as important as evening the score between Claudius and Hamlets father.
Hamlet is so intent on revenge that he will not even kill Claudius in a time that he thinks
will allow him to go to heaven. He says Claudius took my father grossly, full of bread,/ With all
his crimes broad blown (H. III. iii. 84-85). He believes that, since Claudius killed his father in a
time of sin, he too should be killed in a time of sin. Claudius does not deserve to go to heaven
when his father is rotting in purgatory, forced to wander the earth as a ghost. It is only fair that
Claudius be sent to hell, too. That is the way of a revenger; an eye can only be met with an eye.
Hamlet is shaped as a character through the development of his Oedipal son complex as
well as his role as a revenger. This is revealed through his soliloquies when he speaks of his
sensitivity towards his mother and his desire to exact fair revenge on Claudius by killing him and
Comment [C7]: Through the use of phallic
symbols
Comment [08]: Underlying physical chemistry
Comment [C9]: Delete
Comment [C10]: Use His making an effort to
resist because talk himself has already been
used before
Comment [011]: Because a dagger is a phalic
symbol
Comment [C12]: Use corroborates
Comment [C13]: Change to Desires to protect
Comment [C14]: Change to attempt to harm
because revenge is used too much
Comment [C15]: Change to cleared his mind of
any other thoughts
Comment [C16]: To him, nothing
Comment [C17]: Switch the order of these
sentences so that the goal is more clear.
Comment [C18]: As a revenger, he feels that
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sending him to hell. These two sides of Hamlets character drive the play and his quest, infusing
it with a sensitive passion as well as a tempered violence.

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