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  77


conduct.  This is well seen, for instance, in a matter such as
social reform, where a man's energy in carrying out minor
philanthropic undertakings wanes in proportion to the amount
of clear thought he devotes to the subject.  But closer consid-
eration will shew that this debilitation is a qualitative rather
than a quantitative one.  Scepticism leads to a simplification
of motive in general and to a reduction in the number of
those motives that are efficacious; it brings about a lack of ad-
herence to certain conventional ones rather than a general
failure in the springs of action.  Every student of clinical
psychology knows that any such general weakening in energy
is invariably due to another cause than intellectual scepticism,
namely, to the functioning of abnormal unconscious complexes.
This train of thought need not here be further developed, for
it is really irrelevant to discuss the cause of Hamlet's general
aboulia if, as will presently be maintained, this did not exist;
the argument, then, must remain unconvincing except to those
who already accept it.  Attempts to attribute Hamlet's general
aboulia to less constitutional causes, such as grief due to
the death of his father and the adultery of his mother,1 are simi-
larly inefficacious, for psycho-pathology has clearly demon-
strated that such grief is in itself quite inadequate as an
explanation of this condition.
      Unequivocal evidence of the inadequacy of the hypothesis
under discussion may further be obtained from perusal of the
play.  In the first place there is every reason to believe that,
apart from the task in question, Hamlet is a man capable of
very decisive action.  This could be not only impulsive, as in
the killing of Polonius, but deliberate, as in the arranging for
the death of Guildenstern and Rosencrantz.  His biting scorn
and mockery towards his enemies, and even towards Ophelia,
his cutting denunciation of his mother, his lack of remorse
after the death of Polonius, are not signs of a gentle, yielding
or weak nature.  His mind was as rapidly made up about the
organisation of the drama to be acted before his uncle, as it
was resolutely made up when the unpleasant task had to be
performed of breaking with the uncongenial Ophelia.  He
shews no trace of hesitation when he stabs the listener behind
the curtain,2 when he makes his violent onslaught on the
pirates, leaps into the grave with Laertes or accepts his chal-
lenge to the fencing match, or when he follows his father's
ghost on to the battlements; nor is there any lack of deter-
mination in his resolution to meet the ghost;

      1A suggestion first proffered by Herder. Op. cit., 1801.
      2I find Loening's argument quite conclusive that Hamlet did not
have the king in his mind when he committed his deed. (Op. cit.,
S., 242-244, 362-363.)