Who Wrote the Works of Shakespeare? Notes on a Matter of Curiosity in Freud's Intellectual Biography
William Shakespeare was one of Freud's great intellectual heroes. The index of the Standard Edition has almost 40 references only to Hamlet, and quotations from Shakespeare's works, in English, were natural for Freud and his analytical circle. With time, Freud began to question the identity of the author and doubt the veracity of “the man from Stratford”. He rejected the first prominent alternative candidate, Francis Bacon. His reasons do not lack interest: if Bacon, in addition to everything else he accomplished, should be the author of Shakespeare's works, he would transgress all limits for what a man can create.
When he was 70 years old, 1925-26, Freud read Thomas Looney's book Shakespeare identified, published in 1920. Looney (1920), who had interrupted his theological studies and become a schoolteacher in Northern England, argued that it was impossible that the uneducated actor from Stratford could be the author of some of the finest works in world literature. In Looney's opinion, Shakespeare figured as a cover for the somewhat depraved, but widely travelled and cultivated courtier, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Because of his position at the court of Elisabeth I, he could not officially present himself as the author of his texts, for example, Hamlet, and therefore took cover behind Shakespeare's name.
In his explicit statements, Freud maintained a reservation: “I am almost convinced”, as he wrote in a footnote added in 1935, to his Autobiographical study (1925, p.
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