HAMLET, ID EGO AND SUPEREGO 7
HAMLET,ID EGO AND SUPEREGO
HAMLET,ID EGO AND SUPEREGO
Shakespeareplay is indeed a strange interplay of deep psychology and poeticliterally, work that encapsulates a psychoanalytic vision ofcharacters. He portrays men as often engaging in ‘war’ for thesake of women. It is interesting how the author uses the term‘Hamlet’ to depict the son who antagonizes his Id suppression byhis two fathers superego (spiritual father) and the shadow father.The son’s Ego is also stretched between his two fathers as his badand good angel. The son cannot exercise individualism as he is boundby Oedipus complex from his mother. The son is therefore, in a stateof imaginary or unconscious self. The play illustrates Hamlet in astate of split conflict between his self- conscious conflicts andunconscious self with his Id raising above while his real Ego isundercover this results from ego displacement by his fathers’repression.
Therefore,the play presents Hamlet’s strange act as emanating from an innerdrive and prolonged repression. As such Hamlet revenge is not anordinary tragedy but a case of repressed inner self gratificationsthis explains dilly dallying nature with which Hamlet consider takingrevenge. In this respect, the author’s vision and theme of womanand war in their symbolic and sexual aspects are explicit. The playpresents various characters, quotations and ideas which are today thesubject of literal and cultural vocabulary (Gardner,1967).
Literaturecommentator’s like Samuel Johnson praises the nature of poetic workin Shakespeare play and the role it plays in mirroring life intrigues(Adams,). The play has employed a deep imitation of real life in theworld through characters like Hamlet. However, the ‘nature’ ofthe characters does not allude to the external nature but toobservable life aspects of individuals. In this respect, therefore,Shakespeare play and portrayal of characters nature fail to apply asa generic measure to the practices and customs in the contemporaryworld (Dobies, 2002). Johnson argues that, in Shakespeare characters,there is no element of individuality like the many literal artistpresents their characters, rather the characters in the Hamlet playare presented as species. This assertion by Johnson that Hamlet ispresented as a species does not count. The bottom-line is whether,the author has presented Hamlet’s behavior in accordance to withknown human nature (Gardner, 1967).
Hamlethas been presented as an enigmatic character whose antic expositionintrigues many Shakespeare critics. As one critique observes, ‘thepersonality of Hamlet, is that of an extreme sensibility mind orintellectual reflection and reason’ (Gardner,1967). According to Dobies, 2002, he adds that the persona of Hamlethas ‘senseof moral excellence that is uncommonly exquisite.’ Thesecritiques are puzzled by Shakespeare portrayal of Hamlet in themanner he delays revenge against Claudius as advised by his father’sghost. This aura of intrigue by the play critiques indicates theextent to which ‘deeppsychology’is ascribed to Hamlet (the main character in the play) (Dobies,2002).
However,such deep psychology could only be objectively analyzed through thepsychoanalytic lenses of Freud’s theory. Writing in the renaissanceperiod and without any scholastic appendage to modern psychology, onecan assess that Shakespeare could have been greatly influenced by thehumors theory. Furthermore, Shakespeare work could have resulted fromhis deep understanding of the mental nature leading to hischaracterization of play characters in such psychoanalytic nature(Freud, 1962).
Inorder to capture, Shakespeare vision in characterization of his play characters with a ‘deep psychological’ aspect, applying psychological perspective enhances a better understanding of whythe characters in the literature acts their way. Ideally,literature reflects the human natural experience’ as suchpsychology is an unalienable focusing lens. According to Freud(father of modern psychology), human beings have inherentsubconscious desires and the Oedipus complex. In this light, Freudargued that, human beings inherit instinctive drives that areunconscious in all individuals (Id) (Freud, 1962). Individuals haveEgo, which acts as a mediator between the Id and super-ego in varioussituations individuals find themselves. The superego on the otherhand, is the internalized self criticism based on social and parentalprohibitions on ideals of life. In a light sense, Id, representsindividuals inner passions, the ego is the conscious guide on what isbad and good by mediating between the Id and the Super ego while thesuper-ego is what the society expects of an individual.
