Is Hamlet so obsessed with his own problems that he is insensitive to the suffering of others? : LUSENET : Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet : One Thread

Help!!! do you think that Hamlet is too obsessed with his own problems that he is insenstive to the suffering of others (Ophelia, Gertrude)? Does the "Oedipus Complex" apply to only Hamlet if at all? Do you think htat Hamlet is aware of his own problems? please help if you can - any opinions welcome.

Thanx - COnFuSeD.


-- Maree Hurley (, September 03, 1999


I think that Hamlet is very human with respect to his reaction towards all that's happened around him. Most people, when they are stressed or traumatized or whatever, tend to feel sorry for themselves, isolate themselves, lament over their own problems, etc. without much regard for the feelings of others. In Hamlet's case, I believe he does care for Oph. until he realizes that she's betraying him. He just doesn't understand what his mother's done -- put yourself in his position; how would you feel?

As for Oedipus, I've never liked the "Oedipal" interpretation of the play. Just didn't make much sense to me, all this reading between the lines for something *more* than what was set down. One of my English teacher's was really into it though...

-- Virginia (, September 07, 1999.

i agree that throughout the play Hamlet seems to be really selfish and obsessed with his own problems, not really thinking about others at all- this is human though, and when you consider how many problems poor old Hamlet has had , it's hardly surprising that he has little time for other people!

-- Farah Ali (, December 04, 1999.

I don't know that that's really fair.

Naturally enough he's concerned with his problems; and let's face it, it's a rarity to have quite these sorts of problems - ghost of father, mother marrying uncle, need to kill uncle, uncle out to get you first, kill the father of the girl you love, girl you love goes insane and dies, etc - let alone having them all happen to you.

He has little patience with meddlars, two-faced former friends and show-offs; and this isn't surprising either, given what else he has to contend with. But he is thoughtful and courteous with honest people like Marcellus and Bernardo and the players. He takes time out to tell Horatio just how much he appreciates him and why.

With Hamlet and Ophelia in III.i, we have to look at how their conversation travels, not just take it as a lump. He's just been considering suicide - yes, he has! He sees Ophelia, calls her "fair" and "nymph". Now a nymph is "one of a class of semi-divine maidens inhabiting sea, rivers, fountains, hills, woods, or trees" (in other words a half-goddess of nature, removed from the humanly-worldly stuff which Hamlet has just been complaining of. A nymph in poetry can also be a "young and beautiful woman" (Concise Oxford Dictionary definitions). To her or to himself (I like the latter) he asks her to pray for him.

So he recognizes her beauty and her virtues and he loves her for both.

She addresses him politely and he responds in kind: courteous but distant. She's been repelling his advances but he's a well-mannered prince. But now she goes further. She tries to return his love tokens. For him this must be the last, bloody, sickening straw in all he's dealing with. I assume it's either break down and sob, or else deny the situation, deny he ever gave them. He choses the latter: it's more manly after all. Ophelia is shocked into outrightly contradicting the Prince; and she reminds him of what they had; and she finishes by calling him "unkind", that is unnatural as well the modern sense of not gentle, friendly or affectionate: ie, he's proved not like himself as she knew him when he gave her the things. Well now, we know why, but she don't.

So now he snaps. He loves her, wants her, but she won't have him. He can't tell her what's the matter: she might tell her father and he'd tell Claudius. Now I don't know why this scene is always played so violently. I don't believe Hamlet would manhandle a woman. Violence is for guys who can't articulate and Hamlet has no problems there. He argues with words here, not with violence. He's not even particularly angry yet.

Even so, until "Where's your father?" his words reveal concern for her situation rather than obsession with his own. Sure his view of his situation is a bit warped by his perspective from within his problems. But he's fundamentally concerned with protecting her purity.

This changes with "Where's your father?" and her answer, and so I am sure that at this point he discovers Polonius is listening: in her answer she shows for sure who she's chosen. To chose her father over a potential lover is correctly dutiful in Renaissance society. But it distresses him, especially as he knows Polonius to be the interfering fool that he is.

Up till now Ophelia has tried to talk reasonably with him, but now he shows something which she can't deal with. She thinks it's madness and calls on the heavens for help. Actually it's anger and anguish which make him express some misogamy and misogyny which his experiences have taught him. I still doubt that he's violent with her. He keeps starting to just leave, but comes back to SAY more. It lasts only a minute, and he's gone.

With Gertrude, he's insensitive to the extent that he can't believe she might love Claudius. And yes it disturbs him and disgusts him that she turns from his father to Claudius. But fundamentally he also sees what she has done as "wicked". Under Renaissance religious law and morality it really is sinful, and she needs to "Repent what's past, avoid what is to come" to save herself, and perhaps the kingdom (cf. I.ii "It is not, nor it cannot come to good") from damnation and divine punishment. She agrees with him: "O Hamlet, .../ Thou turn'st mine eyes into my very soul,/ And there I see such black and grained spots/ As will not leave (ie lose) their tinct." This is concern that goes beyond himself and his own problems.

The Oedipus thing is rubbish.

-- catherine england (, December 07, 2001.

Well, Catherine, I must agree with your analysis of the "Oedipus Complex" thing.

As for why the nunnery scene is often played violently, I believe that it is not just the turning point in the play where everyone (except Claudius) starts thinking that Hamlet really *is* nuts, but also because Hamlet needs to vent. Here he has all of these really powerful emotions about his dad, uncle, mom, now his girfriend dumping him and then the "Where is your father?"

POW! He goes ballistic. It's just become too much. Ophelia, as a former lover, is someone who knows *him*. He can just release all that boiling emotion at her, not only because he feels justified, but also because on some level it's safe for him to do so. She won't hate him for it, she'll feel sorry for him.

What is interesting, is with all this rage and pain, his words to her are protective. Go to a nunnery. Protect yourself from the evil of men and humanity. Become better than the rest of us by moving closer to God. Keep your nymphlike self locked up away from my brutish self who watches as you do cute things and make yourself pretty and wants to marry you for them. Save yourself from me....


-- mikken (, December 07, 2001.

I absolutely agree. But I just don't see Hamlet, of all guys, venting with his fists, so to speak. Laertes yes, for eg., but not Hamlet. I feel sure Hamlet fights his battles with his brain, with 'reason' and words.

Even at the grave in V.i, when as Hamlet acknowledges he's in "a tow'ring passion", it's Laertes who attacks Hamlet. Hamlet's speech here telling Laertes to lay off says that though he's really angry ("Yet have I in me something dangerous/ Which let thy wiseness fear"), he doesn't want to be pushed to fighting physically. He says he is "not splenative and rash", ie. spitefully bad-tempered and impetuously reckless. It's true.

-- catherine england (, December 07, 2001.

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