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 concerning the murder, 'O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven; it hath the primal eldest curse upon't a brothers murder! Pray can I not, though inclination be as sharp as will.' (Act 3 Scene 3 line 39-42) Syzygy is the next archetype that is seen in the play.
Syzygy is when both the anima and animus archetypes are present; this is also known as a 'soul-image'. The archetypal figure of the soul-image always stands for the complementary or contra sexual part of the psyche. This reflects our personal relations and individual experience of the contra sexual, as in how in touch we are with the opposite sex. The anima archetype is seen in the character Laertes, 'And so I have a noble father lost; a sister driven into deep " rate terms, whose worth, if praise may go back again, stood challenger on mount of all the age for her perfections. But my revenge will come.' (Act 4 Scene 7 line 27-31).
Typically an anima-possessed man is someone that gets into problems because he is irrational and overemotional in situations. 'Typical figures might be Dionysus, the Pied Piper, The Flying Dutchman' (The Psychology of C G Jung, Jacobi p 116). The anima is seen in the character Laertes through emotional and impetuous reaction to the news of his father's death. The Syzygy archetypes don't necessarily have to be complementary. When portrayed in dreams or stories, the animus-possessed character is, in all cases, represented as strong and masculine. In Hamlet, the character who portrays the animus archetype is Fortinbras.
He wants to start a war just to avenge his family's pride. 'Now, sir, young Fortinbras, of unimproved mettle hot and full, hath in the skirts of Norway, here and there, Shark'd up a list of lawless resolute's, for food and diet, to some enterprise that hath a stomach in't; which is no other, as it doth well appear unto our state, but to recover of us, by strong hand and terms com pulsatory, those for said lands so by his father lost' (Act 1 Scene 1 line 108-117). The last archetype in the play is the wise old man, or the mana-personality. This archetype manifests itself in the character of Horatio: 'the archetype of the wise old man, ... tends to be projected upon human beings who set themselves up as leaders, secular or spiritual' (Essential Jung, Store - page 122). Typically, this archetype is depicted as an old man, a wizard, or a sage.
However, within the play, this archetype is portrayed as a young scholar. This archetype is always level headed and intelligent who acts as the guiding light to, in this case, the protagonist Hamlet. This is evident when Horatio discussed the wisdom of Hamlet's duel with Laertes in Act 5, Scene 2, where he attempts dissuade Hamlet from his course of action. The final aspect of the play that deals with Jung's concept of the collective unconscious is the idea of change. If the collective community unconsciously thinks that a change is needed, a large and almost catastrophic event will occur leaving the community in a momentary sense of chaos.
Order is restored through the emergence of a single individual with the ability to rectify the state of flux. This is seen through the events in Act 5, Scene 2 where Fortinbras enters the hall where the duel took place, is faced with the deaths of Gertrude, Claudius, Hamlet, and Laertes. Chaos ends and order is restored when Fortinbras is named monarch of Denmark during Hamlet's final breath. There is strong evidence that all major Jungian archetypes are portrayed through key characters within the play. The manifestation of the archetypes as major characters within the play occurred hundreds of years prior to the development of Jungian theory. As well, the collective unconscious is developed throughout the play, culminating in the final chaotic scene; however, a single individual re-institutes normalcy.
It is feasible that the concept of archetypes and a collective unconscious was understood much earlier and possibly Jung could have been influenced by their unconscious in the development of his theories.