Jones, Ernest. "The Oedipus-Complex as An Explanation of Hamlet's
Mystery: A Study in Motive." The American Journal of Psychology 21.1 (January, 1910): 72-113.
PAGE  76

JONES

to some defect in Hamlet's constitution, was independently
elaborated more than a century ago by Goethe,1 Schlegel2 and
Coleridge.3 Owing mainly to Goethe's advocacy it has been
the most widely-held view of Hamlet, though in different hands
it has undergone innumerable modifications.  Goethe promul-
gated the view as a young man and when under the influence
of Herder,4 who later abandoned it.5 It essentially maintains
that Hamlet, for temperamental reasons, was fundamentally
incapable of decisive action of any kind.  These tempera-
mental reasons are variously described by different writers, by
Coleridge as "overbalance in the contemplative faculty," by
Schlegel as "reflective deliberation -- often a pretext to cover
cowardice and lack of decision," by Vischer6 as "melancholic
disposition," and so on.  A view fairly representative of the
pure Goethe school would run as follows: Owing to his highly
developed intellectual powers, and his broad and many-sided
sympathies, Hamlet could never take a simple view of any
question, but always saw a number of different aspects and
possible explanations of every problem.  A given course of ac-
tion never seemed to him unequivocal and obvious, so that in
practical life his scpeticism and reflective powers paralysed his
conduct.  He thus stands for what may roughly be called the
type of an intellect over-developed at the expense of the will,
and in Germany he has frequently been held up as a warning
example to university professors who shew signs of losing
themselves in abstract trains of thought at the expense of con-
tact with reality.7
      There are at least three grave objections to this view of
Hamlet's hesitancy, one based on general psychological con-
siderations and the others on objective evidence furnished by
the play.  It is true that at first sight increasing scepticism
and reflexion apparently tend to weaken motive, in that they
tear aside common illusions as to the value of certain lines of


      1Goethe: Wilhelm Meister's Lehrjahre, 1795.
      2Schlegel: Vorlesungen über dramatische Kunst und Litteratur, III, 1809.
      3Coleridge: Lectures on Shakespeare, 1808.
      4Herder: Von deutscher Art und Kunst, 1773.
      5Herder: Aufsatz über Shakespeare im dritten Stück der Adrastea,
1801.
      6Vischer: Kritische Gänge. N. F., Ht. 2, 1861.
      7See for instance Köstlin: Shakespeare und Hamlet. Morgenblatt,
1864, Nr. 25, 26. Already in 1816 Börne in his Dramaturgischen
Blättern had cleverly developed this idea. He closes one article with
the words "Hätte ein Deutscher den Hamlet gemacht, so würde ich
mich gar nicht darüber wundern. Ein Deutscher braucht nur eine
schöne, leserliche Hand dazu. Er schreibt sich ab und Hamlet ist
fertig."