Freud Interpretation Of Hamlet Essay

Before we begin, I would like to congratulate you all on getting selected for
the various parts in this production of Hamlet. My name is Glenn Close, and I
will be directing this production from today until it closes in Tokyo next May.

I have played the role of Gertrude, as many of you know, in the Hollywood
production starring Mel Gibson. I also played Ophelia twice in high school and
once my senior year at UCLA. This is my favorite Shakespeare play, one of the
best of all time. Recently I was reintroduced to Freud’s notable commentary on
Shakespeare and his relation to Sophocles in The Interpretation of Dreams. From
this I have pulled the essential pages and copied them for your perusal. In
fact, each of you received those pages one week ago and were asked to come
prepared to discuss its important aspects and to help me create a clearer vision
of what we can do to make our Hamlet more like the one that Freud envisioned in
1899. As the director of this play, I have gathered you all here today to
explain what this particular version of Hamlet is best representing. I decided
to try to help Hamlet become more overtly repressed by his intellect so that
Freud’s vision can come to light in the minds of our audiences. In my humble
opinion, no single director has yet made a good project out of exploring fully
the impact of repression on the individual through the impotence of a paralyzed
Hamlet. There is a reason for this. Many directors have tried and failed for the
following reason: they were all men. Only a woman with the understanding of what
it means to be sexually craved by her son can do justice to the directorship in
the light of what Freud understood. I want this version of Hamlet to represent a
modern day sexual scenario. By changing a few scenes, I can show Hamlet’s
repressed emotions toward Gertrude, and his resentment toward Claudius. I want
Hamlet almost to give in to his feelings for his mother due to her persuasion. I
will be directing most of my focus on Hamlet. The setting will be present day
Athens, Greece. I chose Athens because Freud refers to Oedipus Rex as the basis
of Hamlet’s character. Since Oedipus is Greek, putting Hamlet in Athens makes
the connection between these characters more direct. There are two reasons why I
moved the play to the present day. The first one is the difficulty that modern
audiences have with Shakespearean English. My goal is get the audience to hear
Freud’s Hamlet as clearly as possible without getting lost in Shakespearean
language. The second reason has to do with the poor habits of American theater
audiences. If the play takes place in another time period than the present, the
audience members tend to see the lessons of the story as unrelated to them. Only
in bringing the play to the modern day can Freud’s lessons connect directly
with the repressed lives of the modern theatergoer. I also feel that most men
living in the twenty-first century will not admit that during their formative
years, sexual desires arose and were naturally directed towards their mother,
the object of their most fond love. According to Sigmund Freud, the story of
Oedipus Rex and the story of Hamlet have the same underlying theme. In both
stories, the character of the prince, Oedipus and Hamlet respectively, is caught
in Freud’s Oedipus Complex: “Being in love with one parent and hating the
other are among the essential constituents of the stock of psychical impulses
which is formed at that time [childhood] and which is of such importance in
determining the symptoms of later neurosis.” (294) Hamlet’s neurosis is
manifested by his inability to act. The story of Oedipus is different from that
of Hamlet because Hamlet never acts on the feelings he has for his mother and
never avenges his father’s death. Hamlet represses the feelings he has for his
mother, and feels that if he kills his father, he is killing the embodiment of
his own repressed wishes. According to Freud, ” Hamlet represents the type of
man whose power of direct action is paralyzed by an excessive development of his
intellect.” (298) By altering certain scenes, I can bring the repressed Hamlet
out and show our modern viewers that dealing with these Freudian issues is
acceptable in today’s society. At this point I would like to look at a couple
of specific key portions of scenes in order to show you what I mean by bringing
the Freud out in Hamlet. Let’s turn our text to act three scene four, please.

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I would like Hamlet and Gertrude to try out a few key lines here. This is the
scene where Hamlet and the Queen Gertrude are in the Queen’s private chambers.

Hamlet, Gertrude, hurry up on stage here so that we can get to the heart of what
Freud was talking about in his treatise. (Changing focus back to the group, Glen
Close continues) Hamlet walks into the bedroom and begins to speak with a”wicked tongue” to his mother. Hamlet hears a noise behind the curtain, and
with no hesitation, kills Polonius. This is done out of full rage, with the
hopes that the King was behind the curtain. With little regret, Hamlet continues
his conversation with his mother. This brings us to line182. Hamlet, I want you
to grab your mother and hold her in your arms and shake her; let your eyes shine
with lust for your mother while your body keeps shaking and staying away from
her. These words of Hamlet’s are full of his neurosis, “Not this, by no
means, that I bid you do: Let the bloat King tempt you again to bed,” Hamlet,
please stop for a moment. Everyone, notice that Hamlet wants his mother to stay
out of sexual contact with his uncle. That is the driving force of his hatred.

