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Psychoanalytical Criticism of Lady Macbeth Essay

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Psychoanalytical criticism is a form of literary critique, which uses some of the techniques of psychoanalysis in the interpretation of literature. The focus of this essay is to use Psychoanalytical criticism while analyzing Lady Macbeth’s character in William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. However, before I begin my examination of Lady Macbeth’s character, I feel that concept of psychoanalytical theory needs some introduction.

One of the more prevalent Psychoanalytical theorists after Freud was Jacques Lacan. Cristina Leon Alfar’s essay "'Blood Will Have Blood': Power, Performance, and Lady Macbeth's Gender Trouble," provides a meticulous analysis of Lacan’s psychoanalytical theory. Alfar asserts that the idea of both sexes is based on the male “having” and the female “being” the phallus. These two differences determine the relations between the sexes and the phallus governs the male/female cultural roles. Alfar adds that males have power and she states that: “Male dominance and female obedience and passivity become naturalized through this symbolic bifurcation” (183). Consequently, according to Lacanian theory, the phallus for males represent power, authority, and desire while for females the phallus signifies lack of power and agency (Alfar 182).

Another important text to refer while exploring psychoanalytical theory is Lacan’s “The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason since Freud.” In this text, Lacan created three different categories to explain the transformation from infant to adulthood, namely need, demand, and desire and labeled these three psychoanalytic orders, as the imaginary, the symbolic and the real stage. Lacan explains that one facet of the symbolic stage consists of the concept of the “Other,” a...


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... constraints governing women” (79). Furthermore, Lady Macbeth’s submissive gender role plays an important part in her failure to kill Duncan because she sees the king as the ultimate symbol of male authority.


Works Cited

Alfar, Cristina Leon. “ ‘Blood will have blood’: Power, Performance, and Lady Macbeth’s Gender Trouble.” Journal X 2.2 (1998): 179-207. Print.


Bressler, Charles E. Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 5th ed. 2011. 

Lacan, Jacques. “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience.” The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Ed. David Richter. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989.  1123-1128. Print.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth. Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, 1915. Google Books.
Web. 3 Sept. 2014.


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