Hamletdealings with his parents illustrate the element of superego inaction, Id is revealed when Hamlet kills Polonius. In some cases,individuals fall in conflict between the unconscious and theconscious self as depicted by Hamlet for instance he tells hismother ‘Ihave that within which passes show’(Bevington, 1968). As Freud observes, the Id is unconscious innateaspect which passes reality. The Id is the reservoir of psychicenergy as well as libido which fulfills individual’s inner pleasurewhile the Ego and Superego check on the excesses of Id on moralitydimension. It can be assessed that, the ghost that appears to Hamlet,is not ghost in real sense but a disposition of superego, Claudiusrepresents the Id within Hamlet (Claudius acts in regard to hispleasure) and therefore, the superego and the ego must act to represshis excesses. Contrastingly, this presents a dilemma on the part ofHamlet he faces two fathers (this lowers his Id psyche and the Egois at conflict on which decision to take). This is illustratesHamlets inactiveness and delay in revenging. In broad sense, the Iddrive in Hamlet to kill his stepfather (Hamlet mother’s husband)and his real father’s wishes places Hamlet at logger edge (Dobies,2002).
Inaddition, the play presents another dilemma for Hamlet, while heloves Gertrude in his unconscious mind, and the fact that his ghostfather and his uncle still keep the woman, presents Hamlet with anEgo conflict. He is torn between daring the superego (ghost fatherand stepfather) and his Id, if he dares close his father’ssovereignty. In the end of first act of the play Hamlet lamentsthat, ‘The time is out of joint, of cursed spite, I was born to setit right’ (Bevington, 1968). In addition, Hamlet is faced with an‘Oedipus complex’ while his unconscious mind might have rejoicedat the death of his father and possible chance of possessing her, heconstantly sees his father’s ghost. In the same line, another man(Claudius) has replaced his father which in turn repressed his libido(Freud, 1962).
Thisplay, depicts a melancholy state in which Hamlet finds himself inas expressed in his raving nature always striving against his‘shadow’ (superego and Ego) and his unconscious Id. Hamletnearly commits suicide as a result of this inner conflict and ‘anima’feelings against his mother Gertrude for marrying his father’skiller. In retrospect, Hamlet disposes these emotions to Ophelia. Hismadness results from abandoning his unconscious self when thinking ofGertrude or Ophelia. However, this madness subsides when confrontedby his Super ego (ghost father) and the shadow of his uncle this inturn leads Hamlet into a feeling of been circumspect where hesuspects all males as Claudius spies (Dobies, 2002).
Onone occasion, incensed by his mother’s relationship with Claudius,his raving attacks her mother with harsh words. Analyzed in laymanperspective, Hamlet sees himself as a small ram (compared to his stepfather) in fighting for his mother and as a result, he directs hisanger to his mother using ‘dagger words.’ Hamlet incensed attackcould have been reinforced by the superego (a sense that his ghostfather supports him). In this respect Shakespeare, therefore,portrays the males Id (libidinous pleasure) as the driving force ofantagonism.
Inconclusion, Shakespeare has successfully illustrated men war forwomen in the context of Freudian theory. While Hamlet struggles forId on his mother, his two fathers present a powerful repressor to hisId (Hams). Therefore, if a man is not weaned from Oedipus complex, itis hard for him to achieve individualism no due balance betweenimaginary and symbolic realities (Freud, 1962).
Freud,Sigmund. 1962, ‘TheEgo and the Id.’ NewYork: Norton
Gardner,Helen. 1967 “Hamletandthe Tragedy of Revenge.” Shakespeare:Modern Essays in
Criticism.Ed. Leonard E. Dean. London, Oxford & New York: Oxford UP,.218-26
Bevington,David, ed. 1968 ‘TwentiethCentury Interpretations of Hamlet’.Englewood Cliffs,
Dobies,Ann B. 2002 ‘Theoryinto Practice: An Introduction to Literary Criticism’.Bos-ton: