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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: April ::
Re: Sources for Oedipus Theory
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0409.  Thursday, 3 April 1997.

[1]     From:   Fran Teague <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 02 Apr 97 10:00:35 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

[2]     From:   Simon Malloch <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 02 Apr 1997 23:36:56 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

[3]     From:   Jacqueline Strax <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 2 Apr 1997 11:16:52 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

[4]     From:   Gabriel Wasserman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 02 Apr 1997 11:20:41 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

[5]     From:   Richard A Burt <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 02 Apr 1997 11:32:49 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

[6]     From:   Erika Lin <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 2 Apr 1997 11:52:27 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

[7]     From:   Mark Mann <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 2 Apr 1997 12:05:56 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0408 Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

[8]     From:   Derek Wood <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 2 Apr 1997 12:48:56 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

[9]     From:   Cristina Keunecke <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 02 Apr 1997 14:15:34 -0800
        Subj:   Re: Sources for Oedipus Theory

[10]    From:   Jameela Ann Lares <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 2 Apr 1997 11:33:46 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

[11]    From:   Ron Dwelle <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 02 Apr 1997 13:44:22 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

[12]    From:   Stephen Schultz <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 02 Apr 97 13:49:21 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

[13]    From:   Roger Gross <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 2 Apr 1997 13:21:41 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

[14]    From:   Norm Holland <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 02 Apr 97 15:11:39 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

[15]    From:   Fred Wharton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 02 Apr 1997 16:00:22 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

[16]    From:   Syd Kasten <
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        Date:   Thursday, 3 Apr 1997 11:26:44 +0200 (IST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Fran Teague <
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Date:           Wednesday, 02 Apr 97 10:00:35 EST
Subject: 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

In an article, "Hamlet in the Thirties," _Theatre Survey_ 26 (1985):
63-79, I've argued the John Barrymore was aware of Ernst Jones' work and
made use of it in his 1922 production. My source was John Kobler's
biography of Barrymore, _Damned in Paradise_ (1977); Kobler says that
Olivier modeled parts of his interpretation on Barrymore's, which
Olivier saw at the age of 17. Hope that helps!    Fran Teague

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Simon Malloch <
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Date:           Wednesday, 02 Apr 1997 23:36:56 +0800
Subject: 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

Ian,

Yes,  Freud does discuss Hamlet in light of the Oedipal complex.  You
will find it in his *Interpretation of Dreams*.  As for "collegues and
biographers" you are most probably referring to Ernest Jones.  He wrote
two pieces on the subject,  the most important being *Hamlet and
Oedipus* (1949).

Simon Malloch.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jacqueline Strax <
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Date:           Wednesday, 2 Apr 1997 11:16:52 +0000
Subject: 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

Dear Ian:

You ask, "my roommate thinks that maybe Freud talks about Hamlet."

He does.  In a footnote to The Interpretation of Dreams.  It will be in
your library. Hamlet will be listed in the index.

You also ask about "one of Freud's colleagues and biographers (his name
escapes me right now)."

Ernest Jones.  His book will be near Freud's.  Ah the joy of looking
things up!

Good luck with your project
Jackie Strax

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Wasserman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 02 Apr 1997 11:20:41 -0500
Subject: 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

