The Tragedy of Hoemdiplet: Freud’s Fusion of Oedipus and Hamlet

Richard H. Armstrong


Very early on, Freud centered his argument for the universality of the Oedipus complex on a reading of Oedipus Tyrannus. But why did he insist on reading it specifically as a theatrical experience on the part of a modern audience? This article argues that Freud’s theory from the start had fused the Sophoclean play with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, deploying Oedipus Tyrannus metatheatrically as Hamlet deployed “The Murder of Gonzago” to trigger a reaction in Claudius. Freud puts us in the audience of Oedipusin order for us to sense our own oedipal guilt, confirming his theory.


Sigmund Freud; Oedipus Complex; Sophocles; Hamlet; Shakespeare; Oedipus Tyrannus; Oedipus the King; Jean Mounet-Sully; Adolf Wilbrandt; The Interpretation of Dreams

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Freud, Sigmund. [1900] 1953. The Interpretation of Dreams. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Trans. and edited by James Strachey et al. London: The Hogarth Press. Vols. 4 and 5. (Cited by convention as SE vol:page.)

Freud, Sigmund. [1900] 1991. Die Traumdeutung. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag.

Masson, J. M., ed and trans. 1985. The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP.

Masson, J. M., ed. Briefe an Wihelm Fliess 1887-1904. Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer.



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