Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

Mother And Son Relationship In Hamlet

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2357 words Published: 4th May 2017

Reference this

The individual texts of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the First (so-called ‘Bad’) Quarto (Q1, 1603), Second Quarto (Q2, 1604-1605) and First Folio (F, 1623) have caused much controversy due to their varying natures of each text. Q1 is that of a fast paced nature and many actors enjoyed this due to the fact that lines were more portable. Hamlet’s famous soliloquy: “To be, or not to be…”(Q1.7.115) for example, can be placed in any scene because of Hamlet’s character. The soliloquy is about 500 lines earlier in Q1; he hasn’t met the players yet whereas in Q2 he has. In Q2 (2.2), Hamlet meets the players and hatches his plan to entrap Claudius and therefore is in a positive mood. This is then followed by the ‘To be, not to be’ speech about suicide and negativity which doesn’t fit with Hamlet’s previous positive mood-one reason why some directors put the speech earlier, so that it makes more sense theatrically, and is hence more ‘portable.’ A lot of recent stage productions have moved the speech to this early Q1 staging (even whilst sticking to the rest of Q2). The question is whether or not such cuts of Q2 and the modifications in F exemplify “Shakespeare’s own deliberate revision of the play, or are they [alterations] made by the actors, [or] other people in the theatre after the manuscript had left the author’s hand?” (Thompson, 52). Q2 is like a ‘Director’s Cut;’ what you didn’t see in Q1. This is because at times such as in the first act of Q2 there are echoes of Q1.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

This is also true in the case of Hamlet’s relationship with his mother Gertrude. Q1 and Q2/F have many similarities and differences in regards to characterization as a whole that affect the critical interpretation of the play. For the purposes of this paper it will be discussed how a Freudian reading and psychoanalysis of Hamlet/Gertrude {mother/son relations} works better in relation to Q2/F than in relation to Q1. One can even argue that Sigmund Freud must have been using the received text (conflated Q2/F), of Hamlet, the edited version of one text passed on by generations and generations of editors in the 18thC and 19thC. One could even argue that if Freud had read the Q1 text instead his theory of the Oedipus complex would have been rather different, if formulated at all. Therefore Sigmund Freud’s Hamlet inevitably suffered from the Oedipus complex in both Q2/F texts. One has to wonder if “Shakespeare had had Oedipus in mind when he wrote it and if it was important that we should recall the story” (Robert Withington, 475) and if so would Shakespeare have told us?

As Withington argues “Is the Hamlet we create at sixty the same as the one we created at twenty?” If this is the case then as readers of Shakespeare we have not evolved. As these productions were being performed the actors were constantly changing, hence the script was being edited therefore leading to Freud’s interpretation for Q2/F. This in turn leads to Q2/F being a more exaggerated enactment of the Oedipus complex. Freud himself states he has “attempted to interpret only the deepest stratum of impulses in the mind of the creative poet” (Withington, 476). These thoughts and feelings that are “repressed or submerged in the unconscious are said to be “deeply” repressed or to lie “deep” in the unconscious” (Withington, 476).

Freud concluded that there was a change in decrease of concern with father/son relations and corresponding increase of concern with mother/son affairs. The Queen, like her son is a character who undergoes subtle but significant changes between Shakespeare’s Folio and Quarto texts.

Quarto 1 explains things in places where Q2 doesn’t. Gertrude has asked to see Hamlet, though: “she desires to speak with you in her closet ere you go to bed” (Q2, 3.2.322)/(F. 3.2.321). Has he invaded her private space, or has she invited her adult son into it? Q1 isn’t so explicit about where she wants to speak with him. Freudians have had a field day with this scene. Hamlet’s language in Q2/F is much more sexualized than in Q1 making an Oedipal reading more difficult in Q1. Consequently, Freud himself identified Hamlet as the English Oedipus (Jones, 45). This is due to the fact that the plot revolves around Hamlet’s revenge towards his step-father/uncle and their incestuous marriage, “which arouses in him the deeper loathing” (Jones, 61). In one respect Hamlet also demonstrates his incestuous lust, as he is loaded with sexual energy towards his mother, which is apparent in the closet scene.