In *Die Traumdetung*, pg. 298 [in my edition], Freud says: "Another of
the great creations of tragic poetry, Shakespeare's *Hamlet*, has its
roots in the same soil as *Oedipus Rex*.  But the changed treatment of
the same material reveals the whole difference in the mental life of
these two widely separated epochs of civilization:  the secular advance
of repression in the emotional life of mankind.  In the *Oedipus* the
child's wishful fantasy that underlies it is brought into the open and
realized as it would be in a dream.  In *Hamlet* it remains repressed;
and-just as in the case of a neurosis-we only learn of its existence
from its inhibiting consequences. Strangely enough, the overwhelming
effect produced by the more modern tragedy has turned out to be more
compatible with the fact that people have remained in the dark as to the
hero's character.  The play is built up on Hamlet's hesitations over
fulfilling the task of revenge that is assigned to him; but its text
offers no reasons or motives for these hesitations and an immense
variety of attempts at interpreting them have failed to produce a
result.  According to the view which was originated by Goethe and is
still the prevailing one today, Hamlet represents the kind of man whose
power of direct action is paralyzed by an excessive development of his
intellect.  (He is 'sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought.')
According to another view, the dramatist has tried to portray a
pathologically irresolute character which might be classed as
neaurasthenic.  The plot of the drama shows us, however, that Hamlet is
far from being represented as a person incapable of taking any action.
We see him doing so on two occasions: first in a sudden outburst of
temper, when he runs his sword through the eavesdropper behind the
arras, and secondly in a premeditated and even crafty fashion, when,
with all the callousness of a Renaissance prince, he sends the two
courtiers to the death that had been planned for him.  What is it, then,
that inhibits him in fulfilling the task set him by his fathers ghost?
The answer, once again, is that it is the peculiar nature of the task.
Hamlet is able to do anything-except take vengeance on a man who did
away with his father and took that father's place with his mother, the
man who shows him the repressed wishes of his own childhood realized.
Thus the loathing which should drive him on to vengeance is replaced in
him by self-reproaches, by scruples of conscience, which remind him that
he himself is no better than the sinner whom he is to punish.  Here I
have translated into conscious terms what was bound to remain
unconscious in Hamlet's mind; and if anyone is inclined to call him a
hysteric, I can only accept the fact as one that was implied by my
interpretation.  The distaste for sexuality expressed by Hamlet in his
conversation with Ophelia fits in very well with this:  the same
distaste which was destined to take possession of the poet's mind more
and more during the years that follow, and which reached its extreme
expression in *Timon of Athens*.  For it can of course only be the
poet's own mind which confronts us in *Hamlet*.  I observe in a book on
Shakespeare by Georg Brandes (1896) a statement that *Hamlet* was
written immediately after the death of Shakespeare's father (in 1601)
that is, under the immediate impact of his bereavement and, as we may
well assume, while his childhood feelings about his father had been
freshly revived.  It is known, too, that Shakespeare's own son who died
at an early age bore the name of 'Hamnet', which is identical with
'Hamlet'.  Just as *Hamlet* deals with the relationship of a son to his
parents, so *Macbeth* (written at approximately the same period) is
concerned with the subject of childlessness.  But just as all neurotic
symptoms, and, for that matter, dreams, are capable of being
'over-interpreted' and indeed need to be, if they are fully understood,
so all genuinely creative writings are the product of more than a single
motive and more than a single impulse in the poet's mind, and are open
to more than a single interpretation.  In what I have written I have
only attempted to interpret the deepest layer of impulses in the mind of
the creative writer.  [Added 1919]-The above indications of a
psycho-analytic explanation of Hamlet have since been amplified by
Ernest Jones and defended against the alternative views put forward in
the literature of the subject.  Further attempts at an analysis of
*Macbeth* will be found in a paper of mine and in one by Jekels.  [Added
1930]-Incidentally, I have in the meantime ceased to believe that the
author of Shakespeare's works was the man from Stratford."

I hope this helps.

GZW

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard A Burt <
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Date:           Wednesday, 02 Apr 1997 11:32:49 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

Freud discusses Hamlet in the Interpretation of Drams; Ernest Jones, the
colleague to whom you refer, wrote a book about Hamlet and the Oedipus
complex (sorry, can't remember the title).  Jackie Rose has an excellent
discussion in an essay in _Alternative Shakespeares_, ed John Drakakis
worth checking out.  If you haven't already seen the Zeffirelli film,
check itout.  It is even more overtly Oedipal version than Olivier's.
For  superb discussion of the two films (Olivier as Freudian, Zeff as
Lacanian), see Julia and Reinhard Lupton's book _Shakespeare After
Oedipus_.

Best,
Richard

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Erika Lin <
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Date:           Wednesday, 2 Apr 1997 11:52:27 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

Ian,

Re: "possible Hamlet-Gertrude Oedipal complex BEFORE Lawrence Olivier's
stage production, and the film that follows"-see Freud, _The
Interpretation of Dreams_ (pub. originally in 1898, though Freud wanted
the title page dated 1900), section V.D (Material and Sources of Dreams:
Typical Dreams).  In my copy, ed. and trans. by James Strachey, and
pub.  by Avon Books, it's on pp. 294-300.

