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  78


"I'll speak to it, though hell itself should gape
And bid me hold my peace,"
or in his cry when Horatio clings to him,
                              "Unhand me, gentlemen;
By heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets me;
I say, away!"
On none of these occasions do we find any sign of that paralysis
of doubt which has so frequently been imputed to him.  On
the contrary, not once is there any sort of failure in moral or
physical courage except only in the matter of revenge.  In
the second place, as will later be expounded, Hamlet's attitude
is never that of a man who feels himself not equal to the task,
but rather that of a man who for some reason cannot bring
himself to perform his plain duty.  The whole picture is not,
as Goethe depicted, that of a gentle soul crushed beneath a
colossal task, but that of a strong man tortured by some mys-
terious inhibition.
      Already in 1827 a protest was raised by Hermes1 against
Goethe's interpretation, and since then a number of hypotheses
have been put forward in which Hamlet's tempermental defi-
ciencies are made to play a very subordinate part.  The second
view here discussed goes in fact to the opposite extreme, and
finds in the difficulty of the task itself the sole reason for the
non-performance of it.  This view was first hinted by Fletcher,2
and was independently developed by Klein3 and Werder.4 It
maintains that the extrinsic difficulties inherent in the task
were so stupendous as to have deterred any one, however de-
termined.  To do this it is necessary to conceive the task in a
different light from that in which it is usually conceived.  As
a development largely of the Hegelian teachings on the subject
of abstract justice, Klein, and to a lesser extent Werder, con-
tended that the essence of Hamlet's revenge consisted not
merely in slaying the murderer, but of convicting him of his
crime in the eyes of the nation.  The argument, then, runs as
follows: The nature of Claudius' crime was so frightful and
so unnatural as to render it incredible unless supported by a
very considerable body of evidence.  If Hamlet had simply
slain his uncle, and then proclaimed, without a shred of sup-
porting evidence, that he had done it to avenge a fratricide,
the nation would infallibly have cried out upon him, not only

      1Hermes: Ueber Shakespeare's Hamlet und seine Beurteiler, 1827.
      2Fletcher: Westminster Review, Sept., 1845.
      3Klein: Emil Devrient's Hamlet. Berliner Modenspiegel, eine
Zeitschrift für die elegante Weit, 1846, Nr. 23, 24.
      4Werder: Vorlesungen über Shakespeare's Hamlet, 1875. Trans-
lated by E. Wilder, 1907, under the title of "The Heart of Hamlet's