Freud Interpretation Of Hamlet 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 Freuds 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 Freuds 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 Hamlets 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 Hamlets 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 Freuds 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 Freuds 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 Freuds 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) Hamlets 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 fathers 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 todays 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. Lets turn our text to act three scene four, please. 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 Queens 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 Hamlets 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, Freuds 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 wont let him act. Hamlet, I want you to reach over and pinch Gertrudes cheeks as you say the next line. Dont 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 Gertrudes 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 Freuds 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 cant understand Hamlets 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 Freuds 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 mothers 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, murdrous, 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 Queens age and Hamlets 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 fathers (the ghost) wishes by murdering his fathers murderer (his uncle, Claudius). Hamlets 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 Freuds 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.