Singh 1Nikita SinghENG 4U0-BMrs.
FossMonday December 4th ,2017An Exploration of Defense Mechanisms and HamartiaImagine this, an individual making fatal mistakes influenced by the thought process of the unconscious mind. This can then disastrously create a world of chaos and downfall for them, as decisions being made are not cognitively developed. In the play Hamlet written by William Shakespeare, characters experience this type of situation based on their psychological state triggered by unhealthy encounters. He had just been told the tragic news of his father’s death and is summoned back home after attending school in Germany to attend the funeral.
Only to find out that his mother is already getting remarried to his uncle Claudius. Prince Hamlet becomes depressed with the new reality he is faced with weighing on his chest. As time goes by, Prince Hamlet’s suspicions grows as to why Claudius crowns himself king of Denmark, despite Hamlet’s heir to the throne. This results in Hamlet revealing the secrets the kingdom holds with the help of a supernatural friend.
These secrets then influence Hamlet wanting to endeavour revenge on people he never thought would end up being his enemy. As a result, obstacles are being thrown at Hamlet as he must learn to be decisive of his decisions in order to execute his plan and accomplish his goal. This play focuses on how the psychoanalytic theory is a major factor, when examining how defense mechanisms influence the cause of tragic flaw.
In the play Hamlet written by William Shakespeare, it is clear that Hamlet is suffering from depression. This leads him to display the use of defense mechanisms that evidently result in his hamartia, because of this it leads to his failure and demise. To begin, psychologist Sigmund Freud’s defense mechanisms is a form of mental processes that are usually influenced by the unconsciousness of one’s mind. One defense mechanism that is shown through Hamlet is displacement. An individual showcasing displacement can lead to his/her tragic flaw, because it results in them creating a negative persona for themselves. To summarize Sigmund Freud’s words, he believes displacement is “an unnecessary activity that you do because you are trying to avoid emotional distraught” (“Displacement Activity Meaning”). Displacement is a common defense mechanism that individuals use to express anger, they receive from one target onto a less threatening one.
Sigmund Freud believes displacement transpires when the id wants to do something the superego does not allow. As a result, one displaying such anger can indicate something is triggering their id to portray aggressiveness, that is not initially caused by the target they choose to release their anger on. An example of displacement is shown in the play as Hamlet displays this defense mechanism towards his mother Gertrude and Ophelia.
Firstly, when Gertrude is about to speak to Hamlet about his mad behavior. Hamlet impulsively attacks her by saying, ¨no by the rood, not so. You are the Queen, your husband´s brother´s wife. And would it were not so you are my mother (3.
4.16-18). It is clear that Hamlet feels his father’s legacy is being betrayed by Gertrude. Considering her new marriage only occurs two months after King Hamlet’s death.
He exclaims he wishes Gertrude was not his mother, because of the incest he feels she is participating in by marrying Claudius. Which to Hamlet shows her lack of grief for his father. Hamlet begins to resent his mother as he believes she is too weak and unable to carry on in life without a man. As a result, Hamlet develops much frustration towards Claudius since he crowns himself King knowing Hamlet is next in line to the throne, and by taking advantage of his mother’s vulnerability by marrying her, knowing the great loss they are suffering from.. For this reason, displacement is shown through Hamlet as he takes the anger he shares towards Claudius and expresses it onto his mother.
In this case, Hamlet’s id would be him wanting to voice his inner thoughts on how disgusted he is with Claudius marrying his mother. On the other hand, his superego wants to prevent this confrontation for the sake of Hamlet creating a negative image for himself, as he states such derogatory attitudes towards his mother. Moreover, as Hamlet is furious with his mother actions, it clouds his judgement with all women in general as he remarks:” I have heard of your paintings well enough. God hath given you one face and you make yourselves another.
You jig, you amble, and you lisp; you nickname God’s Creatures and make your wantonness your ignorance. Go to I’ll no more on’t, it hath made me mad…
” (3.1.150-156). Hamlet is now doubtful with the purity and fidelity of all women since his mother was able to remarry so quickly. Hamlet generalizes that all women put on a façade to the world. He vents his anger onto Ophelia by calming the makeup she wears is a form of deception. Hamlet’s cynical views on love drastically change, as he feels appalled by the love his mother has for Claudius.
