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Wangh, M. (1951). A Case of 'De-Conversion'. Ida Macalpine. Pp. 57–58: A New Interpretation of Hamlet. James Clark Moloney and Laurence Rochelein. Pp. 92–107.. Psychoanal Q., 20:324.
    
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: A Case of 'De-Conversion'. Ida Macalpine. Pp. 57–58: A New Interpretation of Hamlet. James Clark Moloney and Laurence Rochelein. Pp. 92–107.

(1951). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 20:324

A Case of 'De-Conversion'. Ida Macalpine. Pp. 57–58: A New Interpretation of Hamlet. James Clark Moloney and Laurence Rochelein. Pp. 92–107.

Martin Wangh

Moloney and Rochelein disagree with the Freud-Jones thesis that Hamlet's inhibition of action is due to his own repressed murderous impulses toward his father. Were it so, they argue, Hamlet would have wanted to rid himself of his feelings of guilt through 'rescue fantasies', and would therefore not have killed Claudius. Then follows their explanation of Hamlet's indecision: he does not want to kill Claudius because Claudius protects him against growing up and possessing the Queen or her substitute, Ophelia. He is afraid of the Queen whom he suspects of having conspired against his father. His indecision stems from his inability to commit matricide, not patricide. Only after his mother's death does he begin to act; he kills Claudius and speaks like a king.

To unearth matricidal motivations in Shakespeare's tragedies is certainly a worthy undertaking. (It is remarkable that many of the mother figures or their substitutes are dead before the curtain rises or are destined to die during the plays.) However, in such psychoanalytic evaluation the documentation must be done with the greatest care to avoid giving the impression that the analyst has imposed his own free associations on defenseless material. Moloney and Rochelein often leave themselves wide open to such criticism.

In an addendum to their paper they suspect that the Oedipus complex in general may be a reaction to repressed matricide. Following such an interpretation, Hamlet, in the bedroom scene, deflects his rage against his mother onto Polonius, a father substitute. Beyond the Oedipal principle, Hamlet may be unable to kill the King because he cannot kill the Queen.

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Article Citation

Wangh, M. (1951). A Case of 'De-Conversion'. Ida Macalpine. Pp. 57–58. Psychoanal. Q., 20:324

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