Literature and Theatre

The woodblock illustration below the title to the 1615 quarto of The Spanish Tragedy captures a sequence of actions that happen across two of the play's scenes but freezes them into a single nightmare image of horror. A hundred years later, however, the flower-dealing woman in white is once again the object of horror, the tropes originating with Isabella and inherited by Ophelia now reconfigured by the gothic imagination. This chapter gives her Doing Kyd's last word, an epilogue that also serves as a prologue for the continuing cultural work that Isabella, and The Spanish Tragedy, perform sometimes incognito, sometimes in her and its own right, in subsequent theatre. When he's casting Soliman and Perseda, Hieronimo asks rhetorically: 'what's a play without a woman in it?'.

in Doing Kyd
Three case studies

This book explores English tragedy in relation to France with a frank concentration on Shakespeare. Three manifestations of the 'Shakespearean tragic' are singled out: Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra and All's Well That Ends Well, a comedy with melancholic overtones whose French setting is shown to be richly significant. Hamlet has occasioned many books on its own, including a recent study by Margreta De Grazia, Hamlet without Hamlet, whose objective is to free the text from the 'Modern Hamlet'. The influence of Michel de Montaigne on Hamlet is usually assumed to have left its traces in more or less precise verbal or intellectual correspondences. The book proposes two further sources of French resonance accessible to auditors of the ultimate early modern English tragedy. It talks about two French Antonies. One is the steadfast friend of Caesar and avenging Triumvir, as heralded in Jacques Grévin's César and vividly evoked in Robert Garnier's Porcie. The other is the hedonist who ruins himself for Cleopatra, as first brought on stage in France by Étienne Jodelle in Cléopâtre captive, then substantially fleshed out in Garnier's own Marc Antoine. The distance between the tragedies and All's Well comes down to the difference between horizontal and vertical lifeless bodies. When he grafted the true-to-life histoire tragique of Hélène of Tournon onto the fairy-tale of Giletta of Narbonne, Shakespeare retained the latter's basic family situation. Shakespeare's Helena succeeds where the King has failed by exploiting her position as an outsider.

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In 'Some Characters Met With in Psychoanalytic Work', Sigmund Freud discusses some 'surprising traits of character' which he has detected in his patients. Freud's speculation on woman's childlessness evokes the third character, Rebecca West, the free-thinking woman in Ibsen's play Rosmersholm , partly complicit in the suicide of Beata, Johannes Rosmer's first wife. Freud writes a third section, 'Criminals from a Sense of Guilt', whose argument, while short, is fascinating: criminal deeds attempt to mitigate a sense of guilt. Freud continues to work with guilt in essays published in the 1920s. They include 'The Ego and the Id' and 'Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety'. Freud introduces another distinction, in referring to a differentiation within the ego by which it narcissistically looks at itself. He had considered narcissism when discussing the artist and creativity, in 'Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood', and further in 'On Narcissism, an Introduction'.

in Literature and psychoanalysis

This chapter contains examples of attempts at criticism inspired by Sigmund Freud. The first uses Freud to consider a poem by William Blake, the second to interpret a familiar Sherlock Holmes short story. Freud compares Oedipus with Hamlet, and with Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, for the significance of parricide; but, in Blake, aggression toward the parents seems equalled by a perception of the parents' aggression. Freud discusses the ambivalence of people's feelings about themselves and each other, liking to hate and hating to like, having unconscious emotions ('affects'), and in doing so, follows Blake. The coincidence of dates between Holmes and Freud and the similarity of their methods are significant: detective and psychoanalyst both work by looking for clues, traces of the past.

in Literature and psychoanalysis
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This chapter charts how Sigmund Freud considered memory, as one of the processes working through the subject. In Notes Upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis, about the 'Rat Man', Freud writes a modernist novella: the portrait of a young man. As the analysis proceeds, so 'transference' happens: the Rat Man dumps on to Freud the characteristics of his dead father, giving his fears an objective force. Freud thinks of the Rat Man's obsessions taking the form of 'distortion by omission or ellipsis', and in doing so draws attention to the point that psychoanalysis works by observation of language, that is its interest, and how it connects with literature. Freud's Project for a Scientific Psychology, which influenced all his work, especially The Interpretation of Dreams, and Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Both Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida commented on the Project.

in Literature and psychoanalysis
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Hysteria, paranoia, psychosis