As a result, Hamlet rejects Ophelia because he feels romantic love is not an important requirement for human life anymore. Thus, displacement is highlighted through Hamlet as he takes all of his negative attitudes towards his mother and her new marriage, and depicts it onto Ophelia by criticizing her beauty. On these terms, it is shown that Hamlet’s id would be him rejecting love by degrading Ophelia’s physical attractiveness, with that being said his superego would prevent conflict between his and Ophelia. Therefore, Hamlet’s hamartia of not being able to control his emotions influences his acts of displacement.
It is apparent that Hamlet showcasing such pessimistic attitudes towards Gertrude and Ophelia, will evidently create disaster for him by intensifying his downfall. Secondly, defense mechanisms can protect one from unpleasant stimuli and protect them from their sense of self. Defense mechanisms are a mental process that usually relieve unwanted stress, but in some cases, it can be the opposite where stress is being created. Another defense mechanism shown through Hamlet is projection. One who showcases projection can cause his/her downfall to happen as projecting negatively to others can cause further conflict and dilemma. According to Britannica School Edition, “projection is a form of defense in which unwanted feelings are displaced onto another person, where they then appear as a threat from the external world” (“Defense Mechanisms”).
Projection is a defense mechanism that is persistently used in everyday life. Projection tends to be in use when a person experiences, undesirable feelings, thoughts and impulses that are considered to be unacceptable by society. In all cases the ego perceives emotional dysfunction from one place then seeks to relocate it onto something or someone else.
Sigmund Freud believes that projection is a method in where an individual expresses their own attributes onto someone else, and most of the time these attributes will be anxiety arising elements an individual wants to escape from. Projection is displayed through many different scenarios and aspects, for example when examining Hamlet’s behavior, projection it is emphasized through his persona. Projection is shown in the play when Hamlet is roughly arguing with his mother. He then hears someone behind the curtain echoing out noises, for what it seems to be a call or sign for help. Hamlet then mistakes the voice for Claudius and stabs through the arras, killing Polonius. Hamlet looks over Polonius’ dead body with fury by saying “…thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell. I took thee for thy better.
Take thy fortune: Tho find’st to be too busy is some danger” (3.4.36.-38). Hamlet’s original plan to search for revenge is made towards Claudius, for killing his father. Hamlet being so caught up in his personal impulses did not make sure the voice behind the drapes was Claudius before acting out. Instead, he projects by allowing his unacceptable impulses to be the reaction he first presents when revealing the person behind the arras. Hamlet’s tragic flaw tends to grow through different senses as he encounters situations where he acts out through his impulses.
His projection influences his tragic flaw, as it now creates further conflict and stress as Laertes wants to seek revenge on Hamlet for killing his father, and causing Ophelia to go “mad” and commit suicide. Furthermore, one can feel “threatened by his/her own angry feelings, and accuse another of harboring hostile thoughts” (“Defense Mechanisms”). When it comes to projection, at times an individual can either choose to confront or avoid their own problems.
By confessing, it can help to relief a great load of stress that person can be carrying with them. However, if that person chooses to avoid the issue not only will the stress grow, but it can make the current problem worse or eventually trigger new ones. Problems tend grow more negatively when a person tries to push unwanted stimuli into their unconscious mind, which can evidently create more stress or cause the development of new undesirable feelings. Also, an individual can trigger new problems by one projecting while being emotionally unstable, because they release their prior anger onto an innocent or less threatening target to feel a sense of comfort which can challenge and create unhealthy relationships. However, it is normal for one to engage in projection. Sometimes projection is the symptom of some mental health conditions such as personality disorders and more. On the other hand, Sigmund Freud believes that projection is just another method for an individual to avoid repressing feelings, or projection can be when an individual is unable to accept his/her feelings and or impulses. Thusly, again Hamlet’s tragic flaw of not being able to be emotionally stable through the circumstances he faces is shown through the projection he displays by killing Polonius out of his personal impulses.
In addition, through research it is clear that defense mechanisms can either help to create healthy or unhealthy outcomes/relationships, based on the context of how the defense mechanism is used. Defense mechanisms that the mind forms are to help individuals feel safe within their own self. That being said, an individual can portray to act abnormal in order to escape the emotional state that is making them feel unsafe. Also, an individual can behave a certain way for the sake of wanting to return to a state where they believe benefit them more. To add, regression is another defense mechanism that Hamlet highlights through his personality. Britannica School Edition remarks that “regression is a return to earlier stages of development, and abandoned forms of gratification belonging to them, prompted by dangers or conflicts arising at one of the later stages” (“Defense Mechanisms). When one returns to a developmental stage it can imply that, the previous development stage is when the individual feels most secure, and at that point stress does not exist.
