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Willbern, D. (1983). Man's Estate: Masculine Identity in Shakespeare: By Coppélia Kahn. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981. 252 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 52:629-634.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 52:629-634

Man's Estate: Masculine Identity in Shakespeare: By Coppélia Kahn. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981. 252 pp.

Review by:
David Willbern

The marriage of Shakespeare and Freud continues to produce insightful and provocative work. Recent psychoanalytic studies (besides Man's Estate), include Representing Shakespeare, an anthology of essays edited by Murray Schwartz and Coppélia Kahn, Shakespeare's Development and the Problem Comedies by Richard Wheeler, and two books emphasizing female perspectives: The Woman's Part, edited by Carolyn Ruth Swift Lenz, Gayle Greene, and Carol Thomas Neely, and Shakespeare's Division of Experience by Marilyn French.

Kahn, a Wesleyan University Professor of English, has written a superb book. Her thesis is that Shakespeare was a brilliant and skeptical surveyor of the traditional landscape in which he lived. He knew patriarchy's powers and limits, its strengths and its anxieties. More than merely representing this world, he carefully criticized it. Whereas some recent readers contend that Shakespeare shared (knowingly or not) the misogynist traditions of his culture and his characters, Kahn describes a Shakespeare who criticized "a patriarchal world that bases the social order and the masculine identity on a destructively narrow and brittle foundation of identification with the father to the exclusion or repression of identification with the mother" (p. 55, n.).

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