lem that have up to the present been offered, and from a
psychological point of view this inadequacy is still more evi-
dent. The aim of the present paper is to expound an hypothe-
sis which Freud some nine years ago suggested in one of the
footnotes to his Traumdeutung;1so far as I am aware it has
not been critically discussed since its publication. Before at-
tempting this it will be necessary to make a few general remarks
about the nature of the problem and the previous solutions
that have been offered.
The problem presented by the tragedy of Hamlet is one of
peculiar interest in at least two respects. In the first place the
play is almost universally considered to be the chief master-
piece of one of the greatest minds the world has known. It
probably expresses the core of Shakspere's philosophy and
outlook on life as no other work of his does, and so far excels
all his other writings that many competent critics would place
it on an entirely separate level from them. it may be expected,
therefore, that anything which will give us the key to the
inner meaning of the play will necessarily give us the clue to
much of the deeper workings of Shakspere's mind. In the
second place the intrinsic interest of the play is exceedingly
great. The central mystery in it, namely the cause of Ham-
let's hesitancy in seeking to obtain revenge for the murder of
his father, has well been called the Sphinx of modern Litera-
ture.2 It has given rise to a regiment of hypotheses, and to a
large library of critical and controversial literature; this is
mainly German and for the most part has grown up in the
past fifty years. No review of the literature will here be at-
tempted, for this is obtainable in the writings of Loening,3
Döring,4 and others, but the main points of view that have been
adopted must be briefly mentioned.
Of the solutions that have been offered many will probably
live on account of their very extravagance.5 Allied if not
belonging to this group are the hypotheses that see in Hamlet
allegorical tendencies of various kinds. Thus Gerth6 sees in
2It is but fitting that Freud should have solved the riddle of this
Sphinx, as he has that of the Theban one.
3Loening: Die Hamlet-Tragödie Shakespeares, 1893. This book is
warmly to be recommended, for it is by far the most critical work on
4Döring: Ein Jahrhundert deutscher Hamlet-Kritik. Die Kritik,
1897, Nr. 131.
5Such, for instance, is the view developed by Vining (The Mystery
of Hamlet, 1881) that Hamlet's weakness is to be explained by the
fact that he was a woman wrongly brought up as a man.
6Gerth: Der Hamlet von Shakespeare, 1861.