Porterfield, Sally F. "Oh Dad, Poor Dad: The Universal Disappointment of Imperfect Parents in Hamlet." Jung's Advice to the Players: A Jungian Reading of Shakespeare's Problem Plays. Drama and Theatre Studies 57. Westport: Greenwood P, 1994. 72-98.


This essay presents a Jungian reading of Hamlet's "universal experience of parental discovery" (74). The death of the "good father" and the remarriage that transforms the "good mother" into a sexual being force "the ideal, archetypal parents of imagination to die a violent death" (75). Hamlet copes with the psychological upheaval by regressing "to an earlier stage of his development": he becomes the "trickster" (75). Rosencrantz and Guildenstern represent "another manifestation of the trickster" (76); hence, the pair must die to mark Hamlet's "integration of the trickster figure" (77) and his ability to leave childhood behind (94). The Gravediggers also appear as the trickster figure to show that "he is not within Hamlet" and that "he has been integrated" (94). In this scene, Laertes functions as the "shadow" and Ophelia as the "rejected anima"; Hamlet "becomes one with both" when he leaps into the grave (94). Horatio is the "self" for Hamlet, "the ideal man he would become" (88), and Fortinbras offers another form of the "self," "the man of action" (97); "these two symbols of the self" merge in the final scene (96-97). But Hamlet's progression towards integration proves difficult, alternating between depression and mania. Only the presence of art (symbolized by the players) causes Hamlet to be "taken out of himself by interest in the world around him," demonstrating his "dependence upon art as salvation" (86). Hamlet's use of The Mousetrap drama suggests a hope "not simply to kill but to redeem" Claudius and "to rediscover the goodness he seeks so desperately in those around him" (87). Ultimately, Hamlet cannot avoid violence, "but he gives us courage, generation after generation, to attempt the ideal while existing with the sometimes nearly unbearable realities that life imposes" (97).

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Russell, John. Hamlet and Narcissus. Newark: U of Delaware P, 1995.


In the introduction, this monograph presents comprehensive descriptions of Freud’s psychoanalytic premises (e.g., Oedipus Complex, Pleasure Principle), of Margaret Mahler’s advancements in the study of infant development, and of Heinz Kohut’s explorations of the self and its development. The primary arguments are that distinctions seperate the Freudian and psychoanalytic projects, that “the conflicts that inform and structure Shakespearean tragedy are precisely those elucidated by contemporary psychoanalysis” (16), and that Hamlet’s “commitment finally is not to reality but to the distortions of narcissistic fantasy” (23). After this laying of groundwork, the first chapter focuses “on the distortions in Hamlet’s behavior that are the result of that most characteristic pre-Oedipal strategy of defense, splitting”; the next chapter examines Hamlet’s mother/son relationship with Gertrude; chapter three draws on Kohut’s understanding of the Oedipal period in order to explore the Prince’s father/son relationship with the Ghost/Hamlet, Sr.; chapter four explains “the puzzling and controversial delay” in Hamlet; and the final chapter treats Hamlet’s “surrender to one of the deepest and most powerful of narcissistic fantasies, the fantasy of death” (38). Similar to psychoanalysis, “the great theme of Shakespearean tragedy is the death of fathers and the complex of narcissistic conflicts that congregate around the passage of authority from one generation to the next” (180-81).

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Watterson, William Collins. “Hamlet’s Lost Father.” Hamlet Studies 16 (1994): 10-23.


This article asserts that Yorick’s abstract presence and Hamlet’s memories of the court jester “constitute a benign inscription of paternity in the play, one which actively challenges the masculine ideals of emotional repression and military virtus otherwise featured so prominently in Shakespeare’s drama of revenge” (10). Unlike the other father figures in Hamlet who represent patriarchal authority (e.g., the Ghost, Claudius, Polonius), Yorick is the absent surrogate parent who showed a young Hamlet alternatives to phallocentric oppression and who “remains a central figure in Hamlet’s psyche precisely because he has been lost” (11). By prematurely dying (possibly due to syphilis), Yorick abandoned a seven-year-old Hamlet in the pre-genital stage; hence, Hamlet identifies him as the cause of his sexual deficiency “and associates him permanently with his own anality” (18). Yet Yorick also endowed Hamlet with the skills of jesting and merrymaking, which are so evident in the exchange between Hamlet and the gravediggers. All play is set aside during Hamlet’s interaction with Yorick’s skull, as the “residual child in Hamlet articulates the pain of loss” over his childhood mentor (16). Perhaps the mournful sentiments were shared by Shakespeare, who lost his father around the time that Hamlet was being written (17). While Yorick contradicts paternal cliches, he also raises questions regarding maternal stereotypes and the femininity of death. Even the origin of Yorick’s name suggests “an obscure conflation of gender, [which] actually encodes the idea of feminine fatherhood” (18). Ultimately, Yorick instills in Hamlet “values and emotions fundamentally at odds with the patriarchal codes of masculine behavior” (19).

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