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Heller, L. Heller, A. (1960). Hamlet's Parents: The Dynamic Formulation of a Tragedy. Am. Imago, 17(3):413-421.

(1960). American Imago, 17(3):413-421

Hamlet's Parents: The Dynamic Formulation of a Tragedy

Lora Heller, M.A. and Abraham Heller, M.D.

Dr. Ernest Jones in his monumental work, Hamlet and Oedipus, motivates Hamlet in terms of an unresolved Oedipal conflict, which provides the dynamic formulation for why Hamlet cannot kill Claudius: “his uncle incorporates the deepest and most buried part of his own personality, so that he cannot kill him without also killing himself.” (6) Dr. Jones calls Hamlet's identification with Claudius “the jealous detestation of one evil-doer towards his successful fellow.” (6) To the careful reader or perhaps even spectator of the play, this explanation of Hamlet's crucial motivation becomes finally unacceptable, not only because, as Dr. Harry Levin (8) points out, “Hamlet conceals his sympathy for his uncle more effectively than he conceals his hostility to, and from, Claudius,” but also because if an unresolved Oedipal conflict is the crux of Hamlet's problem, then Shakespeare has given us, from beginning to end, an intensely neurotic, incapacitated tragic hero.

So, operating out of a different set of prejudices from those of Dr. Jones, we would look for signs of health and sanity in the tragic hero. Without wholly rejecting Dr. Jones's explanation, we can find them rather easily.

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