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The Oedipus complex suggests that every son wants to marry his mother and kill his father -- and that is precisely what Claudius does. "Sex and the life instincts in general are, of course, represented somewhere in Jung's system. They are a part of an archetype called the shadow. It derives from our prehuman, animal past, when our concerns were limited to survival and reproduction, and when we weren't self-conscious" (Boeree 1997). Hamlet's intellect and rationality are suppressed by his philosophical knowledge, as exemplified in his desire to return to Wittenberg at the beginning of the play. Claudius, in contrast to Hamlet, takes what he wants. Before he learns of Claudius' crime by the ghost, Hamlet does not seek bloody revenge, or construct a plot like Claudius may have done -- he merely mourns that his mother has remarried and been 'stained.' Thus, Claudius' skillful wielding of power, his open enjoyment of wine, women, and song, and his willingness, like Laertes and Fortinbras, to take action regardless of moral consequences and rightness, makes Hamlet envious, as well as angry. but, as is evidenced in Hamlet's dispatching of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet is also able to do bloody deeds, and even to mock his murder of the blameless, albeit irritating Polonius, calling Polonius' corpse a feast for worms. Active and murderous figures like Claudius represent the "dark side" of the ego, of Hamlet, and the evil that Hamlet is capable of, and does, as well as desires to perform, although he is thwarted by his moral instincts.
It has been noted that the Jungian shadow is "amoral -- neither good nor bad, just like animals," a creature of desire, rather than cruel (Boeree 1997). Claudius is capable of affection, as exemplified in his care for Gertrude, just as "an animal is capable of tender care for its young and vicious killing for food," the kind of brutality that Hamlet can only embrace in the name of his father, not as an essential part of his ego (Boeree 1997). The shadow is "the parts of ourselves that we can't quite admit to. "Next time you dream about wrestling with the devil, it may only be yourself you are wrestling with!" (Boeree 1997). That "is the nature of this archetype, it is the receptacle for all of that which we have for one reason or another disowned" (Pettifor 1995).
Claudius is a considerably more complex character than Hamlet would allow. He regrets his brother's murder, and knows he is damned because he cannot really repent, even at prayer: "My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:/Words without thoughts never to heaven go" (III.3). But Hamlet always hated Claudius, even before he knew Claudius murdered his father: "O my prophetic soul! My uncle!" he says upon hearing of the manner of the murder from his father's ghost (I.5). Claudius is the consummate sensualist, loving his queen, his crown, and his ale: "This heavy-headed revel east and west/Makes us traduced and tax'd of other nations" (I.4). Claudius, like Laertes and Fortinbras, acts upon the sensuous, violent impulses Hamlet can only force himself to do intermittently and ineffectually, like when Hamlet kills Polonius or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
More so than any other character, Claudius is skillful in 'seeming,' in engineering his public persona as powerful and moral, which his very different from his fearful and cowardly actions in private (his murder of both Hamlet and his father is underhanded and sneaky in a literally and metaphorically poisonous manner). According to Jung, "an individual's persona is synonymous with is or her public image. The word is, obviously, related to the word person and personality, and comes from a Latin word for mask," (Boeree 1997). Claudius plays a part as a 'good king,' smiling through his villainy.
However, in his own way Hamlet, again showing how Claudius shadows some of his actions, like murder, crafts a persona expertly of madness, even though he begins the play by insisting to his mother that he "knows not seems" (I.2) it is Ophelia, in contrast to these male characters, is the only individual in the play who seems unable to 'play a part,' only clumsily acting as a decoy to prove Hamlet's madness is due to love, in Claudius and her father's scheme to see if love is the root of Hamlet's madness. Ophelia seems to function as Hamlet's anima, a purer soul in the midst of a corrupt court, and even though she is used by her father as a political pawn, her willed moral actions are far less blameful than Hamlet's occasionally murderous and impulsive lashings-out. In Jung, the anima is the female aspect present in the collective unconscious of men, and the animus is the male aspect present in the collective unconscious of women. Together, they are referred to as syzygy" (Boeree 1997).Like Hamlet, Ophelia too loses a father, and loses her mind, speaking her most radical sense in the play: "You must wear your rue with a difference" she says boldly to the queen (with whom before she was timid) only after losing her reason (IV.5). Ophelia's anger, which finally spills out, parallels Hamlet's own rage but also is directed against Hamlet: "Quoth she, before you tumbled me,/You promised me to wed. / So would I ha' done, by yonder sun,/an thou hadst not come to my bed" (IV.5)
The parallel struggles of Ophelia and Hamlet show how: "In our society today, we still have many remnants of these traditional expectations. Women are still expected to be more nurturant and less aggressive; men are still expected to be strong and to ignore the emotional side of life. But Jung felt these expectations meant that we had developed only half of our potential" (Boeree 1997). Perhaps if Ophelia had not been so oppressed by her father's political aims and the machinations of the court, she too would be able to articulate her conflicts about her sense of self with the same perspicuity as Hamlet.
Hamlet's complete selfhood and personhood are only realized when he says: "let be," accepting the inevitability of death, and accepting his role in life, but also being able to see the mirrored quest in Laertes' struggle (V.2). At the end of the play, Hamlet accepts his role in his family and political drama, but he also sees similarities between himself and his shadows Laertes and Fortinbras, and finds pity for his anima, Ophelia, within his heart, rather than spews anger at her. He even acts kindly towards the mother he loves, however imperfect she may be. He strikes against Claudius, not in calculated rage, but justifiably, after Claudius has committed a public act of murder. Thus Hamlet, by the end of his tragedy has come to, if not a perfectly realized self, than a more completely realized and integrated self than the depressed and inactive young man, cursing his mother and uncle in the same breath at the beginning of the play.
Boeree, George C. 1997. "Carl Jung." Updated 2006. 12 Apr 2008. http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/jung.html
Pettifor, Eric. "Major Archetypes and the Process of Individuation." Personality and Consciousness. 1995. 12 Apr 2008. http://pandc.ca/?cat=car_jung&page=major_archetypes_and_individuation
Shakespeare, William. "Hamlet." The Shakespeare Homepage. 12 Apr 2008. http://shakespeare.mit.edu/hamlet[continue]
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