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Mahon, E. (1998). A Parapraxis in Hamlet: A Note on the Aesthetic Genius of William Shakespeare. Psychoanal. St. Child, 53:276-281.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 53:276-281

A Parapraxis in Hamlet: A Note on the Aesthetic Genius of William Shakespeare

Eugene Mahon, M.D.

Shakespeare has placed a parapraxis in Hamlet's mouth in the soliloquy in Act I. Hamlet says, “But two months dead, nay not so much not two.” The slip attributed to Hamlet is of course no slip at all when seen as an aesthetic contrivance of the bard's to suggest the tension between warring aspects of Hamlet's psychology. I argue that Shakespeare's artistic methodology, his aesthetic sleight of hand, so to speak, which layers this complex drama with meanings concealing other meanings, supports Freud's notion that an unconscious latent oedipal drama underlies the whole manifest content, imbuing it with subtle but substantial dramatic tension. The slip of the tongue is not only a window into the unconscious of Hamlet that sheds light on the hero's Oedipus complex and the complexities of his attempted resolutions, it is also an example of Shakespeare's aesthetic subtlety at its most refined.

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