However, what does exist is the intentions the id wants to portray by creating reality out of it, in order to feel accomplished. For example, according to Sigmund Freud, reverting back to a childish stage can enhance self-destruction one is creating for themselves by coping with reality through an unacceptable tense. The self-destruction that regression can cause is from the impulses of the id. The impulses of the id are never accepted by society as it is seen as uncivil from the external world. This creates societal pressures for one dealing with regression as they have to try to meet the reality and pleasure principle requirements of the human culture. Moreover, regression is seen through Hamlet’s apparent madness.
Hamlet believes that returning back to his “madness” stage will allow him to distract others such as Polonius, Gertrude and Claudius from his true desires. He exclaims “how strange or odd soe’er I bear myself. As I purchase hereafter shall think meet. To pull an anti-disposition on” (1.5.191-192).
Since Hamlet is suffering through different types of situations dealing with unpleasant emotions and stress weighing on his chest, he searches for a way to escape his current mental state that is causing discomfort for him. Earlier in the play, he puts on an antic-disposition act, which is one acting out of the ordinary, for him execute his plan. Besides Hamlet wanting to pull attention away from his aspirations, he returns back to this regression stage in this scene. The reasoning for this is because, it seems that Hamlet is unable to deal with the truth of reality, so to distract himself from his confliction he puts on this “madness” act to be his escape from the real world. Hamlet portrays himself as a very shady character so he believes that this act of regression will help him to reveal more secrets the kingdom holds, while avenging his father’s death. Hamlet’s regression influences his hamartia since he chooses to put on this antic-disposition act. It also causes him to destroy his relationships with other characters in the play such as Ophelia.
He destroys his relationship with Ophelia by exclaiming to her that his love for her does not exist. Hamlet’s hamartia expands as he creates more unpleasant realities for himself. On the other hand, Ralph Turner describes regression “as frustration that heightens suggestibility, generates fantasy, brings about regressions and fixations, and intensifies drives toward wish fulfillment so that normal inhibitions are overcome” (“Theories of Collective Behaviour”).
To go into more detail, regression can cause additional emotions that are usually unwanted and developed by the ego. The ego controls one’s emotions based on needs and wants. As a result, an individual can desire a certain feeling or process, but in order to obtain that pride, the superego must accept the desired feeling or process. As for the id which is able to impulsively move forward without acceptance of the superego. However, without the acceptance of the superego, it can lead to aggressive drives. These aggressive drives convey negative outcomes for the individual portraying regression, and victims surrounded by that environment. Psychologist, Sigmund Freud also argues that regression can be when an individual suffers from dealing with the anxiety arising problems in their adult life. This evidently may lead to one reminiscing the moments where they feel happier and stress-free.
Individuals that reminisce moments of clarity are most likely to conform to regression to avoid the anxiety arising stimuli in their life. By returning back to a development stage, it cancels out all responsibilities and priorities one may strive to avoid or forget about in general. One might want to avoid their adult-like responsibilities for the reason of not being able to handle or face the obligations their reality holds. Due to this regression, it can lead to an individual never wanting to return back to their prior state in fear of anxiety and stress.
Hence, Hamlet’s immaturity is portraying to be another one of his tragic flaws. The reasoning for this is because his immaturity of not being able to handle his emotions causes him to act “mad”. This “madness” stage leads to his self-destruction, as he destroys his relationships with characters in the play.Lastly, defense mechanisms are known as coping strategies. They help individuals by making them be conscious and aware of reality. In most cases, people will use defense mechanisms as a way to suppress their unwanted emotions into their unconscious mind. Hamlet highlights his use for defense mechanisms in the play, by using suppression in order to avoid taking action.
Suppression defines as “the act of preventing something from being seen, expressed or from operating” (“Suppression Meaning”). The term suppression, is described by Sigmund Freud as a way to oust undesirable physical and mental stimuli from the consciousness mind by pushing them into the unconscious. This approach focuses on eliminating motives that an individual can feel is irrelevant to their life.
In many ways suppression can be seen as a positive defense mechanism, that comes to use for people when they want to avoid conflict. However, suppression can in fact end up being a negative factor to one, depending on how this defense mechanism is illustrated in their life. Although suppression can minimize feelings such as anxiety, depression, paranoia, stress, and etc., it can also be a disaster to many who only use suppression to avoid the truth about themselves and their urges. Those using suppression to avoid their true reality, will end up creating more of a negative social environment for themselves. The avoidance can lead to many other problems to occur.
