Friday, February 28, 2014

Psychoanalyzing Hamlet

Can we diagnose Hamlet with a mental disorder? It’s hard to say. A mental illness is characterized by the instability of mood, thought, and behavior. The condition must be considered to be “distressing” to the patient and the behavior/way of thinking must be out of the norm. The condition must also be recognized by American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. It’s likely that Hamlet has a mood disorder. Mood disorders, particularly major depression (which also goes by the name of clinical depression or major unipolar depression) are extremely common. Major depression could possibly explain Hamlet’s dark, bleak outlook on life. This mood disorder is characterized by a sad or depressed mood, lack of interest in things that once made the person happy, fatigue/tiredness, guilt without logical reason, difficulty concentrating, and reoccurring thoughts about death. Depression can often be triggered by stressful events such as death. Considering Hamlet’s father died, his mother married his uncle not two months after King Hamlet’s death, and his uncle took the throne in place of himself, the chance that Hamlet has experienced a stressful enough situation to trigger a mood disorder is pretty high. As the reader, it’s also possible for us to reach the conclusion that Hamlet feels immense guilt over his father’s death without reason (after all, he wasn’t the one that killed King Hamlet). Guilt is often a feeling one feels after someone close to them has died. One can argue that King Hamlet’s ghost is a manifestation of Prince Hamlet’s guilt. Prince Hamlet must feel guilty for doing nothing because the ghost of King Hamlet calls him a “fat weed” and implies that he’s being a coward. Hamlet seems to be bothered by his cowardice, his indecisiveness, and passiveness. In one of the earlier soliloquies he tells us that he is not Hercules, that he is not a hero. Some psychologists believe that depression is simply self hatred turned inward towards the patient. If this perspective is true, Hamlet can be suffering from major depression because he hates his cowardice and desperately wants to please his father. From a Freudian, psychodynamic perspective, Hamlet’s abnormal relationship with both his mother and father can be to blame. Hamlet seems to worship his father. He compares him to a Greek God, specifically Hyperion. Hyperion was one of the Titans and the sun to Helios, the sun, Selene, the moon, and Eos, the dawn. It can be said that Hamlet views his father as the creator of this world, a god. He admires his father and puts him on a pedestal, something that is unusual for normal children to do. The relationship with his mother is also odd and questionable. One can say that he has a bit of an Oedipus complex. He is very concerned with his mother’s private sex life, to the point of obsession. At the end of Act III, he has a whole conversation about the morality of her relationship with his uncle. In their conversation, he finds it appropriate to tell her, “O, throw away the worser part of it, / And live the purer with the other half. / Good night: but go not to mine uncle’s bed;” For the majority of people, giving advice and taking control of one’s mother’s sex life is inappropriate and uncomfortable. But it’s possible that Hamlet feels the need to do this because he is in love with his mother. It’s possible that these repressed feelings of desire simply show up under the disguise of disgust and shame over his mother’s choices rather than his true feelings of jealousy.

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