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Jekels, L. (1943). The Riddle of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Psychoanal. Rev., 30:361-385.

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(1943). Psychoanalytic Review, 30:361-385

Original Articles

The Riddle of Shakespeare's Macbeth

Ludwig Jekels, M.D. Author Information

The problem of this paper is suggested in a remark of the distinguished Shakespearean scholar, Gervinus. In one of his studies, he urges that a bridge be thrown between Shakespeare's inner life and his poetry “with a few speaking touches, and a connection pointed out, which may show that with Shakespeare, as with every rich poetic nature, no outer routine and poetic propriety, but inner experiences and emotions of the mind were the deep springs of his poetry,—then for the first time we should have reached a point which would bring us near the poet; we should gain a complete idea of his personal existence, and obtain a full picture, a living view of his mental stature.”

Perhaps interpretations of Macbeth differ so widely because few scholars have adopted this plan, which seems to be the only correct one. Ulrici, for instance, while underestimating the ambition motif, interprets the drama as based on the relation between the external world and man's willpower and energy. Other authors conceive the plot of the tragedy and the character development of its heroes as arising, for the most part, from the conflict between ambition and conscience. From none of these comments could we infer any of Shakespeare's “inner experiences.”

This need not imply that the poet's emotional keyboard lacked

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* Translated from the German original published in “Imago”, Volume 5, issue 3, 1917.

1 Georg Gottfried Gervinus, Shakespeare Commentaries (translated by F. E. Bunnètt), p. 22. New York: Scribner, Welford, & Armstrong, 1875.

2 Herman Ulrici, Shakespeare's Dramatic Art… (translated by L. D. Schmitz), vol. 1, pp. 460-461. London: George Bell and Sons, 1876.

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