Ernest Jones, “The Oedipus-Complex as an Explanation of Hamlet's Mystery: A Study in Motive” (The American Journal of Psychology) (1910)

A.C. Bradley, “Hamlet” from Shakespearean Tragedy (1904) 


A.W. Schlegel, “Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature” (1809)

S.T.  Coleridge, “Lectures and Notes on Shakespeare and Other English Poets” (1818)





Extended Introduction: rebutting previous theories:

Extended Introduction: rebutting previous theories



Cowardly Hamlet (4): the pure Goethe school; Rebuttal (6)

External Difficulties (3): Hamlet wanted public justice. (3) Rebuttal (4-5)

THESIS: Thought Sick Hamlet : “a calculating consideration, which exhausts all the relations and possible consequences of a deed, must cripple the power of acting” (1)

THESIS: Thought Sick Hamlet: Hamlet is brave and careless of death; but he vacillates from sensibility, and procrastinates from thought, and loses the power of action in the energy of resolve.” (1)

Political Hamlet (6):  Hamlet must not only slay Claudius but convict him of the crime in the eyes of the nation; Rebuttal (8)

Ethical Hamlet (5):   Hamlet was restrained by conscience or a moral scruple. Rebuttal (5)

Rebuttal of the Goethe thesis (in Schlegel’s analysis, the Ethical Hamlet.): “his far-fetched scruples are often mere pretexts to cover his want of determination” (2)

He mistakes the seeing of his chains for the breaking them, delays action till action is of no use, and dies the victim of mere circumstance and accident.” (2)

It is more likely that Hamlet is paralyzed (10): Disgust with a special feature of the task?

Moral repulsion to the deed (6): in the depths of his nature, and unknown to himself: Rebuttal

Rebuttal of the Moral repulsion thesis: “he is too much overwhelmed with his own sorrow to have any compassion to spare for others…” (2)

Hamlet’s wordplay: (in Iii): “Seems, madam? nay I know not ‘seems’” : “his habit of brooding over the world within him … with... words, which are the half embodyings of thought .”

Is it moral disgust? Ethical Hamlet (10): Hamlet gravely doubted the moral legitimacy of revenge; Rebuttal

Cowardly Hamlet: the sentimental view (7):the Goethe school;  Rebuttal

Conclusion: Shakespeare as religious skeptic: “The destiny of humanity… a gigantic Sphinx, which threatens to precipitate into the abyss of scepticism all who are unable to solve her dreadful enigmas.” (2)

Hamlet’s reaction to seeing the Ghost (I.iv): cunning bravado, bordering on the flights of delirium…. pretending to act only when he is very near really being what he acts.”

Some other special cause of repugnance of which he was unaware (11)?

Thought Sick Hamlet (9): the Coleridge and Schlegel theory;  Rebuttal


Hamlet’s reaction to The Mousetrap: “The utmost at which Hamlet arrives, is a disposition, a mood, to do something… but what to do, is still left undecided, while every word he utters tends to betray his disguise.

The powers of self-deception in the human mind (13)

Hamlet before the tragedy (11): an ideal prince



The Iago Argument (13): Hamlet gives too many different reasons for his inaction for any to be believable:  Aboulia: the truth is that he cannot will. (13)

THESIS: Hamlet’s Melancholy (11): melancholy  aligned with a disposition to idealise (12) and intellectual genius (13)


Hamlet’s capture by pirates and escape (IVvii): “the over-meditative Hamlet, ever at last determined by accident or by a fit of passion!”

Sexual Taboo (16): Conventional morality forces us to repress sexual impulses most forcefully.

Violent shock to his moral being (15): the sudden ghastly disclosure of his mother's true nature


From the "Table Talk" (June 15, 1827): Hamlet's character is the prevalence of the abstracting and generalizing habit over the practical.”

Claudius vs. Gertrude (17): there can be no question as to which arouses in him the deeper loathing.

Hamlet’s response (16): Hamlet has the imagination which, for evil as well as good, feels and sees all things in one.



THESIS: The Oedipus Complex (18): How if, Hamlet had in years gone by bitterly resented having to share his mother's affection even with his father…

Melancholy: clinical definition (17): but not insanity



The child learning to love… (22); Repression (22); Possessive traits in the Queen's character… (23); The child’s attitude towards the father… (24);  Reaction against Ophelia (25); The inability to act… (26)

Accounts for Hamlet’s inaction ' inaction.'…his manic phases… (18) … his lethargy… (19)… his own inability to understand



Summary (27)

Conclusion (19)



Dream patterns: ‘decomposition’ and ‘condensation’




Hamlet’s simulation of madness (33)