Incest and Incestuous Desire
The motif runs throughout the play is made quite apparent by the discussions with the Ghost and Hamlet regarding Gertrude's "incestuous marriage" with Claudius. This is especially made more clear and pronounced in Hamlet's heated debacle with Gertrude, in which he describes in exquisite detail, what he would imagine to be Gertrude's sex life with Claudius. His descriptions are much too vivid to be considered even remotely appropriate, but then again, a son being fixated on his mother's sex life definitely strikes some incest overtones. However, Hamlet seems to be not the only one with suppressed incestuous desires but Laertes might as well. When Laertes advises Ophelia not to lose her virginity to Hamlet, he compares intercourse to a "canker" worm invading and injuring a delicate flower before its buds or, "buttons" have had time to open (1.3.3). This graphic allusion to the anatomy of female genitalia turns his sister into an erotic object while insisting, at the same time, on Ophelia's chastity. This full vivid innuendo suggest that Laertes has some incestuous desire towards Ophelia. What's more, is at her funeral, he leaps into Ophelia's grave while shouting "Hold off the earth a while, / Till I have caught her once more in mine arms" (5.1.5). He then fights and argues with Hamlet over who loves Ophelia most in her grave. There is definitely some traces of incestuous desire at work here. This motif helps develop and better explain secondary themes of family, gender, and sex.