All the best,
Erika Lin

[7]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mark Mann <
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Date:           Wednesday, 2 Apr 1997 12:05:56 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0408 Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0408 Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

John Barrymore, who played Hamlet in the 20s, was once asked what he
thought when he looked at Claudius onstage, and he said what went
through his mind constantly was, " You dirty @$#%^@#, you're $@#$%% my
MOTHER!!" Not exactly textbook Freud, but ...cheers, Mark Mann  Arden
Shakespeare Company, Columbus, Ohio

[8]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Derek Wood <
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Date:           Wednesday, 2 Apr 1997 12:48:56 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

Ernest Jones?

[9]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cristina Keunecke <
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Date:           Wednesday, 02 Apr 1997 14:15:34 -0800
Subject:        Re: Sources for Oedipus Theory

Regarding the query about sources for the Oedipus Theory, I can surely
answer that was Freud who first linked it to Hamlet. He debated this
question in his book *The Interpretation of the Dreams*, published in
1900. In later works, Freud had added several examples of Hamlet related
with his theory. After this, his colleague and biographer ERNEST JONES
had published a more complete essay with the tittle  *The Oedipus
Complex as an Explanation to the Mystery of Hamlet*. This essay was
first published in 1910, in *The American Journal of Psychology*. In
1949, the essay was expanded and was published as a book, entitled
*Hamlet and the Oedipus Complex*. So, although the book was published
one year after the Olivier's movie version, I think that the
psychoanalytical interpretation of Hamlet was not Olivier's original
idea.

Yours,
Cristina Keunecke

[10]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jameela Ann Lares <
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Date:           Wednesday, 2 Apr 1997 11:33:46 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

I imagine a number of list-members will respond on this, but according
to the Susanne L. Wofford, ed. Case Studies edition on _Hamlet_
(Bedford, 1994), the disciple of Freud you're thinking is Ernst Jones.
Even though Olivier's 1948 production predated Jones's _Hamlet and
Oedipus_ (1949; repr. Norton, 1976), parts of Jones's argument were
published in essay form in 1910 and 1923.  Wofford's bibliographical
note indicates that Jones "influenced the Olivier film version of
_Hamlet_" (p. 255).

Jameela Lares
Univ. of So. Miss.

[11]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ron Dwelle <
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Date:           Wednesday, 02 Apr 1997 13:44:22 -0500
Subject: 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

Ernest Jones published the long essay, "The Oedipus Complex as an
Explanation of Hamlet's Mystery," in The American Journal of Psychology,
January, 1910. I believe the general idea had a wide audience from this
point on. If I recall correctly, it was this essay which Jones expanded
into the book Hamlet and Oedipus, published shortly after WWII. In
short, I don't think Olivier did any more than adopt a known theory.

[12]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen Schultz <
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Date:           Wednesday, 02 Apr 97 13:49:21 EST
Subject: 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

In response to Ian Doescher's query about Oedipal Hamlets onstage:  If I
remember correctly, Gene Fowler credits John Barrymore with the stage
original.  That would place it ca. 1920.  Olivier (and Tyrone Guthrie)
were attracted to the Oedipal reading by Ernest Jones's <Oedipus and
Hamlet>.

[13]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger Gross <
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Date:           Wednesday, 2 Apr 1997 13:21:41 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

Ian Doescher asks about the "source" of the Hamlet/Oedipus idea.

The psychologist you are thinking of is Ernest Jones who was not only,
as you say, Freud's English biographer but Olivier's therapist at the
time when Olivier was shaping his ideas about both HAMLET and OTHELLO.
Jones is the author of a book that probably holds something for you,
HAMLET AND OEDIPUS.  Jones persuaded Olivier that Hamlet had an Oedipal
attachment to Gertrude and that Iago had a homosexual attraction to
Othello.  The story of the unfortunate production which resulted when
Olivier as Iago played the idea and Ralph Richardson as Othello rejected
it is pretty widely known.  I heard it from Tony Guthrie who was the
director-as-helpless-bystander of the production.