Renaissance readers/audiences would not have confused a closet with a bedroom, it was considered a separate room to which a woman retired, for reading or prayer. However, today most readers/viewers assume that the ‘closet’ is the ‘bedroom’ due to Hamlet’s obsession with his mother’s bed. Traditionally a woman would entertain her lover or spouse, yet Hamlet responds to Gertrude’s command to her closet in Q2/F. Hamlet’s passion prevails in him again when he forces Gertrude onto the bed in Q2 and informs her that she “…shall not budge” (Q2. 3.4.17). Implications of erotic potential are inevitable; Hamlet demonstrates his male dominance over his mother and she is confronted as a sexualized subject in the privacy of her chambers.

Hamlet wants to ensure that “first [to] make [sure] all [is] safe” (Q1.11.11), indicating that he is most likely aware that someone other than the Queen is present. Whereas in F Hamlet asks Gertrude “Now, mother, what’s the matter?” (F.3.4.11). Hamlet in essence is asking Gertrude this straightforward question, and she does not inform him that Polonius is hiding behind the arras, due to fear. In Q1 Queen Gertred denies she knew about the murder: “How? Kill a king?” (Q1.11.18), she is much more explicit here than in the longer texts and all is more opaque in the conflated texts of Q2 and F. Thus perhaps Shakespeare is taking out these clear elements of Gertrude in later versions to make her more mysterious (i.e. revision).

The stage directions in the Arden edition of Q1 indicate to “enter the Ghost in his night-gown” (Q1.11. 57), whereas in the Folio text of this edition indicates only “Enter Ghost” (F.3.4.94) and Q2 of this edition does not have stage directions for the ghost in this scene. Conversely, the Oxford edition of F (3.4.94), the stage directions indicates the same as Q1. The stage directions of the ‘night-gown’ appear to be of a more intimate setting and show the closeness of the late King and his wife. Such description of the attire the ghost is wearing is important especially to the reader of the play who perhaps has not viewed a stage production. Gertred shows her self respect in Q1 when she answers Hamlet “How now boy?” (Q1.11.10). She demonstrates her authority as the parent and demands respect for her “maternal authority” (Kehler406). In Q2 and F the Queen, although she is not a suspect in her late husband’s death, she does not declare her innocence. On the contrary in Q1 she officially affirms her virtuousness: “…I swear by heaven I never knew of this most horrid murder” (Q1.11.85-86). She is desperate for her son to have confirmation that a loving mother/wife could ever be part of such evil, hence this raises her suspicions and she thus then only in Q1 does she make arrangements to speak with Horatio, which is outlined later in this paper.

These variations of written text have had a great influence on performances and productions of the 20thC and how the Oedipus complex has been a driving factor and played a major role in regards to theme, which has been overwhelmingly influential. One such example is the 1990 production directed by Franco Zeffirelli, which starred Mel Gibson as Hamlet. When viewing this film one notices how the closet scene is set as a conventional bedroom. The lighting is emphasized on the bed and the sexual connotations that go along with it. Gertrude’s body language portrays that of a lover-she constantly caresses Hamlet in a romantic manner, touching his face and lips as he speaks. Hamlet throws her onto the bed and thrusts himself into her (dry penetration). The kiss that Gertrude and Hamlet share is not born of a platonic, mother/son relationship, but is filled with passion and sexual frustration. Hamlet appears to have finally taken his mother back for himself and demands her submission.

Find Out How UKEssays.com Can Help You!

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

View our services

It appears that he knows what he is doing is wrong. He feels disgust and hate towards his mother for her actions, however cannot control his own sexual appetite. The ghost interrupts this intense moment; suggesting that things would have progressed further, perhaps even intercourse. This notion is exemplified in T.S. Eliot’s essay Hamlet and His problems. “Hamlet is up against the difficulty that his disgust is occasioned by his mother, but that his mother is not an adequate equivalent for it; his disgust envelops and exceeds her. It is thus a feeling that he cannot understand; he cannot objectify it, and it therefore remains to poison life and obstruct action” (Eliot, 2 accessed article on web).