Problems such as, developing mental illness issues, or prior mental illness issues becoming more severe, loss of relationships, and etc. Avoiding the truth may seem like the easy way out or not much of a serious issue, but according to Sigmund Freud, an individual who pushes too much of the truth into their unconsciousness mind, is not emotionally, physically or mentally developed enough to contribute to their own decisions. An individual not being fully cognitively developed portrays to be very indecisive but obsessed with wanting to achieve their goal. For example, in the play, Hamlet displays suppression though his inability to act.
Hamlet begins to feel very distraught dealing with the new reality he faces. Since Hamlet develops these emotions, it drives him to wanting to commit suicide but is unable to do so as he says “o that this too said flesh would melt. Thaw and resolve into a dew, Or that the Everlasting had not fixed. His cannon ‘gainst self-slaughter” (1.2.135-138). The reason why Hamlet is unable to commit suicide is because the Everlasting Father (god) forbids suicide. In the play, Hamlet presents himself to be of Christian faith, as he exclaims that his suicide will be considered a sin by God.
Hamlet being very devoted to religion prevents him from killing himself. Hamlet feels that the life after death will be much more worse than what he is currently dealing with. He also believes that since suicide is considered a sin he will be sent to hell, where he will experience more pain and suffering that he will not be able to escape from. Hamlet’s suppression is shown through this scene, because he convinces himself that he will endeavor far worse if he goes through with this decision by using religion and God as his way to suppress his decisions.
He suppresses his decisions by not letting his id impulsively, and instinctively act by his emotions that are triggered by his ego. Hamlet second thinking his choice of wanting to commit suicide portrays him to be very indecisive, as he thinks about all the negative outcomes that can occur if he does commit suicide. This evidently leads to him to pushing his emotions into his unconscious mind, to prevent himself from feeling suicidal urges and thoughts. Hamlet’s hamartia is influence through his suppression as it is illustrated through his inability to commit suicide.
Furthermore, the reason why Hamlet is so indecisive of his desires, is because he thinks more about the outcomes and consequences of his choices, instead of taking action. This is shown where he says “now might I do it pat, he is praying. And now I’ll do’t. And so he goes to heaven am so revenged.
That would be scanned, A villain kills my father, and, for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven” (3.3.7-82). In the play, Hamlet encounters many situations where he is able to murder Claudius. For example, in this scene Claudius is shown to be vulnerable while he is praying and purging his sins. If Hamlet chooses to murder Claudius at that very moment, he will be seen as more vigorous, the person he envisions himself to be while avenging his father’s death, which clearly does not happen.
Through closer examination of this scene, it is conspicuous that Hamlet once again becomes hesitant of his choices. The hesitation he feels is that, if he kills Claudius while he is asking God for forgiveness, Claudius will be sent to heaven and not hell. Hamlet also fears that if he kills Claudius and he gets sent to heaven it will be a scam, because it would be more like Hamlet doing Claudius a favour by killing his father and sending him off to heaven, where he will not suffer for his sin. Hamlet’s suppression is shown through his inability to act once again, but in this case towards Claudius. Hamlet once again suppresses his decisions by using faith as an escape to act out on his true desires. Hamlet suppresses his ego and id’s, urges of wanting Claudius dead by pushing these motives into his unconscious minds, but being able to have them be released at a time where he feels Claudius will have less control and power over his death. Therefore, Hamlet’s tragic flaw is exposed through his inability to act in his suppression. Hamlet’s inability to act influences his downfall, because he continues to hesitate on his motives.
This clearly portrays Hamlet to be indecisive, which evidently leads him to destruction since he is unable to accomplish his goals and seek the vengeance he craves.In conclusion, the play Hamlet written by William Shakespeare showcases that the defense mechanisms linked to psychoanalytic theory, influence the cause of one’s hamartia. When exploring the play thoroughly, it is proven that the main character Hamlet, portrays these defense mechanisms through different circumstances he encounters. Theorist, Sigmund Freud’s defense mechanisms come to consideration when investigating the outcome of a situation. Based on how an individual chooses to display certain defense mechanisms, it is uncertain of how or if these mental processes will come to be beneficial or not. Either way, this approach can truly affect one’s life. These defense mechanisms can either help to create healthy relationships with reality, by averting unpleasant stimuli, or can create a world of negativity and chaos.
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