EXPLANATION OF HAMLET'S MYSTERY
further be made out for the view that part of Hamlet's court-
ship of Ophelia originated not so much in direct attraction for
her as in a half-conscious desire to play her off against his
mother, just as a disappointed and piqued lover is so often
thrown into the arms of a more willing rival. When in the
play scene he replies to his mother's request to sit by her with
the words, "No, good mother, here's metal more attractive,"
and proceeds to lie at Ophelia's feet, we seem to have a direct
indication of this attitude, and his coarse familiarity and
bandying of ambiguous jests are hardly intelligible unless we bear in
mind that they were carried out under the heedful gaze of the
Queen. It is as though Hamlet is unconsciously expressing
to her the following thought: "You give yourself to other
men whom you prefer to me. Let me assure you that I can
dispense with your favours, and indeed prefer those of a differ-
ent type of woman."
Now comes the father's death and the mother's second mar-
riage. The long "repressed" desire to take his father's place
in his mother's affection is stimulated to unconscious activity
by the sight of some one usurping this place exactly as he
himself had once longed to do. More, this someone was a
member of the same family, so that the actual usurpation
further resembled the imaginary one in being incestuous.
Without his being at all aware of it these ancient desires are
ringing in his mind, are once more struggling to find expres-
sion, and need such an expenditure of energy again to "re-
press" them that he is reduced to the deplorable mental state
he himself so vividly depicts. Then comes the Ghost's an-
nouncement of the murder. Hamlet, having at the moment
his mind filled with natural indignation at the news, answers
with (Act I. Sc. 5. l. 29.),
"Haste me to know't, that I, with wings as swift
The momentous words follow revealing who was the guilty
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge."
person, namely a relative who had committed the deed at the
bidding of lust.1 Hamlet's second guilty wish had thus also
been realised by his uncle, namely to procure the fulfilment
of the first--the replacement of his father--by a personal deed,
in fact by murder.2 The two recent events, the father's
1It is not maintained that this was by any means Claudius' whole
motive, but it evidently was a powerful one, and the one that most
2Such murderous thoughts, directed against rival members of the
same family, are surprisingly common in children, though of course
it is relatively rare that they come to expression. Some years ago, in
two editorial articles entitled "Infant Murderers" in the Brit.
Jour. of Children's Diseases (Nov. 1904, p. 510, and June, 1905, p.
270), I collected a series of such cases, and, mentioning the constant
occurrence of jealousy between young children in the same family,
pointed out the possible dangers arising from the non-realisation by
children of the significance of death.