The scene between Queen Gertred and Horatio in Q1 is unique (she learns of Claudius’s plan to murder Hamlet) and is completely taken out in later versions. It shows a more assertive character able to be investigative and even speak of her husband questionably, also appearing to be on Hamlet’s side. Gertrude is more passive in the Q2 and Folio texts and more removed. The play seems to be more ‘unified’ without this scene. However, the Queen remains an enigmatic character-is she just shallow, stupid even, or is she playing along? One has to ask the question could you cut this scene if performing Q1? In Q2/F this scene is replaced by Hamlet’s letter to Horatio describing his journey’s escape en route to England Q2.4.6.13-28)/(F.4.2.13-32). In a sense this scene is speeding up the plot (a theory this story is from an earlier version of Hamlet). Although in Q1 Gertred offers her support to Hamlet, in all versions she actually does nothing to help him. One wonders, if Freud had taken into consideration the conversation between the Queen and Horatio of Q1, would he have seen a concerned mother figure?

The closet scene in Q1 does reveal Gertrude’s recognition of sexual guilt and she aligns herself with Hamlet’s quest for revenge, hence that is why she ‘does her research’ and discusses Hamlet’s fate with Horatio, thereby establishing her character and development in the course of Q1. Certain gestures throughout Q1 show signs of a sympathetic mother, for example when she raises a toast: “Here, Hamlet, thy mother drinks to thee” (Q1.17.76), whereas in Q2/F she does not speak this. It is worth noting there is a slight shift but significant one in Gertrude’s speech in Q2/F where she states: “…Queen carouses to thy fortune…” (Q2. 5.2. 271)/ (F. 5.2.241), whereas her royal status is not mentioned here in Q1. There is an element of concern and less formality in her speech. Critic Dorothea Kehler agrees with the notion that Q1 represents Gertred as a neutral character who is “neither temptress nor villain;” thus Q1 appears to be less misogynistic (Kehler 406).

Hamlet’s desire is shifted in the texts from his mother to Ophelia. In some respects Ophelia can be seen as what we would call today a ‘rebound.’ Hamlet is aware that the love for his mother is to be shifted to another woman. Ophelia is the complete contrast to the Queen. This signifies Hamlet’s “unconscious desire to play her off against his mother, just as a disappointed and piqued lover so often has resort[ed] to the arms of a more willing rival” (Jones, 81). Hamlet’s “…desire to take his father’s place in his mother’s affection is stimulated to unconscious activity by the sight of someone usurping this place exactly as he himself had once longed to do” (Jones, 82) which in this case is shown through his fierce jealousy against his uncle. Nevertheless, Freud’s psychoanalysis of the latter texts portrays that absent or emotionally detached mothers “can have a major impact on the quality of sexual relations later in life” (Carroll, 245). This could be the case in Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia. Just like Gertrude Ophelia’s personal space is also invaded by Hamlet as he enter her ‘closet’ in Q2 (2.1.74). Showing a lack of respect, or is this outburst due to his sexual frustration towards his mother? A calmer Hamlet (as opposed to the one in the Q2/F texts) confronts Ofelia in the ‘gallery’ (Q1.6.42), which is considered a more public and unrestricted place.

Longer texts (Q2/F) insist that Hamlet is ’30’ (he can remember Yorick and the gravedigger has been doing his job since Hamlet was born). The notes of Q1 in the Arden edition specify that Hamlet is “18,” {a teenager} (Thompson, 159). Whereas being 30 shows his maturity in Q2/F, which in turn exemplifies that Hamlet is aware of his sexual desires. The sexuality in the Q2/F texts is that of maternal sexuality, this is because the Queen is the only sexualised female body in the play. Her sexuality is experienced fundamentally through the imagination of her adult son. If Freud had such details of Q1 perhaps his Oedipal complex would have been to a great extent different in regards to the critical interpretation of the play.


Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: