Hamlet - Collective Unconscious in Hamlet


The famous psychologist Carl Jung believed that the universe and all of its inhabitants are made up of a measureless web of thought called the collective unconscious, it?s suggests that the collective unconscious is rooted in the genetic code of every living thing. This collective unconscious is evident in an individual?s personality, which is comprised of five separate personalities blended together; these are called archetypes. In Jungian psychology, there are five different archetypes: the shadow, anima, animus, persona and the wise old man or mana-personality. Each influences a different aspect of one?s personality. These influences vary from one individual to another depending upon the dominance of each archetype. In the play Hamlet, each one of these archetypes manifests itself as a dominant personality trait within one of the play?s main characters. It is also apparent that the collective unconscious itself is an underlying theme which exists throughout the events in the play. Although, these concepts have only recently been discussed and proposed as a psychological theory, it appears that they pre-date Jung by three hundred years. I will provide proof of this hypothesis through parallels between Jung?s work and the play.
Carl Jung believed that the structure of the human psyche is comprised of three main parts: the conscious, personal unconscious and the collective unconscious (refer to figure 1). The conscious is basically the function or activity which maintains the relation of psychic contents with the ego or one?s state of awareness. Personal unconscious consists of experiences or memories that can be recalled by an individual, either through the will of the person or by employing special technique (e.g. Hypnosis). The final part of the psyche is the collective unconscious, which can be considered something that links us all together. It is the reservoir of our experiences as a species, a kind of knowledge the human race are all born with of which we can never be directly conscious of (refer to figure 2). The collective unconscious influences all of our experiences and behaviors, particularly the emotional ones; however, we are only aware of it indirectly, as it can be revealed by looking at various facets of those influences. Those influences are the archetypes (refer to figure 3).
The first archetype that we see in the play is that of the persona. The persona is the personality that an individual presents to the public. The most important point to consider when dealing with the persona, is that it is only a mask that the individual shows to others (refer to figure 4). "The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other , to conceal the true nature of the individual."(Relation Between the Ego and the Unconscious, Jung par. 305). This archetype is prevalent throughout the play through the main character, Hamlet. "Here, as before, never, so help you mercy, how strange or odd some?er I bear myself as I perchance hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on" (Act 1 Scene 5 line 187-190). Here it is seen that Hamlet puts on the "crazy" persona to test the ghost and to see if it is telling the truth about his father?s murder. The knowledge gained would help Hamlet to decide whether he should take revenge against Claudius. "He puts on a mask, which he knows is in keeping with his conscious intentions, while it also meets the requirements and fits the opinions of society, first motive and then the other to gain the upper hand." (Definitions, Jung par. 811).
The shadow archetype manifests itself in the character of Claudius. The shadow is the "dark side" of one?s personality; it is the sum of all the amoral acts that individual is capable of. Not so much classified as an evil, "The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality" (The shadow, Jung par. 14). This archetype is seen in the character of Claudius where he merely gives in to "the shadow" and performs the base action of murder. This single action doesn?t brand the character as totally evil; rather, is just a stain on his personality. The character doesn?t feel good about the action; rather, he feels guilty, but is drawn into a web of deceit through his initial lie