Hamlet the Unloved


Happy Monday Scholars! And what better way to begin the week than a brief re-examination of Hamlet. Yes, I know you read it in high school and were probably annoyed by the often obnoxious guy that is Hamlet (or perhaps he spoke directly to your heart, I couldn’t say), but now you’re in Core, which means Hamlet is no longer just Hamlet. This prince now allows you to look at yourself and to answer some of those questions Professor Nelson keeps stressing we must search for, questions not hemmed in by some sense of a class but intrinsically asking us about ourselves.

Joshua Rothman’s post takes Hamlet out of the context of the classrooms you’re used to where each soliloquy is picked apart for rhetorical devises and brief class presentations (you volunteered to read Ophelia because the cute boy was reading for Hamlet however demented such a gesture seems in hindsight, I remember). Instead, Shakespeare’s pinnacle work is presented via psychoanalysis, one of the more modern forms of examining humanity:

Desire and its repression, they conclude, might be too small a frame for “Hamlet.” It’s better to think about the play in terms of love and its internal contradictions. They argue that we tell the story wrong when we say that Freud used the idea of the Oedipus complex to understand “Hamlet.” In fact, it was the other way around: “Hamlet” helped Freud understand, and perhaps even invent, psychoanalysis. The Oedipus complex is a misnomer. It should be called the Hamlet complex.

The article eventually turns to something even less academic, closer to home:

If the essence of love is wanting, it’s no wonder that shame and narcissism are so often part of love. It’s intrinsically shameful to need and need and need, and the bottomlessness of this need breeds anger and resentment. Your love is genuine, but so are your perpetual feelings of emptiness and of powerlessness. What’s most galling, perhaps, is the realization that the people whom you love are similarly empty. If this is love, then you can come to resent the people you love simply because you love them.

Perhaps this doesn’t strike home for you of course, but it’s an interesting thought, this concept of love as bottomless and perpetually imploding.

If you’re intrigued, read the rest of the article here.

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