ABSTRACT

Laurence Olivier's film of Hamlet (1947) announces itself as a psychoanalytic, Oedipal text. The phallic symbolism of rapier and dagger, the repeated dolly-in down the long corridor to the queen's immense, enigmatic, and vaginally hooded bed, the erotic treatment of the scenes between Olivier and Eileen Herlie as Gertrude all bespeak a robust and readily identifiable, if naive, Freudianism. 1

Although Freud himself had written only briefly on Hamlet,2 the play was central to his formulation of the Oedipus complex. Ernest Jones, a prominent British psychoanalyst, had expanded Freud's suggestions into a full-scale interpretation of the play in an article first published in 1910 which was to undergo numerous revisions and republication, finally appearing in 1949 as Hamlet and Oedipus.3 It was through Jones that Olivier first learned of the Freudian approach to Hamlet. As part of their planning for the Old Vic production of 1937 director Tyrone Guthrie and Olivier, who played the lead, made a weekend visit to Jones.