It is for two reasons desirable here to interpolate a short
account of the mythological relations of the original Hamlet
legend, first so as to observe the personal contribution to it
made by Shakspere, and secondly because knowledge of it
serves to confirm and expand the psychological interpretation
given above. Up to the present point in this essay an at-
tempt has been made to drive the argument along a dry,
logical path, and to show that all the explanations of the mys-
tery prior to Freud's end in blind alleys. So far as I can
see, there is no escape possible from the conclusion that the
cause of Hamlet's hesitancy lies in some unconscious source
of repugnance to his task; the next step of the argument,
however, in which is supplied a motive for this repugnance, is
avowedly based on considerations that are not generally ap-
preciated, though I have tried to minimise the difficulty by
assimilating the argument to some commonly accepted facts.
Now, there is another point of view from which this labour
would have been superfluous, in that Freud's explanation
would appear directly obvious. To any one familiar with the
modern interpretation, based on psycho-analytic study, of myths
and legends, that explanation of the Hamlet problem would
immediately occur on the first reading through of the play.
The reason why this strong statement can be made is that the
story of Hamlet is merely an unusually elaborated form of a
vast group of legends, the psychological significance of which
is now, thanks to Freud and his co-workers, quite plain. It
would absorb too much space to discuss in detail the historical
relationship of the Hamlet legend to the other members of
this group, and I shall here content myself with pointing out
the psychological resemblances; Jiriczek1 and Lessmann2 have
adduced much evidence to shew that the Norse and Irish
variants of it are descended from the ancient Iranian legend of
Kaikhosrav, and there is no doubt of the antiquity of the
whole group, some members of which can be traced back for
several thousand years.3
The theme common to all members of the group is the
success of a young hero in displacing a rival father. In its
simplest form, the hero is persecuted by a tyrannical father who
has been warned of his approaching eclipse, but after marvel-
lously escaping from various dangers he avenges himself, often
1Jiriczek: Hamlet in Iran, Zeitschr. des Vereius für Volkskunde,
1900, Bd. X.
2Lessmann: Die Kyrossage in Europa. Wissenschaftliche Beil. z.
Jahresbericht d. städt. Realschule zu Charlottenburg, 1906.
3In the exposition of this group of myths I am especially indebted to
Otto Rank's excellent volume, Der Mythus von der Geburt des
Helden, 1909, in which the original references may also be found.