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Biddle, S. (1944). Lady Macbeth: John W. Draper. Psa. Rev., XXVIII, 1941, pp. 479–486.. Psychoanal Q., 13:259-260.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Lady Macbeth: John W. Draper. Psa. Rev., XXVIII, 1941, pp. 479–486.

(1944). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 13:259-260

Lady Macbeth: John W. Draper. Psa. Rev., XXVIII, 1941, pp. 479–486.

Sydney Biddle

Mr. Draper attempts to show that Shakespeare was influenced to such an extent by the medical psychology of his time that he harnessed his dramatic talent to fit the pseudoscientific system of ethics and cosmogony which it embraced. This sought to ascribe undesirable sociological phenomena both to individual imperfections and to strange or accidental happenings of nature. Portentous deeds and dread-foreboding acts were the preordained results of an imbalance in the universe, either in the essential forces of nature, or in the physical properties of the individual. Mental disease was produced by an elemental distribution of the four humors. The behavior of Lady Macbeth is to be understood as potentially predetermined by a pathological accumulation

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of choler—that 'not dry' juice, which according to the scientific superstition of the Greek physiologists was allocated to the gall bladder—and as accidentally precipitated by the circumstances of her middle age, the effects of wine, the seasonal influence of the summer, and (oddly juxtaposed!) a supposed slight to her pride. Evidence of the Lady's 'excessive choler' is obviously lacking. It is based on the author's supposition that Shakespeare was influenced by the 'pseudoscience of physiognomy' which flourished in his age. The only indication to be found in the play is a stray reference in which King Duncan alludes to Lady Macbeth as 'fair', which 'in the twin Elizabethan sense', the author remarks, probably means both 'blonde and beautiful', hence 'choleric'! The explanation which Mr. Draper offers for this omission is curious. He states that Shakespeare was prevented from portraying the physical characteristics of the types which he created because of the limitations of the Elizabethan stage, and therefore had to use certain ambiguities in style which the actors of his day might disregard at will.

To attribute the dynamics of Shakespeare's characters to such random and disjointed defects seems peculiarly rigid, empty, and lacking in imagination. The tragedy of Macbeth is to be viewed, according to Mr. Draper's contention, not as a tragedy of Fate in the Greek sense, nor yet as the inevitable result of unconscious instincts, but as determined in part by unimportant incidents, and in part by characterological defects of the individual dramatis personæ.

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Article Citation

Biddle, S. (1944). Lady Macbeth. Psychoanal. Q., 13:259-260

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