Obviously, Freud’s complex is strong at work in this scene. As this scene
continues, it is amazing how much sexual imagery Hamlet uses. He is obsessed
with wanting his mother, but his intellect won’t let him act. Hamlet, I want
you to reach over and pinch Gertrude’s cheeks as you say the next line.

Don’t be shy, really give your mom a nice fat pinch. Continue please. “Pinch
wanton on your cheek, call you his mouse,” Hamlet, pretend to kiss Gertrude as
you say this next line. “And let him, for a pair of reechy kiss,” Hamlet, as
you say the next line, touch Gertrude’s neck with a slight touch. “Or
paddling in your neck with his damned fingers,” Now Hamlet, I want you to
reach over towards Gertrude and act as if you were going to kiss her but back
away as you skip directly to line 197. “And break your own neck down.” Now
Gertrude replies in lines198-200. Gertrude, after you read these lines, reach
over to Hamlet and attempt to kiss him. Hamlet, I want to back away in fright,
proving Freud’s point that Hamlet cannot act because of the modern repression
of action by the mind. “Be thou assured, if words be made of breath, And
breath of life, I have no life to breathe/ What thou hast said to me.” It
seems that Gertrude can’t understand Hamlet’s love for her. Therefore she is
dumbfounded by his words. Hamlet, reply to Gertrude in line 201 and after you
reply, walk out of the room. “I must to England; you know that?” The acting
of these scenes leads us to Freud’s interpretation of the sexual interactions
between Hamlet and Gertrude. According to Freud, there is a “distaste for
sexuality expressed by Hamlet.” Hamlet, it is important that you physically
show your neurotic distaste for sexuality in all scenes with either Gertrude or
Ophelia throughout the play. The next scene I would like to draw attention to is
Act Five, scene two, lines 326-339. In this last scene, a poison ends up killing
the Queen, the King, and Laertes. Hamlet witnesses his mother’s death and
learns that his uncle has been planning his murder. Once the Queen is dead,
Hamlet is able to act out the feelings he has repressed throughout the entire
play. In these next few lines Hamlet is speaking to his uncle, but a cleverly
placed mirror reveals to the audience that he is also speaking to himself.

“Here, thou incestuous, murd’rous, damned Dane.” Hamlet is correct in his
accusation of his uncle, but also of himself. Remember what Freud said about our
beloved Hamlet, “Thus, the loathing which should drive him on to revenge is
replaced in him by self-reproaches.” (229) Self-reproaches are what is
stopping Hamlet from acting. Continue. “Heaven make thee free of it! I follow
thee. I am dead. Wretched Queen, adieu!” Hamlet, I want you to lean over and
kiss your deceased mother on the lips after the completion of the next line.

“You that look pale and tremble at this chance, That are but mutes or audience
to this act, Had I but time (as this fell sergeant, Death, Is strict in his
arrest) O, I could tell you-” Hamlet finally grasps his own neurosis but has
no time to explain it to us. Carry on, “But let it be. I am dead.” As Hamlet
stares death in the eye, he is finally able to stare his incestuous feelings in
the eye. By looking in the mirror, he is looking inside himself. Hamlet sees
himself as a hopelessly trapped man, trapped in his own mind. I chose these
particular scenes because they both were dramatically inclined. These two scenes
have been used for many interpretations of the production. For Freudian
purposes, I chose to have the Queen’s age and Hamlet’s age to be within
fifteen years of each other. There are a few reasons why Hamlet is wearing tight
leather pants, a slightly unbuttoned iridescent shirt, and black boots and why
Gertrude is wearing a tight, low-cut red dress, with black pumps. I think these
clothes will enhance the psychosexual image that Freud was able to take away
from the play and will also compliment the modern time period. The extreme
closeness in age between Hamlet and Gertrude will also accentuate the Freudian
concepts that I am best trying to represent. With the loss of his mother, and
death upon him, Hamlet is finally able to carry out his father’s (the ghost)
wishes by murdering his father’s murderer (his uncle, Claudius). Hamlet’s
ability to act becomes feasible in the last minutes of his life. As a woman, it
may be easier for me to believe and direct Freud’s concepts of Hamlet. Male
directors have a tendency to deny and even argue that Hamlet had an Oedipus
complex. I hope that by directing this modern, Freudian Hamlet, my audiences
(especially men) will become more accepting of these concepts instead of the
repressing them.


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