This suggests that as a child, Hamlet may have greatly resented having to share his mother with his father, wanted undisputed priority in her life. This would then have led to repressed desires to sexually posses his mother, and ultimately eliminate his father. For Hamlet, his father has already been killed by the start of the play. However there is still no chance for him to be able to now take the coveted position in his mother’s life that he desires. Adding insult to injury is the fact that it is now his own fathers brother who had married his mother and filled the void.
It is easy to see how this twisted scenario would create a confused state of mind, even regardless of the Oedipus Complex. The incest that therefore penetrates this family is key to Hamlets frustration. He see the relationship between Claudius and Gertrude as incestuous, indeed the ghost of King Hamlet calls Claudius “that incestuous, that adulterate beast. ” Hamlet is likely to feel a desire to avenge his father’s death, and possibly also jealousy towards Claudius. An interesting scene is Act 3 Scene 3 where the ghost appears to prevent Hamlet from causing further agony to his mother.
Or is it possible that he appeared to prevent his son from taking his wife? This scene also serves to show us that Hamlet does indeed idolise his father. When talking to his mother he likens him to Hyperion, Mercury, and Mars, assigning him qualities of leadership, grace and the traits of a true warrior. To him, his father is “Blasting his wholesome brother” (line 66). This loyalty for his father partly fuels his need to kill Claudius – but his enduring procrastination shows something is not allowing him to do it easily.
Contrasted with Laertes, whose father has also been wrongfully murdered, we can see that he has no such delay in avenging his father. The telling difference may be that Laertes has no mother figure in his life. The reason could therefore be, that Hamlet may realise on a sub-conscious level that he actually needs Claudius in his mothers life to prevent his own incest with her. On another level, Laertes feels that to delay revenge would be to claim himself illegitimate. Unlike Hamlet he has no fears that he may be a bastard, a concept which consumes Hamlet’s mind.
The issue of fatherhood in the play is also an important one Hamlet’s father is obviously an absent figure, but he still strives to be his son. Although all he has of his father is memories, he constantly tries to resurrect him with words and images. In the opening scenes it becomes clear that Claudius now comfortable sits in his brothers old position, in every sense except that which allows him to be a father to Hamlet. He attempts to push his way into Hamlet’s life in the beginning, saying “But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son…
” to which Hamlet sneers “A little more than kin and less than kind. ” Hamlet needs to protect his father to assert his roots and masculinity, and therefore must kill this impostor father figure trying to replace him. This involves deciding between the two fathers, and this is not so easy for him as it would seem. King Hamlet is Hamlet’s link to an honourable, legitimate past. It is the only way he can find his place in the world with dignity. To fail to support his father would be accept Claudius and therefore the illegitimacy and deceit which come with him.
The statement which Hamlet makes, “father and mother is man and wife, man and wife is one flesh” (Act 4, Scene 3, Lines 53-54) is quite telling of his fears of their sexual relationship, but perhaps he also recognises that at present Claudius fills this position of his mothers husband and must be given due respect. It is Hamlets blurred notions of female sexuality from which flow a central theme in the play. Janet Adelman discusses the concept that the maternal womb is contaminated by sexuality, and is a devouring and suffocating presence.
The symbolism of an empty womb may be synonymous for Hamlet with sexual acts, and may also threaten to force him to return to it. Throughout the play Hamlet struggles to escape from the maternal influence. Gertrude herself is not actually portrayed as particularly wicked or powerful, but it is her inaction to prevent the chain of events spiralling from her husband’s death which cause Hamlet to think of her as such. This causes more problems for the disturbed Hamlet as he feels that his own body has been sullied by his mother’s actions.
He fears the contamination will spread to him, and this causes his rash and panicked actions. He is sure that id female sexuality is polluted and incestuous, he can no longer be certain of who he is, and certainly whose son he is. This conception of the “Bastard” child corresponds to ‘A Modest Proposal’. The narrator created by Swift also accepts the problem of the bastard child and feels that it is easier to kill (and eat) the child rather than marry the parents. An idea very prominent in Hamlets own mind when he says “To be or not to be”, showing he has thoughts of ending his life.
Swift seems to promote to some extent the usefulness of children with no certain father, but limits this at being able to kill and eat them more easily. He encourages males to have children by numerous partners, anticipating none of the problems which Hamlet is experiencing to arise in Ireland. A very relevant difference between ‘A Modest Proposal’ and ‘Hamlet’ is the class difference. Marriage is essential in the higher nobility, such as Hamlet is involved in, and although affairs were obviously commonplace, they were much little discussed.
In the lower classes marriage was not so essential to status, as they had little to start with, and so it was often disregarded. However this seemed not to have made much difference to the actual happiness of either situation presented. Swift, like Shakespeare, blurs the roles of members within the family, and shows us the importance of every part, and relationship functioning. Swift also writes ‘A Modest Proposal’ as a warning to the Irish lower classes to protect their own, and the shocking consequences which may occur if they ignore him.