Roger Gross
U. of Arkansas

[14]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Norm Holland <
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Date:           Wednesday, 02 Apr 97 15:11:39 EST
Subject: 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

Re: Oedipal stagings of Ham.

Mr. Doescher's question was not quite clear to me, whether he was asking
when the oedipal reading of Ham. originated or when there were oedipal
stagings.  Presumably the latter, but just for the record-

Freud first broached the oedipal reading of Ham. in a letter to Fliess,
October 15, 1897.  He repeated the insight again and again, most fully
(if I remember right) in _The Interpretation of Dreams_ (1901).  Ernest
Jones expanded Freud's one-paragraph insight into a book that grew and
grew as it went through successive editions.

Looking back at my _Psychoanalysis and Shakespeare_, I find some oedipal
stagings prior to Olivier's 1937 production and 1948 film.  The earliest
I found was Arthur Hopkins' production  in 1922 with John Barrymore as
the prince.  (Hopkins also produced Mac. in 1921 drawing on
psychoanalytic ideas.)

Next came a production in 1946 by Jean-Louis Barrault, also, apparently
influenced by the Freud-Jones reading.

Then came Olivier, who actually consulted Jones in person.  Then, the
interpretation became fairly standard for a while.  If memory serves me
right, Olivier in his autobiography (the professional one) says he
thought by the end of his life that he had overdone it.

It is interesting to me that the more recent Hamlets I've seen make the
relation between Hamlet and his mother open to that interpretation
without making it as obvious as Olivier did, Branagh certainly, and Mel
Gibson, as I recall.

Now, may I pose my own question?  Can anyone suggest to me why Hamlet in
his final instructions to his mother states them as a long, affirmative
instruction to do bad things, prefaced by a single, bracketing
negative?  "Not this, by no means, that I bid you do: / Let the bloat
king tempt you again to bed," etc.  What is the psychological or
thematic sense in his *bidding* her to do these things?  Is he relishing
his imagining of her in these incestuous acts?  That's kind of sick, and
I'd love to hear a better reason.

 --Best, Norm Holland

[15]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Fred Wharton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 02 Apr 1997 16:00:22 -0500
Subject: 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

How about Freud himself? Ernest Jones' essay, *Hamlet and Oedipus,*
didn't appear until 1949, a year after the Olivier film.

Fred Wharton.

[16]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Syd Kasten <
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Date:           Thursday, 3 Apr 1997 11:26:44 +0200 (IST)
Subject: 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0408  Q: Sources for Oedipus Theory

Freud discussed Hamlet in his book The Interpretation of Dreams (1900),
contrasting the actual transgression of the incest taboo and the later
explicit awareness in the Oedipus story with the hypothesized fantasized
experience and its unconscious continuation in Hamlet.  He suggested
that Hamlet's inability to kill Claudius had something to do with the
fact that Claudius, in killing Hamlet's father, had done the deed that
the boy Hamlet had wished to bring about. Recognizing that a stage
character is an expression of the author's mental state, Freud suggested
that the play has something to do the death of Shakespeare's father
apparently a short time before the play was written.

Freud used Hamlet as an illustration in a couple of places in the book
in discussing the work of dreams.

The student and, later, biographer (excellent) was Ernest Jones, a
British (Welsh?) psychoanalyst, to whom Freud gave credit in a 1919
footnote for amplifying his own "indications of a psycho-analytic
explanation of Hamlet".  Jones' original article was written in 1910 and
appeared in a more complete form in "Hamlet and Oedipus" ( A Doubleday
Anchor Book) in 1949.  (S. Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams,
translated by James Strachey, Basic Books in the U.S. by arrangement
with George Allen & and Unwin  and The Hogarth Press)

Freud, incidentally, had something to say on a rhetorical question that
is invoked from time to time on the list. "Just as *Hamlet* deals with
the relation of a son to his parents, *Macbeth*......is concerned with
the subject of childlessness."  Which implies his belief that if the
Macbeths ever had children, by the time we observe them they didn't.

Best wishes
Syd Kasten
 

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