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Sharpe, E. (1929). The Impatience of Hamlet. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 10:270-279.

(1929). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 10:270-279

The Impatience of Hamlet

Ella Sharpe

One can, perhaps, best pay tribute to the strenuous labours of the leader of the psycho-analytical movement in England by following a path where he has led. In the field of applied psycho-analysis, Ernest Jones has made works of creative art yield up significances inaccessible before the advent of psycho-analysis. His essay upon the tragedy of Hamlet lucidly and comprehensively makes clear the unresolved Oedipus conflict which is the fundamental problem in the play.

There is nothing further to contribute to this theme; but this having been so clearly elucidated, one is left free to gather from the play the lighting-up of the regressive movement of the libido due to the retreat from the central Oedipus difficulty. The study of the particular nature of the regression gives us an understanding of that 'Hamlet' quality which makes the Oedipus situation in his case so peculiarly fascinating and individual. The problem of his procrastination receives further elucidation in the light of evidence of pre-genital fixations, and the subtlety of his behaviour becomes more understandable.

The tragedy of Hamlet, I submit, is not a tragedy of procrastination, but, on the contrary, a tragedy of impatience. This is true, at least in varying ways, in varying circumstances, of Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear. At crucial moments in these plays the heroes exhibit an impatience, a precipitation of action, that brings life tumbling about their ears like a pack of cards. They cannot wait. This seems paradoxical in the case of Hamlet, for the play is one long-drawn-out delay in doing a deed for which the stage is set at the beginning. Yet blind, impetuous action betrays Hamlet in the end, not procrastination. The following is an attempt to unravel the meaning of this.

Hamlet is presented to us at the beginning of the tragedy as the son who has been bereaved of his father, the King. He has lost a loved object by death. He has experienced an emotional trauma in his mother's speedy marriage. (Impatience is to be noted at the outset.) At this juncture, or shortly afterwards, Ophelia refuses Hamlet audience at her father's bidding.

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