This chapter begins with three of Sigmund Freud's 'case-histories': Dora, diagnosed as hysterical; Schreber, a paranoid schizophrenic, and the Wolf Man (a case of infantile neurosis), in order to approach Jacques Lacan on paranoia and psychosis. Commenting on Dora, who was neurotic, and non-psychotic, Lacan says that psychosis requires 'disturbances of language', which makes it exceed paranoia. Freud makes Schreber an instance of paranoia, using for evidence, virtually, only the Memoirs, which he reads as a text. He examines his hypochondria, and feelings of being persecuted by certain people including Flechsig, the 'soul-murderer', and his delusional ideas, including believing that he had direct contact with God. The difference between Freud and Michel Foucault becomes key to reading modern literature. It seems that madness becomes not a danger for the writer but a condition that attends writing, as though writing had become madness, a marker of alienation.

in Literature and psychoanalysis
Feminine fury and the contagiousness of theatrical passion

This chapter explores how one of the first revenge tragedies to be performed on the commercial stage employs gender strategies to problematise the theatrical performance of vengefulness. The Spanish Tragedy's problematisation of revenge tragedy's move to the commercial theatre is highlighted by a reversal of gender patterns. Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy shows itself to be very much aware of the dangers of appropriating the Senecan tradition for the commercial stage. The Spanish Tragedy problematises the performance of feminine vindictive passion outside its original context of the English legal institutions of the Inns of Court. The vindictive feminine fury shaped in Inns of Court tragedies with the purpose to support the expanding legal system leaks into the commercial theatre and there 'infects' the lower classes and female members of the audience. The feminine fury of Seneca's women is indeed, as the men of law in Newton's dedication feared, greatly contagious.

in Doing Kyd
Richard II, Mary Stuart and the poetics of queenship

In William Shakespeare's Richard II, the tragic protagonist is noted for his addiction to narrative. Any oblique representation of Mary Stuart in Richard II is, however, far from the clear celebratory picture offered by the Jesuit martyr. Perhaps as a result of Shakespeare's own turbulent relationship with forms of Catholicism, it is deeply ambivalent. Shakespeare's play uses the feminine Isabella to represent the French dimension of Mary Stuart's identity, but it is Richard who figures her role as tragic protagonist in Scotland and England. Through a cross-gendered representation, Shakespeare's play explores the nineteen-year struggle between two queens who both had to cope with the political challenge of identifying themselves as princes rather than women. In the absence of automatic male authority to command, Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I cultivated a specialised poetics of queenship, interweaving emblems, images, verbal and non-verbal languages, as Jennifer Summit has noted.

in Shakespeare’s histories and counter-histories

The metaphysical complications attached by William Shakespeare to the protagonist of Saxo/Belleforest are rooted in an essentially political dilemma. Hamlet's malcontent and menacing behaviour, projected into the Mousetrap, is presumed to revolve around his anomalous position vis-à-vis the throne of Denmark; the 'mystery' whose 'heart' his erstwhile friends would 'pluck out' is understood as his political intention. Most of the verbal correspondences belong to the meditations often termed 'philosophical' of the protagonist, to such a degree that Hamlet's thought has come to epitomize the influence of Montaigne on Shakespeare, and especially the impact of the 'Apologie de Raymond Sebond'. The relations among father, mother and uncle in the story of Gaston Phoebus anticipate 'young Hamlet' as wavering, if not torn, at a basic emotional level, the entire dimension, in short, that modern commentary tends to assimilate to Oedipal psychology.

in French reflections in the Shakespearean tragic
The ‘Scottish play’ within the play

This chapter first outlines some of the issues and problems raised by Scotland and Scottish history for English readers in the last decade of Elizabeth's reign. It then shows how closely engaged William Shakespeare was with questions generated by his understanding of Scottish history, concentrating especially on Hamlet, a play that has already been persuasively read as a work informed by an understanding of Scottish affairs and politics. Hamlet's last action before he dies is to kill Claudius, showing that his soliloquy has a prophetic purpose in the plot. Claudius's reign bears striking similarities to that of Kenneth III. A key reign in George Buchanan's History of Scotland was that of Kenneth III, who ended the long tradition of elective monarchy in Scotland. Buchanan's sense of the significance of Kenneth's reign is encapsulated in the version narrated in Raphael Holinshed's Chronicle of Scotland.

in Shakespeare and Scotland