This essay explores the mutual implication of Shakespeare's Hamlet and Freudian psychoanalysis as works of mourning. More particularly, it takes up how both the play and a series of Freud's writings — from early letters to Fliess to the Interpretation of Dreams to “Mourning and Melancholia” to Beyond the Pleasure Principle — themselves explore mourning as the almost impossible burden of a son trying to shed the authority of the dead but still potent father. In that sense, mourning has less to do with grief as traditionally conceived than with ambivalence, even hostility, toward the dead. It is an emotive experience that, in repressed form, manifests first as identification with the dead. The essay thus documents the complex “working-through” by which, in response to their fathers' deaths, two “tardy sons” finally arrive at a place of self-identification, a site from which they refuse the burden of living out — of repeating — the existence of the one who came before. Seen from this vantage, Shakespeare (through his tragic hero) and Freud both offer existential meditations on the need to originate our own lives even as they concede that, at the place of the origin, our lives are at once our own and not our own.
Skip Nav Destination
Andrew Barnaby; Tardy Sons: Hamlet, Freud, and Filial Ambivalence. Comparative Literature 1 June 2013; 65 (2): 220–241. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-2143181
Download citation file: