Psychoanalytical Criticism of Shakespeare’s Macbeth

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One of the facets of psychoanalytic theory is the role of the unconscious and the conscious. In the text, Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice Charles Bressler claims that Freud’s contemporaries viewed the conscious as only observing and recording external reality and claimed that the conscious accounted for the basis of reason and analytical thought while the unconscious merely accumulates and retains our memories (121). Therefore, many psychoanalytic theorists believed that the conscious was solely accountable for our behavior and daily actions (Bressler 121). However, Freud challenged this widely accepted notion by claiming that the unconscious not only stores our memories but also includes our suppressed and unresolved conflicts (Bressler 121). Freud also argued that the unconscious also collects and accrues our hidden desires, ambitions, fears and passions (Bressler 121). Consequently, Freud asserted that the unconscious guides a significant part of our actions and behaviors by amassing disguised truths and hidden desires that want to be exposed through the conscious (Bressler 121). In Jacques Lacan’s essay “The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason since Freud,” he agrees with Freud’s claims that the unconscious influences our behavior and actions. As a result, 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 claims that during the Symbolic stage the child is initiated to language, and the unconscious and repression appear in the psyche. The child now learns that words symbolize objects, and he ... ... middle of paper ... ... theory of metonymical language. Moreover, Lacan’s theory of metaphor is clearly evident in the skillful writing of Shakespeare escalating metaphors of guilt. Shakespeare’s play Macbeth is often viewed as a tale of greed and ambition. However, read from a psychoanalytic context, the play could have a much deeper meaning about our unconscious desires. Works Cited 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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