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Mander, G. (2007). Psychoanalytic Ideas and Shakespeare edited by Inge Wise and Maggie Mills. Published by Karnac Books, London, 2006; 135 pp; £15.99.. Brit. J. Psychother., 23(4):608-612.

(2007). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 23(4):608-612

Psychoanalytic Ideas and Shakespeare edited by Inge Wise and Maggie Mills. Published by Karnac Books, London, 2006; 135 pp; £15.99.

Review by:
Gertrud Mander

The methodology of this book is not spelled out in its title, which promises ‘ideas’ when it would be more accurate to say ‘interpretations’. All its authors use this psychoanalytic tool to explore some of Shakespeare's major plays, and the method is explained by Michael Conran, whose magnificent chapter on King Lear uses the text as a starting point for considerations of shame, guilt and forgiveness: ‘We become the “patient” of the text’, he says.

We feel we are ‘possessed’ by it and then omnipotently ‘possess it’ ‥. For the moment we are alone with it‥. We suppose we are drawn to it by its manifest contentProjection into the text and reintrojection takes place. The ‘patient’ discovers things in the text which are manifestly not there. Worse, he may ignore or distort things that manifestly are there … And would you believe it, he doesn't know what he does and cares even less … Quite extraordinarily, both Shakespeare and the text survive, no matter what we say. (p. 66)

Conran puts his finger on a central fact of the enormous Shakespeare literature, in which over the centuries his plays have been seen in myriads of different ways and often things were read into them which may not be there. He has become all things to all people. Psychoanalysts have used his dramas to make links between the theatre of everyday life and the internal theatre in each of us which Freud called ‘der andere Schauplatz’, ‘an internal space that differs from ordinary waking life and governs the production of dreams and other unconscious ideation’ (p. 3).

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